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When Daniel Meirom, a Philadelphia-based filmmaker, came to Camden to teach a film and history class at the Camden Center for Youth Development in 2008, he had no idea that he was about to embark on the most important project of his career.

stop-haittingTogether with fellow filmmaker Ron Lipsky, Meirom challenged six of the center’s students to join them in uncovering stories of Camden’s past while working to understand the city’s social and economic struggles. The students were tasked with learning how to operate cameras, lighting and audio equipment – and tell the stories of the city through their own eyes.

“The most unique thing about the film is that a big part of it is from the Camden youth’s point of view,” says Meirom, 41. “That’s not always heard. There’s a lot of focus on success stories in a city, but sometimes you can be the best student in the world but the hurdles in front of you will prevent you from succeeding.”

The student filmmakers, says Meirom, were surprised at Camden’s rich history, like the fact that the city is home to the first drive-in theater in America, the largest shipyard in the world and poet Walt Whitman. “They learned a lot of interesting things about the city, that if you grew up in Camden today, you’re not necessarily going to know.”

The team spent three years capturing more than 100 hours of footage in Camden. Thanks to a KickStarter campaign that raised more than $10,000, the 75-minute Camden Love/Hate film was finally completed this year.

Kimel Hadden, now 23 and one of the student filmmakers, hopes the documentary will inspire people not just in his hometown of Camden, but all over the world. “You learn not just about history, but about people,” he says. “People from different ethnicities and different occupations are so similar in how they think.”

Hadden was heartbroken when one of the film’s subjects, a model named Jewel Manire, was murdered in a car shooting. “We had gone to school together,” he recalls. “She was here one minute, and the next minute she was gone. Reality sunk in that life is really short.”

Meirom has submitted Camden Love/Hate to numerous film festivals, including the St. Louis International Film Festival, where it was screened in early November. Meirom and his team are also working to create an educational program based on the documentary.

“It’s not just that we came in, we shot the film and we left,” says Meirom. “We want to have something more permanent in the community.”

Camden Love/Hate was shown earlier this month at the Conference Center at Camden County College, and the next showing of the film will be Dec. 2 at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

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