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Civic Impact

New documentary training program explores newcomer experiences in the GTA

A new documentary training program will provide 25 participants with two years of fully-subsidized filmmaking training.
The initiative, Documentaries for Change, has been designed for a very specific student cohort: certified language interpreters. And more specifically, certified language interpreters registered with Toronto social enterprise the Multilingual Community Interpreter Service (MCIS).
"It seemed like a crazy idea at the time we first started coming up with it,” says Eliana Trinaistic, executive assistant and special projects coordinator with MCIS. "We really haven’t seen anything similar to this in Ontario."
The idea, which was developed in partnership with the DOC Institute, was to create a program that empowered MCIS interpreters to use documentary filmmaking to "encourage community dialogue, inspire civic engagement, and combat isolation in newcomer communities across the GTA."

Together, both organizations submitted a proposal for funding to the Ontario Trillium Foundation.
"Amazingly enough, we got the funding," says Trinaistic.
"I remember clearly when I found out we got the two-year grant. I was so so excited because I had thought 'this was way off' but [Ontario Trillium] said 'we are looking for new ideas across nonprofit sectors and this fits perfectly.'"
MCIS, which is recognized by governmental and educational institutions as having one of the most rigorous and comprehensive interpreter training programs in Canada, has over 6000 interpreters in their database and offers interpretation services in over 200 languages (or 330 if dialects and variations are included).
"We have an unchanging mission of providing access to language services to vulnerable segments and of developing affordable training programs," says Trinaistic. "And at the same time, we have this huge database and a huge alumni group that we want to keep engaged.
"The Docs for Change program is about keeping people engaged and allowing newcomers to share their stories."

And, adds Trinaistic, though she expected a strong response from the MCIS interpreters for whom the program was created, their enthusasim exceeded her expectations.

"We had over 80 people come to the orientation session. I organize a lot of events and I know how hard it is to get people to come out and this was really a lot of people. We had this hope that this was an idea that people would be excited about but it was even more than I thought. You got the sense that night that people were really hungry for this chance to express themselves and be heard."
Most MCIS interpreters, Trinaistic explains, have experienced being a newcomer to Toronto, which give each a unique story to to tell.
"Many interpreters are immigrants. They are first generation and come from very different backgrounds both professionally and educationally and now are negotiating their new life here in Canada.
"And you always change in the process.You come and you have to learn this new language and new culture and so you get to know both cultures much better, and to see the good in both. This process, as someone in the audience at the orientation pointed out, means you can interpret both cultures much better."
Documentaries for Change received 46 applications, the list of selected fellows will be released on May 9th. 
Participants will attend workshops in the evenings, will have access to filmmaking equipment, and will meet with, and learn from, experienced documentary filmmakers. They will present their first mini-documentary at a public conference on November 5, 2014. 
Writer: Katia Snukal
Source: Eliana Trinaistic, MC
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