Here Comes the Twist


A few days ago I received a phone call saying a surprise visitor was on his way to Burundi to help with the project. I was promised a seasoned veteran with a passion for photography, a year’s worth of experience working in Africa and fluent bilingual skills. He clearly fudged that last point on his resumé, and based on my wonderful experience with Lysandre this year (who I met the week before leaving) I didn’t exactly check any references. Probably foolish of me, but if someone’s willing to find their way over here, I’ll embrace them with open arms. Especially if it’s my Dad.


Papa Redmond, as the students call him, made his way with a bag full of goodies fit for a Prairie boy (I’m looking at you, Old Dutch Arriba Zesty Tacos!).  And while I was initially worried that our reverse schedule would mean he missed most of the action, our overflow of Kino films meant we had enough for a third screening. So Thursday night, with minimal word of mouth, we held a much more relaxed evening of unseen films and favourites from the previous nights.  We even had the Chargé d’affairs from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports attend, although we were warned he only had about 10 minutes to spare. An hour and a half later, when the event was over, he eventually left with a big smile on his face like everyone else.


The strength of the Kino films has been their levity and brevity. Several people have also expressed a sigh of relief that Burundians might finally be getting past only telling stories about women getting raped, pregnant and/or married. Domestic dramas overwhelm what’s written and produced, leaving almost no room for experimenting with the medium or genres. We’re hoping to change that, but based on the first ideas we’re seeing in our screenwriting class, we have a long way to go.


I’m showing a wide variety of films this year, from independent darlings like Little Miss Sunshine to adventure classics like Raiders of the Lost Ark. In some cases, I just want them to be inspired by bold characters and compelling action. Other times I might explore how a movie about a creepy little alien from outer space is really a metaphor for children dealing with divorce (E.T.). Breaking down their major plot points also allows me to demonstrate how seemingly polar opposite films share a common structure that’s essential to engaging storytelling.


A couple of class activities have also helped exercise the demons of melodramatic clichés. Lysandre searched out a bunch of photo books from a nearby library and had each student create a film synopsis based on a single image they found. Suddenly we had stories taking place in places from Ancient Greece to post-Tsunami Japan.  As a twist, someone else in the class had to explain the ending as if they had already seen the film. Everyone in the room, myself included, seemed re-energized by knowing there’s a lot deeper potential in the class than what’s initially come to surface.  Localized dramas are all good and fine, but it’s much more fun when, say, the father suddenly flies overseas to join his intrepid son.

Christopher Redmond