To Explore, To Experiment

COURSE “Creative Documentary”, a soon-to-begin diploma course in documentary filmmaking in the Capital, seeks to underscore the diversity of the documentary film form.

Starting this October, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication (SACAC) will conduct a one-year diploma in documentary filmmaking, titled ‘Creative Documentary: An intensive filmmaking course’. As the title suggests, the course will situate the practice of documentary filmmaking in the domain of art, as “a creative interpretation of reality”.
“Over the decades documentary has become a term which has very wide ranging meanings. In our teaching and learning modules, this fact is not recognised…A lot of our work is not quite up-to-date so one has wanted to work in that direction, to cultivate that perception,” says Sameera Jain, course director, who has been involved in the field, primarily a director and editor for over 30 years.
The course, which will admit around 15 students, aims to interrogate the boundaries within which ‘documentary’ and ‘fiction’ films are confined, with a view to “inculcate skills that are equally useful for ‘documentary’ or ‘fiction’ or anything in between or beyond”.
It will expose students to the different aspects of filmmaking — camera, sound, editing, ideation, research, script and direction. “It is integrated in nature. Everybody specialises in everything,” says Anupama Srinivasan, associated course director and a documentary filmmaker.
Apart from imparting technical training, and the knowledge of documentary film history and theory, the curriculum is also geared towards ‘expanding the mind’. Emphasizing the ethical aspects of documentary filmmaking, Anupama says the purpose of the course is also to “see what you as a filmmaker can do with that tool, what your responsibility is, what your vision is, and how you see the world and interpret what’s out there. Especially when you are dealing with real people and representing them in some way, the ethical issues are so great but we see them violated time and again…It is taken for granted that once you have a camera, you have power and you can behave in a certain way when you go into their space. So I think all those things need to be questioned.”
Pedagogically, the course emphasizes a lot of practical work and discussions based on that. “We will be showing a lot of films from India and across the world and they will become the text. There is a way in which we must retain the joy of that, and not completely drown that in textual reading,” says Sameera. “The tagline of our course is ‘find your own voice’, to allow students to explore and experiment and see where they want to go, with each aspect,” Anupama adds. Additionally, the organisers hope to have visiting lectures and workshops by practitioners like Ajay Bhardwaj, Anupama Chandra, R.V. Ramani, Surabhi Sharma and Yousuf Saeed among others.
Despite the divergence of documentary practices today, there still seems to be a consensus, which surfaces after every documentary film screening, that it must have a “message”. “Because documentary is seen as boring, with a message and an omniscient narration, who’s going to see it? But actually documentary is very alive and interesting. So this course is a step in that direction, to share the beauty and ambiguity of the form,” they say.
Budhaditya Bhattacharya
The Hindu
6 September 2013

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