Monday, September 8, 2008

May, film class, the Taartrovers, ZIFF and the Children’s Panorama

The coming of May to Zanzibar in May - yes, I know, it is poetic, isn’t it- initiated the film part of the Zanzibits course. Maya, as she is called here, came to Zanzibar to help set up the Zanzikids initiative, a cooperation between the Taartrovers (Amsterdam) and Zanzibits.

Zanzikids was to be a part of the ZIFF (Zanzibar International Film Festival) Children’s Panarama, in which the Taartrovers, assisted by May and the Zanzibits students, were to make sand animations with younger children, aged 6 to 10, coming from different local Zanzibari schools. May did all the preliminary work and pre-production, together with the people at ZIFF. At the same time, she started giving the first film classes to the students, as I believe that this is an important part of our curriculum. Basics like what is film, what are film genres, spot the differences, how is a production set up, etc, were discussed. Of course, the language barrier was bit of an issue, in the beginning, for the students, as may speaks no Kiswahili, but they soon learnt to understand her. Of course, Rukia was always there to lend a helping hand, and translate where necessary. The film course was born.

As this is our pilot year, and the whole film curriculum is new and must still be trialled and tried, we attempted different approaches, but seeing that most students were having more difficulty than expected with the in website development course (HTML, Dynamic HTML, Dreamweaver, Frontpage and the slicing of Photoshop documents), we decided to wait with the in depth film course until the beginning of Media Lab (Media Lab is also seen as course 4, the final and most in depth course, where students will work on real life projects, starting in the beginning of September).

Having decided this, however, we did go through with our plans for the Taartrovers (the Cake Robbers, freely translated) & Zanzibits joint venture, called Zanzikids. This turned out to be a great and very impressive surprise for all of us. Tessa and Remke came from the Netherlands in the beginning of july, a few days before the start of ZIFF, to team up with May and set the Zanzikids project in, hopefully perpetual, motion. May had contacted 8 primary schools who were willing to cooperate with the project and secured a location where we were to make our sand animations: the top floor terrace (8 meters wide!!!) of the House of Wonders, one of the most impressive and magnificent buildings of Stone Town. The old Arabic Sultan’s mansion, overlooking the harbour, with front doors 6 meters high and an inside courtyard to awe even the most experienced and seasoned traveller, towering above all else, seemed the perfect setting for our little venture.

For three days, the Taartrovers, each day accompanied by four different Zanzibits students, made stop motion sand animations with the kids from selected primary schools. The setup: shallow wooden crates, about 80 by 80 centimetres, placed on the floor and filled with sand formed the stage for the animation. A DV camera was fixed overhead and linked to the Powerbooks the Taartrovers had taken with them, all of which was operated, very professionally, I am proud to say, by none other than my kids. Congrats! A colourful and diverse collection of shells, little peppers of all shapes and sizes, cloves, herbs, beads and other local produce formed the actors with which the young kids were to create the masterpieces with were later exhibited during the Children’s Panorama. Every time a frame was captured, the lay-out of the actors was changed every so slightly, very much like the clay animation you may remember from Wallace & Grommit, to form, when played at an upgraded tempo, a wonderful animation. Funky detail: the sound tracks for these animations were local Zanzibari children’s songs recorded on the spot, at the same time serving as storyboard for the visuals.

Needless to say, and I think I may have hinted to this before, the results were amazing. At least I thought so, and when the fruits of our labour were, some days later, exposed during a whole Zanzikids afternoon, viewed by hundreds of young children, Zanzibari government officials, the Dutch embassy, all were impressed with what they saw. So for this I say, many thanks, Taartrovers Remka, Tessa, Zanzikids specialist May, all the students of Zanzibits and all others involved.

No comments: