Restored: charming “lost” 1954 short film of L.A. schoolkids’ Mexico project

I have a friend, Erna Maurer, whose late husband Kenneth was a teacher for the LA school system starting in the 1950’s. He was also a 16mm film hobbyist, with a good eye, who produced some fun and interesting short films. In the spring of 1954, he put his talents to use documenting a school project at the Rosemont Avenue school – a Social Studies project which studied the culture of Mexico. The 16mm reels lay in a dusty closet, unviewed for decades, when Erna decided to get all of Ken’s old films transferred to DVD. And among the family trips and birthdays, I discovered this beautifully-filmed gem. It shows the Rosemont students engaged in a range of picturesque activities, from painting to flamenco dancing. For the grand finale, the students recreate a traditional Mexican street fair – and then the film takes a whimsical turn as one of the students daydreams of being a great bullfighter, in a carefully-staged dream sequence! The film’s age makes it a time capsule of L.A. history, showing a very multicultural group of kids and some of the creative ways of exploring Mexican culture that the teachers employed. I was honoured to finally complete this film nearly sixty years after it was shot. I spent much time picking just the right pieces of music (the original was silent) as well as tightening up the editing. I think the result is a briskly-paced and highly watchable film. But my greatest wish is that some of the students who appear in the film and make such a charming impression could see it again now that they are in their 70’s… or family members of those who are no longer with us could see their mom or their grandfather as a child. So here it is – please share it if you know anyone who might find it interesting or perhaps might find themselves – or a parent or grandparent – in it!

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