Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Student Appreciation Day

I know I just said I wasn't going to blog for a while, but this was so special, I have to get it down before the feeling goes away.

This summer, I'm teaching a course on short films, something I am now seriously considering as a future research topic. I turned on to this topic a while ago when I discovered in my own current research that, while Peru really arguably barely has produced enough feature-length films to even be called a tradition, a whole industry of filmmakers produced several thousand short films in Peru over the course of twenty years from 1972 to 1992. Granted, nearly all of these films were god-awful -- but, by law, they were all theatrically shown and every single Peruvian feature filmmaker (until 2003, ten years after that law was repealed) had gained their primary filmmaking experience from working on these shorts. In researching this chapter for my book, I went searching for information on shorts as a genre, or form, or whatever it is, just so that I would be able to put shorts into a critical and historical context... and found, to my great surprise, that there is virtually nothing written about short film at all. Naturally, this makes for a good research topic -- so stay tuned.

In the meantime, to determine whether or not I was really interested in this topic, I decided to teach a summer course on it; in the process of prepping and teaching it, I would be forced to at least bring about the foundation of future research. And, since there is very little information out there on it, for the first time I actually assigned a chapter from the book I'm writing now on the Peruvian film journal Hablemos de cine. I did not provide any further context about the book and just expected them to glean the information they needed about how the concept of national cinema was so new that shorts were all Peruvians had to go on for a very long time.

After class, however, one of the graduate students cam up and started asking bigger questions: but weren't there any other film journals in Peru? didn't only a limited number of people read this journal? how come they had such an influence? As he kept asking questions, I started explaining more and more about what I'm trying to say about my bigger project. At one point, he stopped and said, "Gee, your book really sounds compelling."

I almost wept.

He has no idea that, particularly now, this was exactly what I needed to go forward. The cynic in me thinks that he might have said this to butter me up -- but I'm not that much of a cynic. He really did seem genuinely interested in my work. Which makes the first time someone completely otherwise uninterested in me or my topic is actually turned on by it. My work is relevant! Students are actually interested in my work! Even some of my other students that I've taught before just seems humored if I talked about my work, not actually interested and wanting to know more.

We talked for a good long while about it. I was so thrilled, and these words don't convey that very well. But it will be a while before I forget this, I think.


Anonymous said...

Peruvian law demanded that any short film, once made, must be shown in a theater?? Bizarre law, seems like. ??


Middento said...

Actually, not so much. The same thing happened in many other countries (including Colombia and I think Brazil) and was considered in many more. I no longer think this is mandatory anywhere, but it was popular in the 70s and 80s and I remember seeing shorts when I went to movies visiting Lima as a kid (and being completely confused because why would there be a short film before a movie?).

Anonymous said...

I share your youthful confusion -- so what's the reason? I can understand why it would become customary. Who doesn't enjoy a quickie before a longie (as it were)? Used to be that way in the US too, many moons ago. But it seems really weird to make it legally mandatory.


KC said...

There's nothing like a moment like that to motivate and propel you further. Total validation. If only we could bottle that sensation and release it when needed!

Yea for you!