“DISCOVERING DOCUMENTARY” AT SALEM FILM FEST
This year, Erin has partnered with SFF and Montserrat College of Art in creating and leading an interactive classroom/festival experience, “Discovering Documentary: Tools for Educators, Filmmakers, and Astute Viewers,” which combines a theoretical introduction to the documentary genre, from origins to the latest trends. As part of the students’ education on how to use documentary film in education or community settings as well, Trahan will be bringing her class to Salem Film Fest to see some of the premier documentaries currently being produced.
SFF Organizer Jeff Schmidt had the chance to speak with Trahan after her first class to discuss the role documentaries can play in today’s classrooms, why the class is important, and how Salem Film Fest can help support the lessons learned in the classroom.
ET: Documentary has always been interested in the actual and the factual. It’s roots are in presenting new and unseen worlds to its audiences or taking a close, sometimes academic look at a culture or political situation or conflict. Though students today might be inundated with moving image, it remains evocative and irresistible. Turn on a TV and all eyes will turn their attention to it, at least for a while. Documentary gives teachers a powerful way to engage students on a huge range of current and historical topics.
ET: Not necessarily in terms of theatrical releases. Art house cinemas, where most documentaries screen, are doing their best to stay afloat but it’s not uncommon for an American to live a good two hours drive from an independently-owned cinema. Of course the Internet and online streaming options have opened things up a great deal. Now the challenge for viewers is to sort through the plethora of titles and find ones that are worth their time.
ET: We’ll be seeing TOKYO WAKA and EVERYBODY STREET together as a class though my guess is that class members will be seeing a good five or six more films throughout the fest.
ET: If each student discovers one new local film festival to explore or indie theater to check out plus a new friend, the class would have exceeded my goals! As much as I’d like for students to leave feeling informed, I want them leaving feeling the abundance of opportunity they have to see documentary and directly engage with filmmakers and programmers working in this region.