Thursday, August 16, 2012

OUR SCHOOL: an Important Work for American Film Students



This is a guest post written by Claude Kerven, currently the Chair of the 1-Year Filmmaking Program atthe New York Film Academy, where he teaches directing and screenwriting.

The subject of the Roma is surprisingly foreign to millions of Americans, college-age people included. While there are an estimated one million Romani people in the U.S., the communities are geographically dispersed, subscribe to a variety of religions and are not fully integrated into the general population.

The knowing exposure Americans can get to “Gypsies,” outside of the mischaracterizations in popular culture, are rare. Roma and non-Roma may shop at the same stores, sometimes go to the same schools or even attend the same churches, but the identities of Romani Americans are not readily apparent to others.

With the release and distribution of OUR SCHOOL (2011, Dirs. Mona Nicoara & Miruna Coca-Cozma), some of that unfamiliarity can be diminished. Likely, it is the American film students who have been the first to see the documentary, perhaps for its style of reporting as much as for the cinematography. 

It is the nature of students of all the arts, film as much as acting and even animation, to look outside their culture and country, to discover those things that fascinate them.

In general, film students seek foreign experiences as a matter of course. Students at the New York Film Academy in New York have the option of studying in 13 other locations on four continents: Florence and Paris, Moscow, Abu Dhabi (UAE), Mumbai and New Delhi, Beijing, Shanghai and Kyoto, and Queensland (Australia). With certificate as well as degree programs, NYFA film school enables an easy, as-you-like-it approach to studying abroad, and many take advantage of those opportunities.

This may be of more importance to American-raised students who are studying film and the performing arts in general (based in Manhattan, the student population is as diverse as the city of New York). The predominance of American-created culture sometimes means that art forms, performers, techniques and story lines tend to be largely homegrown.

Foreign film “art house” theaters are found only in large cities and some university towns, far less than the ubiquitous suburban multiplex theaters that carry Hollywood blockbuster movies that have built-in mass appeal.

The nature of art students, including those involved in the cinematic arts, is to find and study work that comes from outside that culture.

For those who can afford it, a semester abroad remains an important part of the educational experience. But as higher education has become increasingly expensive, it is films themselves that provide the kind of exposure that many otherwise lack.

OUR SCHOOL may tell a story familiar to those who know the history of civil rights in the 20th century. But to younger viewers, even America’s history with discrimination is something they might not be familiar with. Until they see it on the small or silver screen,
the concept remains foreign – no matter which country the actual events happened in or where it was filmed.


- Claude Kerven

More later...

7 comments:

Lane said...

I've always been fascinated with the "gypsies" but I haven't actually bothered to really read about them. This seems interesting.

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