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At Mary's. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Fiction – The very essence of film making; or so everyone believes. Be it the series of Harry Potter or Jurassic Park, Kal Ho Naa Ho or Magadheera, it is fiction movies that get a lot more response from the audience than documentaries.

On 13 August 2009, the students of  Mass Communication and Journalism (MCJ) of Villa Marie College and St. Mary’s attended International Documentary Film Seminar at St. Mary’s College, Yousufguda. The chief guest at the event was Ms. Sandra J. Ruch, the executive director of the International Documentary Association from 2001-2008, who is currently working on a project for the US department of state, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, creating the American Documentary Showcase. “This is the first program to come to Hyderabad after the establishment of U.S consulate over here”, she says. “Though people love watching fiction, they have a thirst to know true stories. We put together 30 documentaries, which have been made privately i.e. not by government, which would tour U.S Embassies and festival throughout the world.”

One such documentary is “Beginning Filmmaking”. The film is about a little girl named Ella, who at the age of 18 months says that she wants to be a filmmaker. On her 4th birthday, her parents gift her a Panasonic handicam. “The most important thing about making a movie is the ‘idea’”, she is told by her father. The movie is about parenting. It is about how patiently Ella’s father educates her about filmmaking and how the small girl interprets it.

In a question-answer session that took place after it, Ms. Ruch interacted with all the students and gave them tips and suggestions on how to go about documentaries. Surprising though it may seem, 2 or 3 groups of students in the gathering had already worked on documentaries. The students made films on topics like drug addiction and peer pressure but Seema, a B.A second year student, from Villa Marie made a music video itself on day to day college life.

The second documentary shown was titled ‘The Hobart Shakespeareans’. An amazing story about the 10 yr olds of Hobart Elementary School in Los Angeles reading, understanding and enacting Shakespeare. A film about how the dedication of one man, a teacher, brings about a change in the lives of his young students. “When I came here, this neighborhood was tough to live in. Now it is rough too”, says Rafe Esquith the teacher. He takes the children on field trips, stays with them during their music hours and most importantly inspires them to be good citizens of the society. On the day of their final performance of ‘The Hamlet’, a celebrity none other than Ian McKellen comes to watch it and praises it whole heartedly. Both these documentaries were filmed on a daily basis. Neither did they have any artificial sets nor did they have any professional actors. These films did not have million dollar budgets and more than anything else the directors picked shots from real life, which is exactly why they succeed in a passing a better message to the audience.

Theatre. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Theatre. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Students. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Students. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Theatre. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

Theatre. Credits : Immortal Impressionist

“It was really inspiring and informative for students of MCJ because this is an entirely different field of work. A person needs to have only the basic resources to make a documentary – a camera and determination. It sounds simple but making a documentary requires a hell lot of patience”, says Shifa of Villa Marie. “In India films are mostly entertainment based and not realistic. Bringing something new to people should be the aim of youngsters. And documentaries are something that are almost non-existent here”.

Such programs build up confidence in students and make them innovative. They come up with newer and better ideas which ultimately lead to making our society a better place to live in.

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