Documentary the pride of film fest

Oaks students travel to South Africa with cameras in hand
TAKE ONE—On location in Africa to film “A LoVE Story,” an Oaks Christian student production. Courtesy Andrew Christopher

TAKE ONE—On location in Africa to film “A LoVE Story,” an Oaks Christian student production. Courtesy Andrew Christopher

The main screening of the 2023 Oaks Christian School Film Festival, “A LoVE Story,” is a tale that focuses on three young men who travel to South Africa to continue their grandmother’s legacy working with children affected by AIDS. The documentary headlined this year’s festival, which took place May 12 and 13 at the Regency Agoura Hills theater.

For the film’s co-directors, Sam Hicks and Grant Seat, it started as an opportunity to hone their filmmaking skills and then quickly turned into a life-altering week of self-discovery in the summer of 2022, traveling to Africa with Andrew Christopher, the school’s director of film.

The Oaks students partnered with LoVE USA, a nonprofit organization created to help children infected with and affected by AIDS in South African communities. LoVE provides financial aid as well as service opportunities. Started by Sharon Clack in 2004, LoVE USA works with three villages in South Africa, Lily of the Valley, Ikhethelo and Lungisisa Indlela, as well as the Lirhanzo Children’s Village in Zimbabwe.

LoVE USA, which started through Conejo Valley Community Church, contacted Oaks Christian after hearing that the school’s film program had partnered with other nonprofit organizations.

“A LoVE Story” follows the Tuckers—Clack’s grandsons Caleb, 21; Josh, 19; and Jaden, 17—as they head to the villages to continue the work that their grandmother started. Caleb and Josh had traveled to Africa before, but Jaden had never been there and saw the work his family had done for the first time.

For Sam and Grant, the chance to follow the Tuckers was more than just an assignment.

“I think that it changed my heart,” Sam said. “I think that God is loving, and I think that he has given us the opportunity to spread that love to others.”

Grant had similar sentiments.

“I was already going through a lot in the growth of my faith over summer, so being able to go on this trip to tell this story really felt like God speaking to me and telling me, ‘Look at what you have at home and how little it would cost you to give some of that back to these people.’”

As he traveled with them, Christopher saw the personal and professional growth in both students throughout the trip.

“I absolutely saw a change in Grant and Sam,” he said. “Sam had never been out of the country before, let alone to Africa, and Grant had been out of the country before but in a limited capacity. It was just as much about their growth and change and about their world view shifting as it was about the subjects of the documentary. It was also about showing them that their skill set as filmmakers can be used in a very powerful way.”

Initially, the team flew into Durban, South Africa, on the Indian Ocean side of the continent. From there, it was a half-hour drive to two villages, Ikethello and Lily of the Valley. From there, they flew to Harare, Zimbabwe, and drove six hours south to Chikombedzim near Lirhanzo Children’s Village.

Sam and Grant were chosen for the assignment partly because Christopher saw that they were ready for the challenge.

“I handpicked these two guys for this project as seniors going into their final year at Oaks,” Christopher said. “They have proven themselves and had done enough projects to show what they are capable of both in terms of filmmaking as well as work ethic.”

Both students have been staples of the film department at OCS since they stepped on campus in middle school.

“I took Film 1 or Intro to Film in seventh grade with Mr. Christopher at middle school,” Sam said. “And I think that’s when I realized that this is something that I actually wanted to do. . . . We’ve had such great opportunities through this program, and . . . I’ve learned that there are so many stories to tell.”

Grant spoke to why this story, in particular, was so important.

“I’ve been in this program all four years of high school, and I’ve grown to love it just because it’s a fun way to live different lives,” he said. “I get to live through my actors and live through the stories I tell. I think that’s always fun. But this documentary, specifically, I think is important to me just because this is the first time I’m telling a real story, and I think there’s a lot of weight with the story.”

Acorn staff report