Early this year of 2011, the Film Academy of the Philippines launched its Film Gym under the tutelage of Surf Reyes. It aims to spread the knowledge of filmmaking particularly to those who have a great interest.
Surf never tires to say that AdvocaCinema is not only about art because it his advocacy is actually the use of filmmaking for education and community development toward personal and social transformation. To Surf, his craft is a religion.
But the Film Gym is not the monopoly of the Philippines. They have their own Film Gym in Morocco under the guidance of Oliver Laxe.
Laxe is a Spanish who grew up in Paris, France. He studied filmmaking at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona. After learning mastering the expertise in 2006, Laxe went to London to make his first short film – Y Las Chimeneas Decidieron Escapar (And the Chimneys Decided to Escape).
Lived in Tangiers, Morocco for the last 5 years, Spanish Oliver Laxe has no plans of discontinuing his artistic crusade
Laxe’s short film was screened in Spain where it won the Val del Omar award at the Granada Experimental Film Festival. It was also given the Injuve Award by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
Staying in Tangiers, Morroco for 4 years, Laxe kept on making films, mostly shorts, and also kept on winning awards from different film festivals. He also made some films in Paris, France, his birthplace.
Armed with the knowledge and experience in filmmaking, Oliver Laxe established a film workshop. Primarily to cater to under-privileged children, the Moroccan Film Gym was fueled by the curiosity of the young Moroccans.
Laxe felt that the Moroccan youth had to reflect on what their lives were like from a very young age. The people has a diverse culture but the common denominator, according to Laxe’s viewpoint, was poverty.
The Spanish director also liked the children’s sense of freedom in the creative process. Laxe maintained his distance with his wards but he never failed to be emphatic when the need arises.
Avoiding the paternalistic approach that may be an obstacle to the teacher-student relationship, Laxe encouraged the kids to try out their ideas. But, of course, the respect for the teacher was always there.
Like Surf’s Film Gym, Laxe promoted that idea that the story is the backbone of the film, be it a feature, a docu or a semi-documentary. Next in line was the script or the sequence guide for the documentarist.
With a semblance of real gymnastics, the Moroccan learners immersed themselves in the craft with the use of a 16 mm camera. As Surf would say, “Quality doesn’t matter much, what’s important in the learning process is the development of the craft.”
For his advocacy, Surf readily approves the use of any camera. Even cellphone cameras will do for his Film Gym. He also reminds his students to use natural light whenever available. Equipment should only come second to the interest.
Film Gym Director Surf Reyes stressing a point to his students
For film editing, any editing software will do because, for Surf, the most important ingredient in learning is the passion. “You would go a long way if you have the passion for your craft.”
Same with Laxe, he had inculcated in the minds of his Moroccan students the importance of passion in making a film. And to further support his stand, Laxe had taken away the so-called box of restrictions.
For the real thing, Laxe’s Film Gym embarked on a docu-drama film using a 35mm camera this time. And this not so new camera was used to document the travels of Moroccan King Hassan II.
The storyline was a convergence of ideas but later on was trashed in favor of a reality show – Todos vós Sodes Capitáns (You Are All Captains). It is actually a moving film about the Moroccan Film Gym of Oliver Laxe.
The docu-drama film clearly expresses the principle of learning the art of filmmaking. It shows the relationship of an alien teacher with his native students. “Nature is by definition chaotic,” Laxe said of his realistic film.
But for a docu-drama to be interesting enough, there should be a plot no matter how mild. Laxe, the director, played himself in the film but with a slight alteration. Laxe’s students had made him the antagonist.
“I wanted the spectators to know that I am the child between the children and that playing and creating are my way of resisting,” Laxe explained why he was cast as the bad guy in the docu-drama film.
“The spectator had to be aware that the cynical and stupid person I play in the film is the same person who ‘feels’ when making the film.” Laxe had relinquished the control to his students as far as the storyline was concerned.
Unexpectedly, at around the halfway point, the students complained, “This isn’t a film. A film needs a story.” And with the free rein granted to them, the students ejected Laxe out of the movie (although he remains behind the camera).
The Moroccan Film Gym students in action
Laxe was replaced by Shakib, a local musician, who goes to a countryside outing with the kids. The panoramic shots make the movie a pastoral one – olive trees and animals – that Laxe’s students had wanted to be included in the film.
You Are All Captains is directed by Oliver Laxe; director of photography, Ines Thomsen; edited by Fayçal Algandouzi; released by Zeitun Films in Arabic, Spanish and French, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 18 minutes.
You Are All Captains won the international critics’ prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.
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