Chicago youngster turns bullying experience into short film

Anah Ambuchi was a straight-A fourth-grader when her progress report showed a D.  That was enough to raise the attention of her mom, Naomi Morin, who insisted on good grades if her daughter wanted to remain active in her extracurriculars: acting and dancing.

“In the fourth grade, these kids were calling me all kinds of names,” Ambuchi says. “Some were really, really mean to me. I became sad, and I would cry in the bathroom.

“I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends, and I didn’t want anyone to talk to me. I didn’t want to talk to my teachers about it, and my grades started to dip.”

After Ambuchi finally told her mom about the bullying, Ambuchi found release writing in her journal. Those notes eventually became a script. 

Ambuchi, now 11, turned her experience into a positive, filming a short movie, “Made In His Image,” over three days in June. Her movie documents her struggles with bullying and how to combat it. 

Morin was a producer on the film, and with the help of a fundraiser, secured the $5,000 necessary to hire cinematographers and house out-of-town actors for the project. 

“Made In His Image” is slated for release in October. 

Ambuchi, who lives on the south side of Chicago, participated in the full directorial experience with her film: she pared down the script, she held two-day auditions to pick actors and she filmed some of the shots. 

“I learned that it takes a lot to be that organized,” Ambuchi says. “You can’t be all over the place. You have to have your shots ready. You have to know what you want your movie to look like.”

Ambuchi already had experience on the other side of the camera. She started dancing at 5, which led to commercials at age 6, theater at 7 and TV and film work at 8. 

“I knew what she had told me (about the bullying incidents), but I didn’t know the whole story until I read her script,” Morin says. “She didn’t hold anything back.

“She is showing people that nobody can define who you are but yourself.”

Ambuchi’s experience behind the camera has helped her define a career path. She knows she wants to continue acting, writing and directing. 

“I started acting because I watched a lot of TV and I saw kids and said I want that to be me,” Ambuchi says. “My mom put a lot of time and energy to go to auditions and lessons and classes so that I can pursue my dream.”

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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