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Thursday, October 29, 2020


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Spring film course making documentary series with students in Argentina

<p>Courtesy of Miguel Massenio.</p>

Courtesy of Miguel Massenio.

Students enrolled in Film Studies 203, With Images and Sound: Introduction to the Language of Film, are currently working on a documentary series in collaboration with the National University of San Martin (UNSAM) and the Da Vinci School of Multimedia.

Both films schools are in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Claudia Ferman, professor of Latin American and Film Studies, teaches the course and encouraged her 15 students, all relatively new to filmmaking, to work on an audiovisual project in which they would create a documentary web series during the spring semester.

The overarching theme is “Prison and Freedom." It is left intentionally broad to allow students to freely formulate their own perceptions and opinions on it and subsequently convey these unique interpretations through film, Ferman said.

In their respective groups, the students separately approach this juxtaposition between imprisonment and freedom from a myriad of angles: immigration, over-commitment as a student, solitary confinement, anxiety and geographic effects on an upbringing.

“We had various writing exercises where people would think about a moment in their life where they experienced entrapment or freedom and it slowly built into a whole theme," one of the students, Mario Hernandez-Mata RC ’19, said. "We all used this differently — some people worked with anxiety, or the public school system." 

Hernandez-Mata's group focused on immigration and "how it makes people feel fearful while also giving them freedom,” he said.

The students communicate with their film school counterparts via Skype calls and messaging. All their work is continuously uploaded to the shared online platform,, for feedback and editing from both ends.

“We always talk about UR’s collaborations abroad," Ferman said. "With this project, we brought that kind of collaboration to our campus instead."

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Ferman and Hernandez-Mata both said that the distance between the parties makes the joint effort difficult. Fortunately, Argentinian professors Miguel Massenio and Alejandra Esquerro visited the university recently.

Along with helping the students from Richmond, Massenio acts as correspondent and representative for his students at UNSAM in Argentina who are working on their own more Argentinian-centric interpretation of a short. Their short will be screened separately in April as part of a tribute to Argentinian sociopolitical activism.

Ferman and Massenio are longstanding peers and have worked together on other projects in the past. For them, this project was ongoing since July of 2016, but only as of January 2017 did students officially get involved.

While subtitles will be used to get past the language barriers in the films themselves with the Richmond  portion produced in English and the Argentinian portion in Spanish, Massenio stressed the importance of another language that transcends the other two and speaks the most strongly.

“With the language of film, we have no limit to what we can express,” Massenio said.

The interactive web series project itself is planned to consist of various digital ‘shorts,’ as opposed to traditional full-length linear pieces.

As of now, the project is still in production. Students from both countries are still hard at work, with those here notably spending frequent hours editing at the Technology Learning Center located in Boatwright Memorial Library. Once they finish, students from the Da Vinci School will handle post-production and completion.

Massenio speculates that perhaps this theme could be expanded to incorporate more shorts and content in future years. A release date for the project has not been announced.

Contact reporter Arrman Kyaw at Follow Arrman on Twitter at @ArrmanKyaw.

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