Lessons from the Street


This past November and December, through our partnership with the Alcaldia (mayor’s office) of Medellín, I had the privilege of working with an exceptional group of adult students from Comuna 11, a neighborhood in the western-central zone of the city. Working both individually and in small groups they produced an extraordinary set of films, most of which were about different aspects of street culture. Their specific topics ranged from street musicians and performers, to caring for strays and other animals, to the bicycling community. Have a look now at some of their impressive works:

(Click here to visit Bent Marble on YouTube)

This cohort, consisting of university students, artists, civil servants, and professionals in various fields, was probably the most diverse group, demographically and personality-wise, that I have ever worked with. And I was extremely impressed with how well they “gelled”, quickly forming new friendships and helping one another with their projects, both in and out of the classroom. By the end of the course more than one participant had commented privately to me how much they enjoyed meeting their classmates, and how they felt they wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for the workshops. And importantly, this marked a significant, real-world lesson for Bent Marble as well.

While we, as an organization, are primarily concerned with promoting cross-cultural understanding and friendship between countries and continents, this most recent observation demonstrates that we can also do this, to an extent, WITHIN the workshops as well. And bridging cultural and “subcultural” divides within a community is equally important, and perhaps even more directly impactful. So with this in mind, moving forward we will definitely seek to have greater diversity represented within our workshops and public screening events.

Take a gander now at an image gallery from our Facebook page that shows this diverse group in action, in class and at their successful screening events:

Generated by Facebook Photo Fetcher 2

A second lesson learned from our experience in Medellín expands on Bent Marble’s value of using resources that already exist in the community. While most of our past students have been first-time filmmakers, as of late, we have also been encountering more and more who have made films before, or who have academic or professional backgrounds in visual communications or multimedia. During the workshop series in Comuna 11, the first one I’ve taught in Spanish without the “safety net” of an assistant for translation, I was still, at times, graciously assisted by a few of the students. For instance, participant and now workshop co-facilitator, John Álvarez, was experienced with Adobe Premiere video editing software. And when I drastically needed to rest my language cortex, he was there to explain in his mother tongue some of the most complicated things on our plate!

On a similar note, other participants, with ample understanding of camerawork and photography, were able to benefit the class by sharing what they knew as well. In this manner we formed a unique environment in which multiple individuals were empowered to contribute to the best of their abilities, and to the educational benefit of all. This second pedagogical point gleamed from our workshops, the concept of capitalizing on the experience and expertise that already exists in each group of participants, felt so important, in fact, that we added it to our official educational philosophy!

And now lets hear from some of the co-facilitators and participants themselves, as they comment on their experience of the workshops:

Before signing off I’d also like to offer my sincere gratitude to Natalie Montoya Montaño and Catalina Gaviria of the Alcaldia of Medellín for all their help in finding a group of talented participants, arranging the physical space for the workshops, and organizing two highly successful screening events (one private and one very public). I know it meant a lot to our new filmmakers to share their works, hot-off-the-press, with such a large and appreciative audience. And it is experiences like these that will further inspire them to continue making films, and share their unique perspectives on Medellín’s city streets… and the world!

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