Article Written By Bart Weiss
In most film schools, if you look around the hallways, there are notices about Study Abroad Programs. Some of these are done by your university, but there are many places that do these programs through companies that specialize in these. I have heard of programs from going to the Cannes film festival to studying in England to China, and everywhere in between. I have been wanting to develop a program to bring my students abroad, and at a screening, someone approached me and asked if I was interested in bringing my students to Cuba. I have been wanting to go to Cuba for years, and suggested going during the Havana Film Festival, which takes place as the Fall Semester ends. The Havana Film Fest is a major film festival of Latin America but has films from all over the world.
After lots of work, we made it happen.
I brought 11 people to spend a week there. The idea was to interview as many filmmakers and film people at the festival and to see as many films as we could (some had English subtitles). We enjoyed the Cuban films the most.
What we arranged was to work with the film school in Havana, and we had their films students and some teachers work with my students. For the first few days, the language barrier issues were a challenge, but we worked it out, and by then, we learned so much from each other.
Aside from the festival, we got to see and experience the culture and food, and we shot lots of footage. However, what was greater than the footage we shot — was the experience. As filmmakers, we make work about the worlds we know. But if you don’t travel, your sense of the world is limited. My students have a completely different sense of what their world is and what film can be. So, the next time you see one of those notices on the bulletin board, stop and check it out. It just might change your life and change both the way you make and see cinema.
Bart Weiss is an award-winning filmmaker, educator and director/founder of the Dallas VideoFest and produces “Frame of Mind” on KERA TV. He was President of AIVF and was a video columnist for The Dallas Morning News, and United Features Syndicate. Bart received an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University. www.videofest.org
(Above article published in StudentFilmmakers Magazine, 2019 Vol. 14, No. 1, 14th Anniversary Edition & Special 2019 NAB Show Issue; exhibited and distribution at the 2019 National Association of Broadcasters trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada.)