Berman & Simmons is proud to honor Zamzam Elmoge as one of our firm’s inaugural Youth Leader Award recipients.
Zamzam has known her future lies in film since she was a child, but didn’t know how until after her first summer attending Seeds of Peace, a camp in Maine aimed at teaching children from different backgrounds leadership skills. It was there that Zamzam first met kids from outside her community in downtown Lewiston, and it was there that she first understood what it meant to be a kid from downtown Lewiston to the rest of the world.
Highlighting Lewiston’s Immigrant Community
Zamzam Elmoge was born in a refugee camp in Kenya, where she lived until she was four years old. From there, she, her parents, her siblings, and her nephew moved to Georgia, where they lived for two years before finally settling in Lewiston, Maine. Zamzam found friends within the immigrant community of the city, at her school, and at the Tree Street Youth Center. These are the people she focuses on in her film “Reason 4369.”
When describing “Reason 4369,” Zamzam’s love for her community is evident.
“I decided I want to do [the] documentary, and it is specifically [about] kids who the community knows as like, bad kids… I don’t think bad kids exist, because kids are kids. So, I [tried] to reach out to kids who have dropped out of school, have done things in the past that they regret, but I want them to tell their stories of how they can change, and I wanted them to share their backgrounds, their identities, what makes them who they are.”
She began the documentary when she was 15, founding The GenZ Project along the way. In her own words, “the Gen Z project is [a] film-based platform that focuses on empowering the silent youth of Lewiston.” The Project is made up of Zamzam and a group of fellow Lewiston High students, all dedicated to making films that take on the society they live in. It’s non-profit and grassroots, attended and managed by the kids. They manage the funds, rent or borrow equipment, film, and edit. “Reason 4369” is their first completed film, but not the sole objective of the project: “we just do film-based things,” Zamzam explains. “Sometimes we hold dialogues or discussions.”
The project is currently working on funding for Zamzam’s next film: Barayubaka (pronounced burry-ubacca), focusing on kids whose lives ended before they were able to find or complete their purpose on Earth. The film was inspired by the death of Zamzam’s friend Layla, whom Zamzam describes as a “change-maker.” The film’s expected release date is April 18th.
Hello Sunshine: Empowering Female Filmakers
After the completion and early screenings of “Reason 4369,” Zamzam was encouraged by her peers to apply for “Hello Sunshine Filmmaker Lab,” a week-long young women’s film production forum run by Reese Witherspoon’s production company, with a focus on empowering female filmmakers. Zamzam applied on a whim. When asked in the application who inspires her, Zamzam wrote an essay on Marsai Martin: the youngest executive producer in Hollywood and a 14-year-old girl of color. Zamzam was one of only 20 young women accepted into the program nationwide. During her week with “Hello Sunshine,” Zamzam got to interview nine prominent women in the film industry, including the VP of Warner Brothers Studio and Reese Witherspoon herself.
After the filmmaking program, Zamzam returned to Maine and the Seeds of Peace camp she’s been attending for years. The camp has given her the title of PS, “Paradigm Shifter.” Her new title has given her greater responsibilities: more intense leadership training, hours of Arab dialogue, and increased motivation to make a difference.
“The Universe Has More in Store for Me”
As a high school senior, Zamzam has begun applying for colleges and universities in film. She doesn’t know where she wants to go yet, but knows she’s going to get there. Her experience with “Hello Sunshine” left a lasting impact on the types of films she wants to make and solidified her belief that she has the power to make them. “[filmmaking is about] having this effect on somebody…leaving a message. Film camp taught me a lot…not on the equipment side or the hands-on experience, but emotional aspect to it. And it gave me hope, ‘cause if I got accepted into a camp where only twenty girls around the country got in, then the universe has more in store for me.”
Berman & Simmons is proud to award Zamzam Elmoge with $250, which will help The GenZ Project purchase filming supplies, and $500 towards her education as part of our inaugural Youth Leaders Award.