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Young film-maker is ‘de bess’

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Kerri Seymour got blank looks when she told her Canadian friends the food tasted “well”.

When she “axed” a question they corrected her pronunciation.

When she said she was “vaxed” they were at a complete loss.

“I was surprised as I thought I spoke English like everyone else,” said Ms Seymour, a film student at Toronto's Humber College. “I don't have a strong Bermudian accent. My parents didn't speak a lot of slang around me. People would correct me all the time. I felt diminished. Why was my pronunciation any less valid then theirs?”

The 22-year-old talked about it with other international students. After hearing they'd had similar experiences, she decided to make a film.

She was pleasantly surprised when Please Excuse My Accent was accepted into the Toronto Short Film Festival this year. And even more surprised when it was named Best Local Film.

“A week after acceptance I was a bit confused when I got a second e-mail from the festival,” she said.

A friend who was looking over her shoulder at the time helped clear things up: ‘Wow, that says winner!'

The penny finally dropped.

“I started jumping up and down,” she said.

It was a bit nerve-racking watching when the film screened at the festival in March, especially as it hadn't turned out the way she'd originally intended.

“I wasn't able to get a Bermudian to be in the film but I was able to get my friend Robyn in the film who was from Barbados,” she said. “She has a similar accent, British mixed with the Caribbean accent. I could make a whole video about the Bermudian accent alone. It needs its own spotlight.

“The film was five minutes long, but it was something I worked on really hard,” she said. “Also, my film played last so I was extra excited and nervous. In the film world if something plays last that usually means it is one of the best, or pretty good.”

The film asks whether the “corrections” she'd encountered were racist. An audience member yelled out: “Yes!”

“I do think it can be racist if you are judging people by how they speak,” Ms Seymour said. Her film-maker father Al Seymour got her interested as a young child but her interest didn't really crystallise until she went to CedarBridge Academy.

“At that time I was exposed to more classes and equipment,” she said. “It was then I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker.”

Ms Seymour graduates from Humber next week. She hopes to stay in Toronto and continue making independent films. “This is the first real success I've had,” she said. “I want to get a job in the film industry for sure. There are so many avenues I could go into. I want to explore everything.

“I like documentary style, but I like abstract things and experimental things. I like films that help society grow.”

Language barrier: a still from student Kerri Seymour's film Please Excuse My Accent, which won her the Best Local Film award in Toronto. (Photograph supplied)
Film-maker Kerri Seymour (Photograph supplied)
A scene from Kerri Seymour's film Please Excuse My Accent (Photography supplied)

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Published June 09, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated June 09, 2016 at 8:53 am)

Young film-maker is ‘de bess’

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