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"Breaking the Ties that Bind" by Simon Chang and Neha Gandhi, on Somayeh Mohammady and her family (members of MKO), wins prestigious aware of U.S. International Film and Video Festival.
It’s not easy for aspiring filmmakers to get their feet wet in the industry, but Erin Mills resident Simon Chang has done just that. Chang and his Sheridan College classmate were recently honoured with a prestigious award from the U.S. International Film and Video Festival, one of the largest film events in the world. Staged in California, the festival recognizes documentaries and business, educational and entertainment productions. Writer/narrator Chang and his Toronto producer/researcher, Neha Gandhi, were recipients of the student award in the public issues and concerns category. They won for their documentary, Breaking the Ties that Bind. “It felt good getting recognition on an international level,” says Chang. Gandhi said it's a good start for the young filmmakers, students in Sheridan's Media Arts program. “(The festival) was about meeting a lot of filmmakers around the world. It’s a step in the door,” says Gandhi. Breaking the Ties that Bind is about terrorist organization Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The film focuses on an Iranian family’s attempt to rescue their daughter from an MEK camp in Iraq. Almost a decade ago, Somayeh Mohammady left Toronto to go to Iraq to learn about her family history. Instead, she was forced to stay at Camp Ashraf, a terrorist camp. She remains there, brainwashed. Breaking the Ties that Bind features an emotional interview with Mustafa Mohammady, Somayeh’s father. “(The film has) been compared to professional news programs, like 20/20,” says Chang, a former University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) student. Gandhi believes their film, one of 115 student entries, won because they touched on a topic that’s impossible to ignore. “What’s really important for people to know is that other women and children have been brainwashed (by MEK). Today, it’s Somayeh. Tomorrow, it could be anyone else. It’s not an issue that can be overlooked,” explains Gandhi. The film began as a class project and took six weeks to complete. It was an unforgettable experience for the filmmakers. “You get so caught up in the story, you have to remind yourself to be objective (as a filmmaker),” says Chang.

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