This is the first in a series of posts about the film appreciation course I recently did. This post describes the overall experience at the course. Later posts will have details on the structure of the course, the content, more on the movies screened, etc. (Update: The second and third parts, discussing the movies and the lectures have now been posted.)
Exactly a month after we said our goodbyes to the participants, the lecturers, the organizers, the chai-waala - Jaggu and the handout-waala - Shyam, I sit here trying to summarize what I experienced in the 4 weeks that I spent at FTII and NFAI. Yes, I learnt a whole lot, we watched about 70 movies…but it is the overall experience that made it all worth it. Getting abstract, am I? Well, that is one thing I have certainly picked up from the course. Abstractness can be found in the simplest things (movies, scenes, shots) and the most abstract movies can be described by a profound yet simple one-liner.One write-up is not enough to narrate what was imparted, processed and retained in that one month. So, in this post, I will just give a gist of what the course was all about, a laundry list of the movies we saw, etc.
As you would know from the schedule, very broadly, the course content can be categorized into lectures and screenings. The mystery of mise-en-scéne was unraveled. And accept it or not, melodrama too has theory. There was a lot of history and technicalities like editing, cameramanship, and sound design. Many lecturers inspired awe because of their knowledge about the topic at hand, and the passion for movies that their eyes conveyed. Of course there was also the mandatory school-childlike nicknaming of lecturers, the irresistable complaining about rambling professors, and the inevitable skipping of classes that followed.
The choice of screenings was designed to cover all genres and geographical regions, as many classics as possible, and most of the legendary directors. Along with the task of covering this huge range there was an obvious attempt to have some connection with the lecture topic of the day. My favorite example is watching Citizen Kane after the day’s lectures on “visual composition” and “camera techniques”.
When I took off for the course, little did I know that what I would remember most fondly would be the relationships that I made in my time there. My sort-of “statement of purpose” in the application form mentioned ‘introduction to technicalities of film-making’ and ‘exposure to world cinema’. And while those two purposes were sufficiently satisfied, it’s the wide variety of people that I met, that I am still in awe of.
There were 72 registered participants literally from all around the country. In fact, we had a film-maker from Sri Lanka amongst us. To say that they were from varied backgrounds would be an understatement. From anthropologists to documentary film-makers, from people involved in mainstream feature films to a Priest, from people working on advertisements to an art historian, from a biochemist to a mathematician turned professor who is working on the connection between science fiction and theology. I would like to say: name it and we had it.