Everywhere a Sign
I’ve been looking for warning signs since I got here. Something to tell me that we’re on the right track, or that the project is headed for disaster. In many ways we were successful in 2007, but assumptions and wishful thinking often plagued us along the way. For example, we thought we’d teach in English and the students believed we had more means than we actually did. This time, however, everyone has a better understanding of the realities.
I think the extended intermission actually built a certain respect for the project after the initial confusion and impatience led to an understanding that the BFC can’t happen without support. I’ve recently received a number of emails and phone calls from past students saying how much they appreciate what we did.They came to realize that the project is both vulnerable and valuable.
When we left in 2007, a lot of questions and confusion followed us. We had armed the students with hope, but failed to find them an ongoing means to produce films. So for the past three years, they’ve watched online as the BFC has gained exposure and waited on the ground for that to translate into equipment, structure, or further training. Now, on the day before our first class, we’re getting all the right signs that our last students will do whatever they can to make those future opportunities happen.
See I may have come to Burundi alone, but I’m definitely not on my own. Before I arrived, all the prep work was basically done in terms of getting a space, getting permissions and getting students. I went around to sign some papers, shake some hands, pay some bills and either approve decisions or appeal for some last minute items. But overall, the first steps to start training had already been taken. What’s left is all the teaching, plus of course a ton of logistical details to shoot the films and hold our festival.
Luckily, a core group of students from 2007 are helping me and at least a half-dozen more have offered to volunteer. On top of that, our celebrity Gospel singer Apollinaire, BFC Legal Representative, is making deals for us behind-the-scenes and the unstoppable Papy Jamaica, BFC Technical Director, is making sure we find everyone and everything we need – despite the fact he’s getting married in just a few days. Papy also found us not one, but two teaching spaces to use while we’re here. The main space we’ll be teaching is the Centre Culturel Français – or CCF. Our room has a built in projector, sound system, cushioned seats and air conditioning. As Rudy (writer of BFC film Bigger Plans) put it, this year the BFC’s gone “V.I.P.”. Maybe that should be the new sign outside the building written in empty AK-47 magazine shells.