Rendah Haj is a 19yr old filmmaker based in Melbourne. With a passion for film and a profound interest in realism and youth, she hopes to provide a platform for young people to express themselves, and address important universal topics through raw and honest conversation. Fun fact: She can’t dance but still loves to.
Tell us the story of your project. What gave you the idea? How did it start?
“Youth Misinterpreted: the voice of youth” is a documentary series that explores the lives of youth in the modern day. My aim with this project is to provide young people with a platform to express themselves and bring out authentic/honest voices of youth through a form of media that does not aim to alter and misrepresent the truth.
I studied media in school for a few years and that really made me conscious of the role it plays in people’s lives, specifically in youth culture. Young audiences are easily influenced by what they see and what they are told by society, and to some extent manipulated. They are also very outspoken when it comes to important global issues such as politics, culture, economics and drugs etc. This comes from the mistaken idea held by most of society that they are not mature enough to understand certain ideas and that we are oblivious to the ‘real world’. What I wanted was to start a conversation about important universal topics and give other young people a space to freely express themselves through raw and honest conversation without fear of any judgement.
I truly think it’s important that young people come together as a unity and eradicate this powerful mentality and make the world recognize our value and respect our voices in a way that is powerful and beneficial to society as a whole. Because in reality, we are the future.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge I faced was perhaps developing a team . I wanted to have people I could work with closely that shared the same passion as I did, and could see a future for YM. I am a very independent person, so I like doing things all on my own and I also find it hard to share my ideas and let people into my world of creativity. But I guess once I realised that the only way I was going to achieve something was to accept people’s help everything started to come together. Through sharing my ideas I was able to find like minded people who I could collaborate with.
Something that I actually thought would be a challenge was getting people to open up to me. Some of the people involved with this project are my friends, but some are complete strangers, so I thought it would be this awkward situation where I’d be sitting there asking them to share their secrets with me and express themselves, and they wouldn’t respond. But that turned out to be one of the simplest things. It’s amazing how much kids will actually speak up and share their lives with you (even the most shy ones) if they are just given the opportunity and surrounded with people that actually understand and are interested.
Who or what motivates or inspires you?
I am most inspired by the notion of realism, real situations and relations and the idea of portraying aspects that are honest and innate through a process (of filmmaking) that is quite manufactured and tainted for effect. That’s one of the reasons I chose film as a medium of art, because it’s quite interesting how you can learn about the world by exploring the essence of reality and navigating daily life through film.
Everyday people also inspire me. I believe you can learn so much just by the conversations you have with different people, especially by those you aren’t always surrounded by. That’s why travelling is so important, to learn about other people, other cultures. You become open-minded, and learn more about who you are also.
What events or experiences in your own life do you think were critical to getting you to where you are today?
To be very honest, I think just school, being in such an environment throughout most of your adolescence/youth, it’s crazy. I mean you do learn a lot but you also learn how screwed up the world is. As I was coming to the end of my VCE, this project was more about me expressing myself because it was the only thing I found I was interested in. But once I finished school and had the absolute freedom to do whatever I wanted, I found that this project grew into something bigger. It became a larger concept. I found that what I really want to do is expand this project as much as I can, and make it more than a film project, but rather a movement for youth.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
Right now we are finalising the first series and getting ready to launch this project. I can’t wait to finally see all our hard work come together. In the next month I will actually be working on the photo series while travelling across Europe and the Middle East. I’ll have the opportunity to meet and speak with people from all over the world, with all sorts of backgrounds, and see what they want to say. We are also working on some collaborations with some incredible artists, both in Melbourne and overseas, so everything is pretty exciting at the moment!!
Are there opportunities for people to get involved?
Youth Misinterpreted simply started out as a personal project of mine but within just a few months, so many people have got involved and helped me bring it to life. I am always looking for people who are as passionate and dedicated as I am, and really strive to make a difference in the world. My team and I have all sorts of skills but none of us are professionals, we all just go with the flow and learn from each other. People can also get involved with our photo series! If they feel like they have something important to say or just really want to express themselves, that’s what we are looking for!
In one sentence, what advice would you give to other young people?
Don’t let society dictate who you are or what your are capable of, because if you want something in life, all you have to do is go get.
If you are interested in learning more about Youth Misinterpreted in Melbourne, you can follow them on Twitter @youthmisinterpr, or Instagram @youthmisinterpreted. Watch the first episode here.
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