Kde je kino? After studying abroad in Prague last fall, Ben Allen ’23 and Eduarado Mendoza ’24 have more than a handful of memorized Czech phrases to show for their time; the two students have films, too. While enrolled at CET Prague at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU), the pair spent their days learning the ins and outs of making movies while also creating their own films. Last night, the Bowdoin Film Society screened Allen’s and Mendoza’s projects: “Diminuendo,” which Allen wrote and directed, and “Vera,” which Mendoza edited and assistant directed.
“Diminuendo” follows a successful composer who steals one of his ex-student’s original compositions. Allen was drawn to the notion that all art takes inspiration from other art, that there’s nothing new under the sun.
“When we were pitching the stories, it was interesting, because people had some ideas already floating, and I didn’t,” Allen said. “I was thinking about how every story has been told already, so you’re just repeating stuff that other people have said before in different ways. I [then] thought about the idea of plagiarism, and it morphed into this musical aspect where someone literally steals a piece [of art].”
“Vera” follows a young girl and her family after emigrating to the US, focusing on family dynamics in the face of such a change.
“I was very interested in this imagining of who our parents are and the fact that we can never really know who they are,” Mendoza said. “The idea of revisiting memory, what memory feels like, how parents and children sometimes can’t understand each other and the ways [that] families have to allow certain things to sort of pass by to keep functioning as a unit … was something that I recognized and felt very deeply interested in.”
Each project was allotted three rolls of 16mm film, which adds up to about 33 minutes of airtime. With films that ran from nine to 11 minutes total, there was little room for mistakes and retakes. Nonetheless, accidents did occur—from misspoken lines to accidentally exposed film—that required re-shooting.
“The warmth is really there with film. That’s the cool thing. There’s some grain, the texture is really awesome. The downside is that you can’t do multiple takes. That was something that Eduardo and I really struggled with. Because I had 48 shots, I didn’t really have time to do more than one take [per shot],” Allen said.
With little room for error and a shoestring budget, Allen and Mendoza had to remain intently focused on their projects. While this meant that their cohort got exceptionally close, the experience restricted their ability to travel or really focus on much else.
“If you’re looking for a nice, easy-breezy study abroad: this isn’t it,” Mendoza said. “But, if you’re someone who is really interested in film and passionate about film and are finding that you can’t quite explore film in the way you want to at Bowdoin and want to get a taste of film production: this is it. You get to make a movie. I think that’s all I have to say.”