Students’ film explores rural town history, challenges

Jeff Knebel
Bettina Dubrosky, left, and Kevin Oliver, members of the Youth Digital Filmmakers group, record footage in downtown Mount Shasta for their documentary film “Voices Between the Mountains: Coming of Age in the Siskiyous.” The film has been a year long project funded by the California Council for the Humanities designed to explore the history and culture of the area.

Youth Digital Filmmakers, a group of students from Mount Shasta and Happy Camp high schools, recently completed a documentary film about growing up in isolated Siskiyou County and the history of the area.

The film, “Voices Between the Mountains: Coming of Age in the Siskiyous,” is part of a statewide project that was funded by the California Council for the Humanities, in partnership with the Digital Storytelling Institute of ZeroDivide.

Siskiyou Arts Council, the project sponsor, received a $30,000 grant last June from the CCH to undertake the film-making, which is designed to enable young people to make films about what matters in their lives and communities, according to the CCH.

Students who participated in the project will be discussing their film making experiences following upcoming local screenings.

A screening in Weed is scheduled for Thursday, June 19 at 7:30 p.m. at College of the Siskiyous, room DLC-3. The Happy Camp screening is scheduled for June 27 at 9 p.m. at the Klamath-Siskiyou Art Center. It will be preceded by an organic dinner at 5 p.m. followed by an art opening.

“Voices Between the Mountains” explores the origins and influences of Siskiyou County’s native culture, its mining and logging history, and some of the challenges young people face bridging the gap between a world still partially rooted in the past, yet pulled toward the future, according to Mark Oliver, project director and adjunct art professor for College of the Siskiyous.

“Siskiyou County is an isolated part of the state, and teens here are more exposed to trees and rivers than to freeways and malls,” he said. “Our film is about what it’s like growing up in small, rural towns in California, where it’s 75 miles from the nearest clothing store. Because of weather, distance and culture, kids here are disconnected from some of the things most teens take for granted.”

Charles Unkefer, an English instructor at COS, served as the project’s humanities advisor.

“Charles provided insight into the historical events that shaped the region, including the first contact between whites and Native Americans. He helped give the students an historical context for their movie,” said Oliver. “This region is home to the Karuk Tribe and has the second largest Native American population in California.”

Mount Shasta High School students Bettina Dubrosky, Marissa Adlard and Kevin Oliver agreed that the project was a good way to learn about some of the aspects of the area’s history and culture that are widely unknown by residents here. The students collected information by researching online and at libraries and by interviewing people.

“At first we began looking into the past and doing research. Then, when we became more involved, it felt more like we were discovering information that had long been forgotten,” said Kevin Oliver.

Dubrosky, an exchange student from Hamburg, Germany, has spent the past year at MSHS and was asked to participate in the film project by her fellow students. She concentrated on the history of European immigrants coming to California in search of gold.

“I was surprised to find tombstones of Germans from the 1860s in a small graveyard in Callahan,” she said. “I didn’t really know that so many Germans had came here in search of gold.”

“The history of Siskiyou County is very interesting; doing this film taught me how deep it really is and how it helps shape the people here. After doing it I feel much more connected with the community.”

Dubrosky will be leaving Mount Shasta to return to Germany this week. She said she was unsure about living in Siskiyou County at first, but now is happy she came. “My experiences here really changed me; I’m glad I came here.”

California Stories is a multi-year initiative designed to connect Californians and foster understanding by uncovering personal and community stories that, once gathered and woven together, tell the story of today’s California, according to the CCH web site.

The California Council for the Humanities has supported and created programs that bring Californians together around their history and culture for more than 30 years. Since 2001 the Council has been engaged in a statewide initiative, California Stories, designed to tell the larger story of California, according to a press release.

The Council’s new California Stories campaign, How I See It, is helping young people to share — in their own words and through a variety of media — what their lives are like, what they care about, and what it’s like to grow up in today’s California.

“The idea behind Youth Digital Filmmakers is to give youth a voice in what happens in their communities and skills they can use in the future,” said Ralph Lewin, executive director of the California Council for the Humanities. “The humanities scholars give the teens a broader perspective on their film topics and help them see how issues they’re dealing with today are similar to those of other places and times.”

For more information visit

the Council’s website at www.californiastories.org or contact the Council’s administrative office at 415-391-1474.