What we believe in
In his essay “The Decay of Lying” Oscar Wilde presents a dialogue build in the Socratic method between the tired hedonist Vivian and the aristocrat Cyril. Vivian elaborates his strange philosophy according to which Life imitates Art a lot more than the contrary. And gives examples: Hamlet invented the pessimism, the painter Turner – the famous London fog. The entire XIX century is an invention of Balzac: first, he writes his “Human Comedy” and then we start recreating it in the real world. It is not until Botticelli painted his beautiful Venus with her prolong forms and soft movements when the ladies of the Renaissance let their wavy hairs down and learn how to walk lightly and gracefully.
Regardless of our awareness of it, even on its most primary daily basis the upright human life finds itself imitating some form of Art. It is possible that in a certain scope of reality we reiterate the conventional actions of an alluring character of a foolish TV melodrama and in other given circumstances we could act like a sublime personage of an Ancient Greek tragedy.
In fact, how do we know what this thing called love is? Or friendship? Or loyalty? They are just words whose connotations are being filled in according to the images and situations that we have seen in Art – in the movies, or in literature, or in the paintings…
Oscar Wilde’s character continues his thoughts: this is why it is extremely important to have knowledge of the high forms of Art. If we are going to imitate mind as well imitate those who stand the highest.
We need Art not so we can be smarter (for ourselves) or more interesting (in front of others). We need it so we can live a meaningful life (for ourselves and in front of the others).
Based on what had been said the first level that we imagine is needed is the level of knowledge. What is needed is education, enlightenment. Our personal taste is important as far as picking our dinner at a restaurant or our marital spouse goes. In reference to Art what is needed is knowledge. And of course, in order to gain that knowledge we need to put in some efforts.
The second level that we consider further developing, is that activity with which we, ourselves, take part in the creation of reality and the creation of ourselves – Art. Art as a primary meaning. And sometimes - Art as the only meaning.
If we go back to the philosophy of Wilde’s character we must not forget that those who create new worlds bear on their shoulders the burden of the sole responsibility for those new worlds. They bear the sole responsibility for themselves and the choices they make. It is completely possible those worlds to be unbearable just like Baudelaire’s “Chimera”. Because with every letter, note or movement of the brush the artist recreates Adam’s rib.
Associate Professor Liza Boeva PhD (History of Art, film directing)
Itzhak (Izko) Fintzi - actor
Anna Stefanova - film director
The Cinematic-theater courses for children
Hamlet ("The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark")
Caliban ("The Tempest")
During the 2014/2015 school year we came up with a course for children who are interested in cinema and would like to be part (in a certain way) of the filming process. It turned out that almost all of the children are mainly interested of the game in front of the camera (only a few showed interest of the filming process, the light setting and the editing process). Two feature films were made with the two group of children - "Vacation without vacation" and "The Wizard of Ozz".
The following year we wanted to develop and complicate the tasks that we have set earlier. From one hand, we set higher requirements for our work and from another – for the work of the children.
The requirements that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the course were four:
- We do not choose the children that are going to participate – the course is open to all that show interest. Regardless of that if they have emphasized artistic leanings, the ability to talk smoothly or are not embarrassed to be in front of the camera. If they are intrigued and feel calm – all children turn out to be wonderful actors. Some need more time to overcome the presence of the camera and the anxiety of that they are being watched – that is all. When they start playing, they stop self-controlling themselves and manage to get in any role, every situation.
- In order for them not to feel like unskillful actors in the presence of Izko Fintzi (especially if the children have heard about him before the start of the course), every player on the stage/ in front of the camera works in the same way. Izko can give directions to the children or suggest how they can perform a certain scene but the children have the right to give him advice as well. Izko and the children are equal players (even though in this particular project Izko plays the role of the theater director who produces Shakespeare plays on stage). Just like not all children take part in every play, Izko is not incessantly in front of the camera.
- The activities for all of the children had to be the same (in regards of the time spent with them). Usually the plot of a play or a film concentrates on one main character who leads the act. Our goal was to present the children with the opportunity to play a leading role, a subordinate part and a marginal figure.
- During the editing process, every child gets equal screen time. Regardless of if a character has long cues or is in a short scene, in the final version of the movie all children have to appear on the screen with an equal time density.
