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wrapping up – the last day

August 10, 2010

On the final day of the workshop we had a special treat: filmmaker Akosua Adoma Owusu (whose film Intermittent Delight we watched on Thursday) joined us in our conversation. We watched her most recent film me broni ba, and what was supposed to be a 10 – 15 minute discussion turned into one that lasted twice as long.  The film, which — as Alissa mentioned, is structured like a collage — is a meditation on hair.  Adoma loved hearing everyone’s reactions to her film and I think the students (especially the budding filmmakers in the group) really enjoyed the opportunity to ask her questions directly.

Adoma wasn’t our only visitor though.  We also were joined by Andrea Ellis from Arlington Independent Media (where you can take all kinds of classes in TV production) & the DC Film Alliance (one of the go-to places for anything and everything film in the DC area) and Alan King, a freelance journalist and blogger.  Alan wrote a great piece on our workshop which you can find here.

We ended the class with pizza (and homemade brownies — thanks Thea!!) and with even more conversation.  Overall the course was a grand success.  It is pretty amazing that we accomplished so much together in just one week.  Thanks to every single participant in the workshop.  Your willingness to share your personal stories and insights, your respectful attitudes towards each other and your interest in and excitement about analyzing African-made films were instrumental in making the course as engaging and dynamic as it was.  We couldn’t have done it without you.


recap – thursday

August 10, 2010

I finally have some free time to update the blog on the last two days of the Flipping the Script workshop!  I’ll dedicate a separate post for each day.

Thursday was jam packed with films.  We watched films by women of the diaspora and started out with the theme of identity and moved onto to a short on moral dilemmas and closed with an intriguing experimental piece.

Opening with Marie-Louise Mendy’s Fond de Teint (thanks Antoine at the French Embassy in DC for hooking us up with the film) generated a lot of discussion.  While we tend to hear a lot about people trying to lighten their skin, the main character of this film, Yoyo, used his mom’s foundation (fond de teint) to make his skin darker.

(In the comments section of the previous post, there’s a You Tube link to the film — albeit with French subtitles.  But you can use your newly gained media literacy skills to see how much of the film you understand without actually relying on the dialogue, right??  If you find another link with English subtitles, feel free to add it in the comments…)

We continued with a clip from a South African film called Belonging.  Kethiwe Ngcobo, the film’s director, returns to the London neighborhood where she grew up and reunites with some old classmates.  Together they reminisce about the struggles they had with being African and West Indian growing up in the UK and the tensions between the two Black identities.  The most shocking part of the discussion was when Danica revealed that the neighborhood featured in the film was her own neighborhood.  What an uncanny coincidence!

After some intense discussion where pretty much everyone (including yours truly) shared stories about challenges we had faced trying to fit in, we moved on to Ngozi Onwurah’s film Hangtime, which is featured in a “Mama Africa”, a collection of short films made by African women.  (Here’s a link to a New York Times review of the collection.)  I think this film was by far the favorite film of all the films we watched during the workshop.

We compared the outcome of this film with resolutions of similar scenarios in Hollywood films and came to the conclusion that such an ending would probably never work with a Hollywood film.  I think that the freeze frame ending (go to 6:43 for the tipoff) relates partially to the film’s title and opening sequence (see here), and also references the classic French film The 400 Blows (compare here).  Do you agree?  Also, for those of you who watched the ending of Black Girl, do you remember that that film also ends with a freeze frame?  What effect is achieved by ending a film this way?  Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section…

Last, but certainly not least, we watched Akosua Adoma Owusu’s short film Intermittent Delight.  There were some folks who were truly baffled by the film, but others who got really into it.  There was some insightful discussion filled with varied interpretations of the short, and by the end of the class I think everyone had opened their minds to the non-traditional structure.

great source for short films

August 5, 2010

Arts Engine is a great organization that sponsors a film festival called Media That Matters.  Check out their website where you can watch all the short films that have screened at their festival.

Everyone received a packet filled with goodies at the beginning of the workshop.  One of items was a DVD of a documentary film about the intersection of hip-hop and political activism called Democracy in Dakar.  A shorter version of this film is available on the Media That Matters site.

