Hello from Malaysia

Crescendo issue: March 2014
  • Kira and Aiman can be seen near the upper right portion of this photo.
  • Kira is interviewed on the red carpet by Bill Nye.
  • Kira catches the familiar side of fun loving scientist Neil Degrasse Tyson.
  • Kira poses with Festival founder Adam Garber.
  • Kal Penn takes his turn with Kira on the red carpet.
  • According to Kira, she told Bill Nye that she was not the best selfie taker. So, Mr. Nye grabbed her phone and showed her how!
  • An excited Aiman steals an over-the-shoulder pose as President Obama speaks during the Film Festival's opening moments.
Interlochen Arts Academy student Kira Bursky has a way with film.

In fact, that’s why she’s here. She is able to bring her own brand of realism, emotion and storytelling to her work within the Motion Picture Arts program. She does it in a way that brings her joy and thoroughly entertains those around her. This sort of talent isn’t possessed by just anyone.

And, as often is the case, this sort of talent has not gone unnoticed. This February, Kira had a chance to mix and mingle with the likes of Bill Nye, Conan O’Brien, Kal Penn, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and President Barack Obama. Her film, “Hello from Malaysia,” was chosen to be screened during the inaugural White House Student Film Festival, an event brought about by a partnership between the White House and the American Film Institute. The Festival took place on Friday, February 28 and was live streamed for all to see.

President Obama personally launched the Festival, after each of the guests made their way to the East Room via a “red carpet” sort of atmosphere, offering opening remarks and congratulations to each of the gathered students who had been chosen from the pool of entrants.

The festival itself revolved around two key points. "The prompt for the festival was to make a short film up to three minutes in length that showcased either how your film utilized technology in the classroom or how technology could be used in the future of education," explained Kira.

"On the plane heading back to Interlochen from holiday break, everything clicked all at once," continued Kira, as she discussed her thought process surrounding the festival's prompt. "During the first week of school, I met this really cool gal named Aiman Marzio. I asked her where she was from (Malaysia) and what her major was (theater). And upon that first meeting I promised her that we will make a movie together this year."

"So when I got back to campus I met up with Sojourner Ahebee and I told her my ideas," says Kira. "We sat down with Aiman and casually interviewed her about the cultural differences between here and Malaysia. It was then that we were able to weave together a very relatable story of a girl leaving her home to come to a boarding school. Sojourner, Aiman, and I had all gone through this to come to Interlochen. It was no struggle to write a story about missing home and feeling out of place. But the key was figuring out a way to interweave technology. We did not want to do it in a way that hit the audience over the head, but fortunately, technology is so ingrained into our culture that the moments within the film that exhibited technology came naturally: she misses home so she Skypes her mom, her new friend wants to connect with her so she looks up translations on google, and she realizes she can show people her culture by showing her peers all of the memories captured on her iPhone. I've had experiences like these, Sojourner has, and Aiman has too. Technology can sometimes stunt truthful and honest human connection, but when used correctly, it can allow for the opposite to occur."

With that realization in mind and a story fully formed, a story that had been chosen to be shown at the White House, Kira, Aiman and Kira's mother set off for Washington D.C.

"It was all quite surreal. I'm 17 years old. I do indeed have big hopes and dreams for my future, but I never really thought that I would cross paths with the White House," Kira said. "When President Obama walked into the room, I experienced a feeling I've never felt before. I was going through the whole gamut of emotions. I lucked out and got to stand right next to him in the group picture. My arms fidgeted. Should I put my arm around his shoulder? No. Probably not."

"During the course of my three years at Interlochen my confidence with fillmmaking and with myself has grown tremendously," she continued. "I used to be very apprehensive about making decisions, fearful that I would be judged for making mistakes, seeming inadequate, or not being as talented as others. What I have discovered during my time at Interlochen is that being an artist means you have to acknowledge that you are completely different than everyone else. I've learned that I can take criticism and suggestions as an option instead of as an attack. And I have learned that telling stories is a vulnerable thing, but as artists it is our duty to be truthful. Because of the tools and lessons and growth I have experienced here at Interlochen, I know what steps I must take. Interlochen has solidified my decision to live a life as an artist. Making art brings me a happiness that I can not feel elsewhere."