Dr Juan Francisco Salazar Oversees Award-winning Student Documentary

ICS School-based member Dr Juan Francisco Salazar is Executive Producer of an award-winning UWS student documentary, Hanging in the Balance.

Dr Salazar, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, oversaw the project which won Best Film Award at the Cause Film Festival (opens in a new window). The festival encourages entrants to submit a skit, short film or feature film about a cause that they support – with 50 per cent of profits raised going to the winning charity.

Produced by Melissa Salihi (Bachelor of Communications) and directed by Ben Dessen (Bachelor of Natural Science), Hanging in the Balance (opens in a new window)provides an insight into the lives of bats.

In Australia, bats are one of the most misunderstood and persecuted groups of wildlife. However, many people are unaware of the critical ecological roles that bats play in the environment. Hanging in the Balance provides a fascinating insight into the lives of these incredible creatures, dispels the most common myths and misconceptions and showcases some of the passionate and dedicated people fighting for their protection.

Other students involved in the production of the documentary include Humanities and Communication Arts students Ben Clarke (camera operator), Myriam Kassis (sound recording), and Emily Maynard (editing).

Speaking about the film, Dr Salazar says: 'This has been an exemplary experience within the Documentary Media unit that I coordinate and teach. When the students first pitched the idea I was very happy and moved, not only because I knew of Ben's previous involvement in a very important documentary film, but because I personally have a passion for bats myself. I did a fair bit of work on bats during my undergraduate student years back in Chile. Students worked very independently and were always open to take on my advice. Interviewing well-known experts, securing archival footage from TV networks, approaching volunteer self-funded organisations, and submitting the film to a festival were all parts of the learning experience, which Ben and Melissa handled masterfully as part of a team that worked collaboratively to develop an engaging story with empathetic characters.'

'Having been a wildlife rehabilitator for almost a decade and during that time rescuing, rehabilitating and raising orphaned bats, I was always fascinated by these incredible animals,' says Ben. 'What saddened me was the fact that so many people had pre-conceived negative opinions that bats are disease-ridden, smelly, disgusting pests. I wanted to help showcase the beauty of these creatures, their important environmental roles as well as highlight the issues they face to try to gain public support for their conservation.'

A documentary Ben was involved in called Rise of the Eco Warriors (opens in a new window)has been screening in selected cinemas around the country this year.

Melissa says she has taken a lot away from this experience. 'It has illuminated a passion for production and documentary film that makes me want to aim high in every project I work on in the future. I feel that Documentary Media allowed us all to put the theory of media production into a practical environment and watch as our ideas evolved.'

Melissa is currently working as an intern for the ABC documentary series, Redesign My Brain.

Story by nUWS

10 October 2014