Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to write about films - a workshop

Advance notice about a two-day workshop I’m conducting on film criticism at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai next month. Dates: February 11 and 12. Time: 10 AM to 5 PM each day, with an hour off for lunch. Venue: the Bombay Natural History Society auditorium.

We are looking at a maximum of 25 attendees, and one thing I’m very keen about is that the participants have a serious interest in cinema and in the many issues surrounding film-related writing (even if they don’t intend to become professional critics themselves). As far as possible, we want to avoid a situation where people saunter in for a few minutes and then saunter out again as they become bored with film-theory talk or with screenings from old or “obscure” movies. And that’s one reason I’m putting up this post: because I know this blog’s readers include many movie buffs who might be interested in a workshop of this sort. This will hopefully be an interactive process, not a one-way “lecture”.

I’m still putting together notes for the workshop (and probably will continue doing this right up to the day it begins!), but here’s a quick and incomplete list of what you can expect:

- Thoughts on different types of film writing (from short-form mainstream reviews to long-form criticism, academic writing, trade writing etc), the contexts in which each exists, and the functions that each can serve.

- The qualities of an ideal film reviewer/critic.

- The important difference between story and storytelling – the “what” and the “how”; thoughts on how to read a film.

- Discussions on various aspects of screen craft, including acting, cinematography, writing, editing and music.

- The Auteur Theory and the many arguments around it: the differences between “personal” and “commercial” cinema, and the points where the two things intersect.

- How style or technique can enhance a narrative, and the approaches of different directors to the same subject matter (e.g. cinematic treatments of Shakespeare by directors ranging from Kurosawa to Polanski to Vishal Bhardwaj).

- A couple of writing exercises.

Fuelling these discussions will be short screenings from a variety of movies – both Indian films like Sholay, Charulata, Jaane bhi do Yaaro and Maqbool as well as international films made by such directors as Hawks, Godard, Welles, Ozu, Tati and Scorsese. I’ll try to pack in as many clips as possible, because there is really no better way to discuss movies and how to write about them.

Anyone who wants more details, feel free to write to me at jaiarjun@gmail.com.



  2. When will you do a similar one in Delhi?

  3. This sounds wonderful.

    When you show clips from Hindi films,
    will you show then with English subtitles?

    There is a small chance I will be in Bombay at this time and my Hindi is pretty non-existent - so this is a "practical" question!

    -- Virginia in NY

  4. The more I read this, the more sorry I feel for myself, for not being able to attend!

    Can't we have an encore in Delhi?

  5. Is there a way interested participants living outside Mumbai can Skype in?

  6. +1 to DC's comment. It would be great to either have a video up afterwards or allow people to skype in!

  7. Anj, DC: the Kala Ghoda organisers might video-record some of their regular sessions, but it might not be very viable for a 12-hour workshop (especially one where screenings will be a large part of the process). Still, I'll check.

  8. damn good idea Jai...i am moving to Bombay soon...may be i will attend such workshops in future...

  9. I wish I were in India and could attend it!

  10. y u no do this in delhi

  11. What if participants are new to the field of serious movie watching but wish to attend the workshop to learn more? Will the general novice-ness affect the quality of participation?

  12. I just saw the Kala Ghoda Festival schedule and thought of attending this workshop. It's so good that you've posted this list! It has certainly doubled my interest in attending.
    However I too have the same question that Ad Libber has asked here before me. "What if participants are new to the field of serious movie watching but wish to attend the workshop to learn more? Will the general novice-ness affect the quality of participation?"
    I'd be in the newcomer category as he/she says, though I've written and translated some on art - and often discuss the different aspects of films I watch with two similarly interested friends.

  13. Raj: no, being a novice definitely won't affect participation, but I think we might be fully booked. Will check with the organisers. Meanwhile, do send me an email on the ID provided if you're interested.