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Maia’s movie wins international prize

Young Achiever Maia Steele (Photo by Akil Simmons)

A video documentary crafted on a Christmas gift camera has resulted in a big win for a local student, after her short movie won an international grand prize for the Bermuda Homeschoolers.

“I was really, really excited,” 14-year-old winner Maia Steele told The Royal Gazette, after learning just a few days ago that her film had come top out of nearly 30 entries from around the world.

The competition, dubbed the 2014 Global Cardboard Challenge Video Contest, has its origins in a similar film in the US, created a little over two years ago.

It all began with nine-year-old Caine Monroy, who used cardboard and creativity to build his own arcade of games in his father’s Los Angeles car shop.

The term “going viral” gets used lightly.

However, in the case of Caine’s Arcade, the 11-minute video by Nirvan Mullick, it seems justified: the online video has thus far notched up more than 4.5 million views.

Caine’s Arcade also inspired the establishment of the Imagination Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to firing the creativity of children around the world.

The Cardboard Challenge did exactly that for the Bermuda Homeschoolers, a group which brings together the Island’s home schooled children for field trips, physical education, craft and other activities.

“Everyone participated, making their own cardboard creations,” Maia said, describing an arcade of marble runs, a space shuttle, a life-size cardboard doll, a haunted house built from cardboard boxes and even a cardboard oven with real cookies inside.

The Homeschoolers gathered at the Masterworks Foundation of Bermuda Art, bringing along cardboard boxes from home or scavenged from local shops, to assemble their creations.

Maia’s creation was a costume “sort of like Maleficent, from Sleeping Beauty”, she recalled: “I had horns and a sceptre.” Her little sister Aiden, 11, put together the marble game.

Although the Devonshire teen’s father, John, grew up on the Island, Maia only recently moved to Bermuda from California with her sister and mother Julie. She knows the Island well, having family here, and said she enjoys living in a small community. She started home schooling here one year ago.

The flip camera Christmas present was put to use with iMovie software. During a visit to a friend’s house she created a short film showing “my sister running dramatically away — at the end you see she’s running from three dogs”. Editing the video inspired her further.

Maia is familiar with Caine himself: she saw him at San Francisco’s Exploratorium Museum, where he presented a claw machine from which he could dispense tickets from inside. Now Caine knows her too: he watched her creation, as part of her winning of the Challenge.

“The fact that he got to view my video was surreal,” Maia said. “It was neat that everyone from around the world got to enter.”

The Bermuda Homeschoolers Global Cardboard Challenge took the grand prize, which came with a filmmaking programme, while the Lewisville Independent School District from Lewisville, Texas came first.

Irekiplay, in Paris, won second place, and the Houston, Texas school AVANCE Head Start came in third.

The film itself was shot back in August when the Homeschoolers gathered on a sunny day in the Arboretum to showcase their creations. Although Maia spent most of the day filming, she included herself, dancing in costume.

Maia said that film remains a hobby, but one that she would like to take further.

“Whenever I have the time — I have to do schoolwork first,” she said. “I want to make one or two music videos and incorporate Bermuda’s beaches, because it’s such a pretty place. I’m going to keep pursuing film as a hobby, something for fun.”

The congratulatory message from Imagination Foundation community engagement director Alice Lin said it had been “a pleasure to get a glimpse into the variety of events that took place” — adding: “There is something truly universal and joy-bringing about kid creativity and people coming together around a cause they believe in.”