Queens World Film Festival: Perfect Day producers explore senseless tragedy

QWFF

Sanders (right) at the screening of Perfect Day at the Queens World Film Festival

Perfect Day producer Derrick L. Sanders wanted to make sense of a tragic death of a high school student in creating his short, he said at the screening of his film at the Queens World Film Festival on Friday evening at the Secret Theater.

Sanders’ film centers around the story of Derrion Albert, a high school honors student who was beaten to death in 2009 after he was caught in a brawl between two factions at Christian Fenger Academy High school in Chicago.1 Video taken from the scene shows Albert being killed beaten by several individuals with pieces of a railroad tie.

“It took a piece of my heart,” Sanders said. “It was a tribute to Derrion and a hope that I can give him love in life.”

Perfect Day follows the main character Desmond (Daniel Kyri), a soft-spoken honors student, through a typical day of high school.2 There isn’t much dialogue through most of the film, but plenty is said without it. Through his actions, we discover that Demond is an instantly likable, thoughtful and intelligent student with a bright future in front of him. He ultimately makes a connection with his love interest Aasha (Ciera Angelia) in a sweet and touching sequences of events before the tragic ending.

“I think about high school and I thought about the gift I would give to him,” Sanders said. “I would love to see him have his love. People say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all and I wanted to give him that gift.”

The short also takes aim at the current iPhone generation.

“What bothered me the most was that there were many more of his peers around that could’ve probably stopped the fight, and instead he died,” said co-producer Jessica Estelle Huggins, who was also at the screening. “We take our phones and film things before we actually step into real life and act. And that’s why the Derrion Albert story really touched me the most.”

This is Sanders’ first short and required having more than 60 high school students. At times, it was difficult keeping them all focused.

“I should’ve done a two-person story in a living room,” Sanders said, jokingly.

But in the end, Sanders’ cast was similarly touched by Albert’s story.

“They were really focused, because they knew this story was important to Chicago,” Sanders said. “They knew this story was important to their lives. They invested what they knew about the danger of school and I immediately infused that into my film.”

As for his next projects?

Well, Sanders has a few in mind, but they will come with a very high standard.

“I just felt like after this project, I want something that’s really close to my heart,” Sanders said. “Something that I am passionate about, how I feel about it comes across in the film. I want to continue to do that.”

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