The requirements that we set for the children can be count down to three:
- The children had to “enter” two worlds – one of the theater and one of the cinema. The film set was a theatrical stage but the space was entirely abstract – black “box” brightly lit by spotlights. The act does not unwind among scenery, the props were scarce and the costumes – conditional. The children will have at hand only their imagination for the recreation of the stories and the impersonating of the personages.
- Except of the game part and the opportunity for transformation, the children had to get to know a significant person. We chose that person to be William Shakespeare although his plays were not originally made for the children audience. The children did not remember every single play in which they acted, of course (for example one child can be Portia from “The Merchant of Venice”, Perdita from “Winter’s Tale” and a messenger from “Antony and Cleopatra”). By involving them in all those different plays (comedies, tragedies, and historical dramas), the children gain the sense of richness and diversity of Shakespeare’s stories.
- In order for them to learn at least one of Shakespeare’s texts in full, every group of children received a certain play, which they had to work on. We retold “The Merchant of Venice” (for the youngest), “The Tempest” and “Hamlet” (for the oldest). While certain kids were being filmed in different scenes, the rest (according to their group) had to learn their respective texts. They were given the assignment to draw a certain scene that portrays in detail a certain personage, building or place. For example: the children had to imagine and recreate the figure of Caliban (the deformed slave from “The Tempest”) or the enchanting home of the wealthy heiress Portia (“The Merchant of Venice”). In order for them to understand the gravity of the assignment the children were informed in advance that the drawings they make will be included in books (illustrations to Shakespeare’s plays). The plays were retold multiple times in order for them to get to the heart of the story and remember it well. Afterwards they were filmed telling the story themselves.
This cinematic-theater experiment lasted longer than expected (a few months) - the costumes were sewed during the course according to the different children and the number of kids was bigger than we had imagined at first. Since we had set the requirement not to make any selection among the kids and to include everyone that wants to participate we formed three groups in three different categories sorted by age (although in the process it was an often event for the children from the different groups to merge and “jump in” from play to play).
The film “William Shakespeare” (120 min) was created. The premiere was on June 4th 2016 at the Cinema house in the capital.
Written and directed by Liza Boeva.
Three documentary movies were made in which the kids (from their respective groups) tell the stories they have learned – respectively “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Tempest” and “Hamlet”. Director and editor of the movies is Anna Stefanova.
Three books were published (“The Merchant of Venice”, “The Tempest” and “Hamlet”).
Shakespeare’s plays were retold and adapted for children (story retold by Liza Boeva and Izko Fintzi). The books were illustrated with the drawing the kids have created during the course. The books were given away as presents to the kids during the premiere of the movie at the Cinema house.
We are planning to create a cinematic-theater project, which will consist of a game with puppets and the mastering of different classic literary works.
Taking the role of someone else, recreating different emotions and getting into strange situations – all those things are extremely interesting for the children. We film this process – that is the cinema side of our work.
We complicated our tasks during the past school year – the children had to enact a specific complex plot, which included a great number of layers and required the acting to be ambiguous. The children did not have at their disposal the materialistic reality, which is one of the characteristics of cinema – they had to work with abstractions. That is the theatrical side of the project.
We took up Shakespeare’s dramaturgy even though it was not made for children. Our goal was to combine the game element with the mastering of useful knowledge. We are convinced that this method of approach is extremely beneficial: it is an easier and far more interesting way for the children to get to know a complicated author and complex texts.
We decided to expand the list of classic books, which the kids will have to acquire. In order to preserve those texts, personages, collisions in their minds for a greater amount of time we chose the form of a game – cinema (in front of the camera) and theatrical (in a closed abstract space).
As an addition to the theatrical part, we will include puppets. The children will not only take the roles of various personages but those characters will control (just like film directors or magicians) other personages (puppets).
The children-actors will not be hidden behind a screen (as it is in the classical puppet theater). They will perform on a stage (while enacting their puppets).
As of this moment we have prepared the puppets for two classical literary works:
“Treasure Island” by R. L. Stevenson and “The Golden Ass” by the ancient roman writer Apuleius (adapted version appropriate for children).
Our hand made costume set
This campaign's goal is to raise money for set equipment, sound equipment, stage property (new costumes and puppets) for out innovative cinematic-theater courses for children.We also want to be able to publish the retold by us texts of all literary works we will be working with and record an audio version of the stories. The books will be filled with our specially made illustrations.