This week marks the end of two courses I have recently taken part in: the first being ‘An Introduction into Buddhism’, the other ‘Film-making for Development’.
An Introduction to Buddhism
The Buddhism course lasted for a period of six weeks, every Monday evening, at the Norwich Buddhist Centre. I went in with the general aim of finding out how to be more mindful – as I often find my mind being busy with fleeting thoughts about things I need to do, be that uni work or personal projects – and came out with the feeling of wanting to know more, having had a lovely, gradual ease into the teachings and values of Buddhism.
Buddhism has, for many years, fascinated me. It is a religion which I find to be the least judgemental (I say this very loosely, and not at all with any such intent of offending any other religion or following), and overall, more in tune between your body and mind, and the world around you. This is the type of lifestyle which I am interested in practising, but given that this needs a lot of commitment and nurturing, naturally, for now, I am content with learning more about it as and when I can.
The Monday last gone (April 3rd) happened to be our last session, and perhaps the most engrossing. As a small, intimate group of about 7-8, we were given the open opportunity to ask our most burning questions. I asked about the different types of Buddhist schools and teachings from around the world, which is an area of interest that I have been reading around, which comes up briefly in Sangharakshita’s ‘The Taste of Freedom’, particularly since it has absolutely blown up within the Western World, having derived from the East, and the South. As a student of International Development, I have been very much interested in learning more about the Far East and South, including China, as well as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, as I hope to one day go out and work in these areas of the world. Hence why having an understanding of their religious practices, by which Buddhism is still predominantly practised in most of these nations, would be highly beneficial when working with these societies, and finding out how they function.
I would love to speak more about the course, and my journey within the teachings of Buddhism, but I have decided to save this for another post. For now, we shall move onto another course I took part in.
Film-making for Development
Monday also marked the beginning of another course I participated in, ‘Film-making for Development’, delivered by Postcode Films and in association with UEA’s International Development department. The Postcode Films company consists of filmmakers who all have a background in Anthropology and Ethnographic Film, which is an increasing interest of mine – the ability to tell stories of people and places.
I did mention this course in a previous post, and between then and now, my views of it have increased enormously. It ended up being even more worthwhile than I thought it would be, for a number of reasons. For example, despite my initial doubts in that the course didn’t actually have a directly ‘development’-based focus, it still proved to be extremely valuable through the way in which you can construct a meaningful, powerful, and above all, appropriate story for both the audience and especially the contributor.
I worked in the smallest team, consisting of only two other girls, with one having connections to the contributor of our film. I don’t want to give too much away about the actual film, but it is about defying the label of homelessness, and the perceptions and connotations of the certain stereotype of ‘homeless’ people. Needless to say, this is a very sensitive topic, yet our contributor delivered beyond any standard, making our film hard-hitting and with a human face.
The best thing about our film, in my opinion, is that our contributor tells her story through her own words, and she carries the film throughout, which I believe to be the important thing I took from this course, that is, making films which enable the subject to have a voice, which many existing development, NGO films lack, and therefore is detrimental to their films. For example, at the start of the week, we looked at some examples of development films and documentary films, one of which included a Comic Relief video, starring Lenny Henry, who tells the story of a mother and her son reuniting. However, it is abundantly obvious who is telling the story, as the subjects of the film barely have a ‘voice’, and if they do, they are tastelessly dubbed over by a translator. The music also helps to manipulate the story further, which Comic Relief is traditionally known to do. This is the style of film I wanted to deconstruct and improve within my own film.
Working within such an efficient, like-minded group made the entire process far less stressful than I thought it would be, too. We all played to our strengths, be that camera work, editing or directing, also having the opportunity to rotate throughout, meaning that we could gain experience and learn from each other. And, believe it or not:
I MADE A FILM IN 4 DAYS!
The only two niggling things were that
a) It would have been great to have had slightly better equipment, or a larger budget in which to work – shooting a film on an 8GB SD Card is just not cool. That being said, it was an interesting challenge to work with only one camera, and within a budget.
b) An extra day would have been even better, again if they had a larger budget. 4 days to plan, shoot and edit a film was certainly testing, and an extra day of decision making would have been ideal.
The film is still yet to be colour corrected and the audio edited, but once all of the films have been polished, they will be run by the UEA Ethics team for further checks, and should they approve, our films can be published, which I am more than excited to share!
So do keep on the lookout for this film, and well, keep watching and reading.