You might also check out We Are the Zaballeen, another documentary featuring African society, but this time the focus is on Egypt.  The short follows young people fighting for the right to recycle trash from the streets of Cairo.  We Are the Zaballeen was also made into a longer film called Garbage Dreams.

Also of interest may be another short film called A Girl Like Me.  In this honest documentary high schooler Kiri Davis interviews her friends about how the media affects their self-identity. 

Are there any other films on the Media that Matters site that you’d recommend?

day three – young people take center stage

August 5, 2010

Here were are, almost halfway through the workshop.  Time passes by so quickly!

For those folks that came early, we watched the end of Black Girl.  There was a definite shock at the ending, huh?  Feel free to discuss how you felt about the rest of the film in the comments section.  What’s your take on the mask now that you’ve seen the whole film?

We started off today’s class with some scenes from Djibril Diop Mambety’s film The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun. This film generated a lot of discussion about women’s role in Senegalese society.  We also talked about injustice and power.

Then we moved to Gabon with Dôlé.  It seems everyone enjoyed the selected scenes from this particular film.  The schoolroom scene where Edouard and Mugler confront each other made everyone react.  This led to a conversation about differences between schools in the U.S., Dominica, England and Germany.  It came out that pretty much everyone is learning a second language — while the most popular languages were French and Spanish, a few people are studying Italian, Russian and German.

We got into depictions of the African diaspora with the French film Games of Love and Chance.  This gave us another opportunity to see kids in the classroom.  After watching a couple of sequences (where Krimo and Lydia act out a scene in front of their theater class; and where Krimo’s friends are worried that Lydia is stringing him along) we talked about how we could all relate to being put on the spot as well as liking someone who we’re not sure likes us back.  Ah, relationships are complicated!

Tomorrow we’ll tackle more film from the diaspora.  Looking forward to continuing the conversation…

more thoughts on borrom sarret & black girl

August 3, 2010

So, today was the second day of the workshop.  As promised, we saw two films by the amazing Senegalese director, Ousmane Sembene — Borrom Sarret and Black Girl. (For some background articles on these two films in particular, and Sembene in general, click here…and here…and here.)

Every time I see these films again, I notice something new.  For example, Borrom Sarret ends with Fatou, the carriage driver’s wife, leaving their home.  Someone asked today where she was going.  We don’t really find out in Borrom Sarret itself, but I would argue that Black Girl picks up where Borrom Sarret ends.  In a way, Diouana is another version of Fatou. What do you think?

Johnna asked about the mask in Black Girl, and here’s an interpretation.  Do you agree with the article’s author, Rahul Hamid?

Lastly, here’s a fun fact: Sembene himself appears in Black Girl a couple of times.  Did you see him?

first day

August 2, 2010

Today was the first day of the workshop.  We started off with an icebreaker to introduce ourselves and favorite movies (there’s apparently an Inception fan club among the participants!) and then jumped right into the conversation.

We talked about stereotypes of Africans and Africa and how these were related to mass media images we may have encountered.  We also saw some film clips portraying Africans from an outsider’s perspective.  (Feel free to continue the discussion about these selections in the comments section…)

We also talked a bit about media literacy, but I’m not sure I got the point across very well, so we’ll cover the objectives a little bit more in depth tomorrow.  Just in case, here’s a link that may help clarify some of the concepts.

I’m excited to continue the discussion tomorrow.  On the schedule: Ousmane Sembene.

speaking of the power of media…

August 2, 2010

Yesterday morning I was listening to the radio and heard this story on NPR.  It’s a profile of a new exhibit at the International Center for Photography in NewYork.  For All To See is an exhibit about how photography influenced the civil rights movement in the U.S.

After listening to the piece on NPR’s website, how do you think the goals of this exhibit relate to the goals of the Flipping the Script workshop?


July 27, 2010

Welcome to the blog for Flipping the Script: An Introduction to African Cinema.

This workshop for teens will take place from August 2 – 6, 2010 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

Over the course of the workshop we’ll be discussing African cinema.  Hopefully this blog will give participants the chance to continue the discussion outside of the classroom.

Let’s get started.