Chatham High School senior Jessica Zheng won two awards this month for her work as a filmmaker. She won Best Short Narrative at the Cinema Ed Young Filmmakers Track on March 11th, and she won the Audience Choice Award at the Kent Place Film Festival on March 31.
Zheng wrote and directed her short film titled Unforgotten in her CHS Short Films class this year, and she entered this film in both competitions. Unforgotten tells the story of a girl, haunted by the death of her best friend, who must learn to forgive and to forget.
“My biggest drive as a filmmaker is to move people and to expose my audiences to new scenarios or perspectives that they may not have considered before," Zheng said. "I want audiences to become emotionally invested in the characters and to reflect upon their own experiences after watching my films.
"Unforgotten doesn't have a very strong personal connection to my own life, but I wanted to explore the nuanced circumstances behind death and the resulting loss, as these are delicate issues that people can often misinterpret or undermine. I do not, by any means, think that my film does the real-life situation full justice, but I do hope that it sheds some light onto the subject.”
CHS Film teacher Connor Henderson said, “I am so proud of Jess' accomplishments. She is extremely passionate about film and took full advantage of this opportunity to write and direct a film of her own. Unforgotten is beautifully shot - it certainly does not look like a high student's work, but it is the story that makes this film great.
"We had many conversations about the content in the film and how difficult it would be to tell this story. When I saw the final cut I was so impressed with her sensitivity and I thought the story had a lot of real emotion. Kimmy (Scaglione) and Lilly (McGrath) are two very talented actresses and they played the characters perfectly.”
Zheng will attend New York University next year to study film.
Cinema Ed is a non-profit and media organization that focuses on using independent film as a teaching tool. It was founded in 2014. Kent Place hosted its Ninth Annual Film Festival this year, and the theme was “Everyday Magic.”