Two Burlingame students win the annual CEC film fest


Photo courtesy of the Citizens Environmental Council

This year, the Citizens Environmental Council (CEC) recognized two Burlingame sophomores, Shayna Blum and Mayu Simpson, as the high school and overall winners.

Arda Inegol, Business Manager

The Citizens Environmental Council (CEC) hosted its sixth annual student film festival in partnership with the Burlingame Environmental Club (BEC) and The Nueva School’s Social Impact Filmmaking Club in Burlingame’s school theater on April 18. During the event, Burlingame sophomores Shayna Blum and Mayu Simpson took first place in two significant categories: high school and overall.

Their film, called “Our Energy,” is a documentary about Burlingame’s environmental footprint and sustainability efforts. The film gives statistical information about climate change and compiles interviews that discuss solutions with community leaders, activists and stakeholders.

“I think it was the first time that any high schooler won the whole event, so I’m proud of our accomplishment,” Simpson said.

The two originally made the film for their Art of Video class at Burlingame, but because the topic related to the environment, they submitted it to the film festival as well.

“After we got rolling and got more serious about it, we started getting more interviews,” Blum said. “We just got more integrated into the process.”

Among those who Blum and Simpson interviewed for the film were English teacher and Site Sustainability Coordinator Bethany Li and Cascade Climate Action Club president Cora Haggarty. In addition, they interviewed Kamille Lang from the San Mateo County Office of Sustainability, who is also the coordinator of the Youth Climate Ambassadors program.

Senior Sofia Husain, co-president of the BEC, helped organize the film fest. She mentioned that Blum and Simpson’s victory was no simple feat, especially because there were more submissions than ever in both categories.

“Because we participated with Nueva on this, I think the event got a lot more advertising and a wider group of people participated because there were some kids from Nueva as well,” Husain said.

According to Husain, the most impressive aspect of Simpson and Blum’s film was how they shed light on a global issue from the perspective of Burlingame’s smaller community.

“They clearly did their research. The quality of their film was great. They provided solutions,” Husain said. “So yeah, it was pretty cool.”

Physics teacher Thomas Bennett, who is the advisor for the BEC, a member of the CEC and a judge for the film fest, also felt that the movie was very informative and well-made.

“It had great production value and interviews, and it got the community involved,” Bennett said.

Of course, Blum and Simpson’s film was not the only one that received attention from the judges. Bennett mentioned that he also liked a film called “Dressed to Kill: The Truth of Fast Fashion,” which was the winner for the middle school division. Made by Alisa Ching, Zeina Badran and Ashlynn Wong — all seventh-grade students at Burlingame Intermediate School — the film highlighted the devastating impacts of the fashion industry on the environment. It also affected Bennett on a personal level.

“I had an event this weekend, and a lot of people bought cheap things off of Amazon in order to celebrate, which is really fun. But I went thrifting and I got something already used in order to prevent that quick fashion waste,” Bennett said. “So [the film] was impactful, to say the least.”

The film festival is set to occur again next year, and Bennett encourages all high school students to participate in it. He believes that combining one’s passion for the environment with filmmaking can be a great way to make an impact on the local community.

“I think that [high schoolers] have a lot more awareness and a lot more knowledge,” Bennett said. “I think that they would be able to put together a really good film production.”