Sick Days and History Lessons


On Friday, all we noticed was the love in the air. Today, it’s the dust, and it’s wreaking havoc on our health. Last night I knew there was a distinct possibility that my already tender voice might be completely dissipated by the morning. I was diagnosed a strict diet of honey-filled tea and gargled salt water, hoping to fend off the cruel irony attempting to besiege our lone teaching instrument.Thankfully, with the help of a slightly re-arranged schedule and improved health, we persevered. We also watched a lot of films.

It may seem obvious to watch a lot of films in a film class, but it’s surprisingly difficult with a packed course load. Our teaching days are scheduled from 8:30am-1:30pm, with a short intermission at about 11:00am. The reason for this is that many of the students still need to work jobs, or else need time to use internet cafés with computers for all the homework their cruel teacher keeps giving them.

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This year, I also came better prepared with some classics like François Truffaut’s seminal French New Wave film Les 400 coups (The 400 Blows). It fit in quite nicely in the center of my own selective timeline of major cinematic movements, divided by decade, since the invention of the camera. For film geeks, it went something like this:

1895-1910s – Lumière films, beginning of silent era
1920s – Russian cinema
1930s – German Expressionism, end of silent era
1940s – Hollywood Golden age, beginning of classic era
1950s – Italian Neo-Realism
1960s – French New Wave, end of classic era
1970s – American New Wave, “Blockbuster” and modern era
1980s – Asian Cinema
1990s – Independent Filmmaking movement, video changes
2000s – Bollywood cinema

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I told them that Africa is noticeably absent from the list, and that the 2010s could very well be their time to shine. I also showed them the films we made in 2007, and said our goal is to now do even better. And also, to build a community of filmmakers, because films and “waves” can never happen in isolation. So why not start here, now, in Burundi. It’s time to find your voice. That got them excited, and I suddenly started to feel a lot better.

Christopher Redmond