What a difference a day makes


Blog #5

I'm really glad I had no time to write an entry yesterday.  It was our second day, and the problems just kept pilling on us.  "It's too hot, we need water." "The days are too long, we need to get other things done."  "I don't understand what you're saying." "What do you mean we're not being paid to be here?"  And yes, that was some of the students surprised they weren't being paid, not us teachers.

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The teaching and painstaking task of translating film specific terms (still usually done the night before) made for a long, unforgiving second day. To make matters worse, my co-founding partner needed to temporarily abandon us just as we had finally set sail. Raymond has a wife, a child, and a life in Rwanda that has been neglected for several weeks while putting together final details needed for the BFC here in Bujumbura.  He understandably needed to go home for a bit - both for business and personal reasons. Luckily, he's well rooted in the community here because I don't know what we would have done without his, and now our friends, helping us through the details.

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Papy "Jamaica", the self-proclaimed number one producer in Burundi (he has, after all, been making videos since 2003) is working on getting sponsorship from the bottled water company Aquavie, but bought the students water in the meantime.  We got a sound system from Apollinaire, a legitimate celebrity gospel singer here in Burundi, to help us conquer the acoustic nightmare of our teaching space. We decided to change the schedule, essentially skip lunch and run things from 8:30am - 1:30pm to free up everyone's afternoon.  And we were able to lose a few students by telling them they would not be paid to be there ("new" ones managed to come though, all with their own claims to why they are supposed to be there or missed the first day, so we're still working on keeping the number to 30). But the best news of all, by the third day the students were starting to understand our Canadian accents. Simple words like "ça" were totally confusing them because of our downward inflections.  And we won't get into my terrible grammar of defaulting all articles to feminine and trying my darndest to not just throw in the English word when the French one escapes me...

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We taught the basics: how to tell a story in three acts, how to construct an interesting and "sizzling" scene, how to write a film treatment and eventually how to write a film script in the proper format.  We gave them homework on the second night to write a treatment (synopsis) for a story they would like to tell. Today they read them out one by one. They gave us stories of love, rape, AIDS, national independence, comedy, tragedy - the works.  Our students are aged an average of 18-25 years old, they're educated and anxious for a means to make films. We have a strong mix of men and women, and people sent from the ministry of culture, television stations and even a solider sent by the National Defence department (in full army garb - try turning him away because he's not on the list).  We've been re-energized by their eagerness to participate and incredibly thankful it's finally the weekend!

Christopher Redmond