Local 9th grader produces film illustrating effects of gun violence on the community

Local News

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Due to the rise of gun violence in Jefferson County, a local 9th grader took matters into his own hands by creating a film to bring more awareness to the subject.

The Birmingham area has seen a rise in gun violence over the last year. In 2020 the murder rate climbed nearly 16%.

Just this week, CBS 42 has reported multiple deadly shootings, including the fatal drive-by shooting of a 16-year-old.

Local youth took notice. High school freshman Chris Chaei and his church youth group decided to make “Domino Effect”, a film illustrating the effects one deadly shooting has on a family and a community.

Pastor Mike Washington spends his Sundays at Mt. Hebron’s Baptist Church spreading messages of love and encouraging people to be better.

Pastor Mike Washington of Mt. Hebron’s Baptist Church, Chaei’s father spends his Sunday’s spreading messages of love and encouraging people to be better.

Like father, like son, 15-year-old Christien Washington, professionally known as Chris Chaei, is sharing that same message but through different means.

“I really want to inspire my age to do something that will help the community,” Chaei said.

In the last year, the murder rate in Birmingham increased nearly 16%. It was that​ uptick in violence that inspired Chaei and his church to do something about it.

A billboard on the east side of Birmingham’s Highway 31 at University Boulevard.

“We saw a lot of the unnecessary violence in the community,” Chaei said.

He and other members of his church youth group produced “Domino Effect” — the story of a successful and scholarly high school senior with a full ride to Alabama A&M. But before graduation, he was fatally shot, leaving his family and community devastated.

“This could be anybody. It could be you, your brother or sister, a family member,” the 15-year-old said. “When one person hurts, it affects an entire community. I’m just glad we were able to show that in this film.”

Chaei, a high school freshman filmmaker, knows his way around professional-grade equipment. 

His dedication and hard work have already paid off. This last year, he was awarded best young producer at the Los Angeles International Indie Film Festival and best narrative short at Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival.

“It’s our mission as an organization to inspire the next generation to tell important stories through filmmaking and Chris is doing just that.”

Sidewalk Film Festival leaders
Chaei, a high school freshman filmmaker, at the Sidewalk Film Festival after winning his award.

“I work so hard to display these stories because I love to make films – to win a film festival, it just really meant a lot,” he said.

While Chaei may not want to be a pastor, he plans on following in his father’s footsteps by spreading the same messages of peace and love.

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