A Chat with David Bordwell, Part Two: Master Classes and Film Festival Audiences

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had the opportunity to chat with David Bordwell for a few minutes while he was attending the Fantasia Film Festival. Once all the required questions were out of the way, I managed to sneak in a few that related to my own interests. In the following clip, I ask about the master class he presented on Hong Kong Cinema while at Fantasia and what he considered to be the importance (and/or appeal) of these master classes.

I have to admit that, beyond the obvious fact that he had done a master class himself, I was inspired to ask this question because of renewed discussions on bringing academic research to the public. Much in the way Anne Helen Petersen argues for the value of academic blogging in her article “Media Studies Makeover“, I wanted Bordwell to elaborate more on the public reaction to his academic research. Alas, the time was short and I wasn’t able to continue the conversation in this regard. It would’ve been interesting to know more about the reaction that a (primarily) non-academic public had had to his lecture and, since I know he brought up that he had a blog, whether people who had not known about it before were now actively interested in it.

That said, his broader point about audiences wanting to engage with the films beyond just watching, and how film festivals allow for this, is similarly interesting to me. This could simply be a matter of getting fun behind-the-scenes stories, like watching Danny Masterson explain what a dance belt is during the Q&A of Alter Egos, but it could equally mean getting insight into the multiple spheres that these films (and their sources) inhabit. In examples from just this year at Fantasia, I can think of Todd Robbins explaining that his role in Play Dead (the film he was presenting at the festival) is played by Miguel Pizarro in the Mexican stage version of the show. Robbins explained that Pizarro once attempted suicide, so the latter’s participation in a show that invites you to think about death was all the more compelling. Another example was Jennifer Lynch explaining the struggle to change the NC-17 rating of her newest film Chained. Hearing her so passionately describe the experience was illuminating of both the twisted system that is MPAA ratings and of the frustration that befalls artists when bureaucracy gets in the way of them presenting their work.

These are things that many audiences want to know to more fully understand the wholeness of cinema. And, as Bordwell points out, film festivals, DVD commentaries, and public lectures make them all the more accessible.

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