My nickname among the students has become “the cheater”. Another teacher might take offence to such a label, but I wear it like a badge of honour. I encourage everyone in the class to be bold as they lie, cheat and manipulate. Pull the wool over people’s eyes, control their thoughts and make them believe every word you say is the truth – it’s the only way you’ll ever be successful. Welcome to the politics of filmmaking.
If you have been following our chronicles here, you’ll hopefully remember when I revealed to one student that King Kong only exists in film and our imaginations. The example was at the extreme end of the spectrum, but not understanding the process of filmmaking permeates in each of the students in some way. Yesterday we shot our final of the five films, and almost shot-by-shot I had to remind the writer/director that we were making a fiction film - the audience is willing, nay expects, to be deceived. Too gentle and caring she was, she just didn’t seem to have the heart to hoodwink her own audience. A filmmaker is nothing but a con artist, I tried to tell her, like all magicians who use illusions instead of magic. Still, she was convinced that if her character crossed this road, the next scene had to take place on the other side. If there weren’t any lights on the street, why should we add them? People in Bujumbura only cook this meal at a certain time of day, we can’t ask them to do it later on – it would be dishonest. Yes, I tried to argue, and it would also mean our shooting day wouldn’t have ran from 6:30a.m. until 1:00a.m. Did I mention how relieved I am that production is over?
The shoot itself, however, was definitely memorable. The script was the most non-narrative of any we received, and for the first half is just a reflection on how a certain class in Bujumbura seems to pass impoverished Congolese refugees daily with disregard. Those scenes involved a little (real) smoke but no mirrors, as no amount of cheating could possibly give a better sense of their marginalized lives than filming the truth.
The sound of pouring rain woke us all up early this morning, which was excused because we had some leftover pancake mix and real Canadian maple syrup from the other day to cook-up. Canada and Burundi don’t have much in common, but they do share a birthday/independence day of July 1st, so we invited some friends over and finally made that Canadian breakfast we had been planning for about a month. We took the occasion to also plan an upcoming field trip to Rwanda with our students. We leave tomorrow morning and plan on taking this week between production and post-production to visit Kigali, the countryside and the set of a feature film being shot about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They’ll all be able to witness professional tricksters first-hand, I can’t wait.