Peace Corps Volunteer Organizes Student Film Festival in Azerbaijan

Washington, D.C., September 13, 2012 – Peace Corps volunteer Mike Raybourne of Gorham, Maine, recently organized a student film festival for nearly 50 students aged 13 to 23 from across Azerbaijan. Each festival participant was given the option to a submit pre-made film to one of three categories: short narrative, music video or documentary. Each entry was screened and evaluated by a panel of local judges, and ceremony was held at the end of the festival to recognize the top three films in each category.

Festival participants watch a film screening.

“The festival was the result of local students coming together with a desire to share their hard work and see their completed film projects on the big screen,” said Raybourne, a graduate of Emerson College who has been living and working in Azerbaijan since 2009. “Participants who didn't place were given awards like 'best actor' or 'best editing.' The day was full of laughing, cheering and bonding.”

For the past year Raybourne has been spearheading movie club meetings in villages throughout Azerbaijan. During the meetings, students were taught cinematography and editing skills which they used to create short films for the festival.

A few of the film festival award winners.

“The club immediately became popular, with students demanding the club meet multiple times a week, and attendance growing each time the club gathered. Since the clubs’ inception, the students have made almost 50 short films and music videos,” continued Raybourne.

Each film submission was written, filmed and edited by students. Community members interested in attending the festival were invited to attend the screenings.

“The festival was a huge success. Next year we hope to expand it to two days, one for films and one to showcase musicians from around Azerbaijan.”

About Peace Corps/Azerbaijan: More than 420 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Azerbaijan since the program was established in 2003. Currently, 155 volunteers serve in Azerbaijan. Volunteers work in the areas of education, youth development and community economic development. Volunteers are trained and work in Azerbaijani (Azeri).

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit for more information.

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