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SPAIN

Sergio Oksman • Coordinator, ECAM Documentary Film Degree

"We really foster creative freedom here"

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- Sergio Oksman breaks down some of the unique characteristics of the specialist subject that he manages at the Film and Audiovisual School of the Community of Madrid

Sergio Oksman  • Coordinator, ECAM Documentary Film Degree

The last time Cineuropa chatted to Sergio Oksman, the director talked about his feature On Football [+see also:
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trailer
interview: Sergio Oksman
film profile
]
, which was shot in his native country of Brazil. That face-to-face conversation, which took place in a café in central Madrid, could not be repeated this time around, given the health measures currently in place, but we were able to speak to him over the phone in order to find out about some of the unique characteristics of the Documentary Film Degree offered by ECAM – Film and Audiovisual School of the Community of Madrid, a course that is coordinated by this Madrid-based Brazilian filmmaker.

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Cineuropa: What is the history of the Documentary Film Degree that you coordinate at ECAM?
Sergio Oksman:
It’s been up and running for five years already. At ECAM, the powers that be decided that there had to be a specific documentary degree, and it’s already become fairly well established after the first five years. Carlos Muguiro – who worked with me on On Football – and I created the first course, and he was the first coordinator, before he moved to San Sebastián.

Perhaps this is also down to the fact that the documentary genre is booming: it’s one of the most active fields of cinema, and one that is particularly prone to experimentation and the search for new narratives.
I think so; I believe the school’s idea was born of the realisation that there was this fairly fertile territory where one could experiment, mingling with many different genres, which could be merged into a single one.

Perhaps creative filmmakers can enjoy more freedom in documentary than they can in fiction, do you think?
Absolutely. At ECAM, there’s a first year of general studies, and at the end of that year, the students choose which degree to follow this up with during the following two years of studies. Above all, we try to encourage each one of them to develop their own mechanisms and working methods; in that respect, we really foster their freedom. That’s why we decided that all of the teachers on the degree should be active filmmakers, such as Luis López Carrasco (The Year of the Discovery [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), Lois Patiño (Red Moon Tide [+see also:
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interview: Lois Patiño
film profile
]
), Andrés Duque (Karelia: International with Monument [+see also:
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trailer
film profile
]
), Elías León Siminiani (Notes for a Heist Film [+see also:
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interview: León Siminiani
film profile
]
) and Virginia García del Pino (Basilio Martín Patino. La décima carta [+see also:
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]
), among many others, because by coming into contact with these people, all of whom have their own specific methodologies, the students gradually develop their own.

In that case, you could say that each academic year is quite similar to the creative reality that the students will encounter when they graduate from ECAM. Is it a form of training before they venture out into the world of film?
It’s a form of training, yes, but I support the idea that they should also make mistakes; after all, school is a place for experimenting, so they don’t have to be 100% efficient. I prefer them to make lower-quality works, but for them to be daring and to attempt to challenge themselves, because it’s all about them learning to forge their own methodology and their own way of doing things. In the third year, the features are shot in groups of three or four students, and each one of them takes on all of the roles, ranging from producers to camera operators and directors; they have to agree among themselves and end up trying out every single role. But the thing is, the year before that, the second one,they have to shoot short documentaries made by one person, and in that case, each student has to know everything, including knowing how to handle the camera as well as editing and writing. It’s a fundamental elementnot only for making documentaries in the future, but also for making pure fiction films. Anyone who emerges from this degree will have developed the necessary methodology to be able to make any type of audiovisual product.

Documentary is no longer a lesser genre, as you have mentioned ECAM teachers who have attained great prestige on the festival circuit.
It’s getting harder and harder for me to define what a documentary is because I think that it is all gradually getting blurred, and in fact the course is designed with this acceptance that the boundaries have become less defined. We have, for example, Chema García Ibarra (an award-winning short filmmaker and also a screenwriter on features such as Ion de Sosa’s Androids Dream [+see also:
film review
trailer
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]
) on our teaching team; I don’t know if what he makes are documentaries, exactly, and it’s precisely for that reason that we have hired him as one of the lecturers on the course, because we believe it’s important to have a teacher who uses non-professional actors to create fiction. In addition, with the La Incubadora programme run by The Screen (see the news), ECAM wants the students to stay in touch with the school after finishing their studies. Some extremely interesting films produced here travel around various festivals, such as IDFA and Seville (where The Pillars, a movie based on archive material and directed by four of our students, Raúl Vallejo, Claudia Negro, Lucía Touceda and Javier Moreno, was premiered two years ago).

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(Translated from Spanish)

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