Wednesday, December 7, 2011

E for Effort

At the final movie of the VCU Cinematheque Fall series, the professor began the evening by passing out exams to all of us.

Or at least that's what he told me as he handed me a pile of papers, instructing me to pass them on.

Just for a second, it was like that recurring dream where you show up for class only to find that it's test day and you didn't study.

Oh, everyone doesn't still have that dream? I guess it's just me.

In fact he was just giving us the Spring schedule for the film series so my exam anxiety was for naught.

He then proceeded to ask for a show of hands of how many people had come for the first time tonight, then how many had come to two films, three and upward to ten.

I was only able to admit to seeing three films, while many film students had been to all ten.

But then, I'm not being graded.

He warned us that this week's film was a stunner, full of action, compared to last week's which he likened to "watching paint dry."

I had skipped last week to see Rhymin' Simon so I'd missed all the fun of that.

Watching "A Screaming Man," a subtitled Chad film, it was clear why it had won the jury prize at Cannes in 2010.

The story of a former swimming champion who works as a pool attendant at an upscale hotel only to lose his job to his son is a gross oversimplification of what we saw.

Set against the decades-old Chadian civil war, the tragedy of a man and the son he gives to the war effort was a heartbreaking look at the choices he made and the price he paid for them.

Besides an award-winning screenplay, the lead actor's performance was completely compelling, making the audience care about a man even after he admitted having given his son to the military and certain death.

And yet, it wasn't a war movie; the fighting was a disembodied voice on radio bulletins, not explosions and gore.

The final scene made my heart hurt in that way that outstanding film making can do.

I'm not sure how well I would have done on the exam and luckily I didn't have to find out.

It was enough that I saw an amazing (and free) award-winning foreign film that would not have otherwise played Richmond.

Next semester I aspire to have perfect attendance just like those film students.

Unless wine, music or some other kind of debauchery intervenes.

And therein lies the luxury of not having to take the test.


  1. ..SURPRISE!! Exam Day! not sure i would call it a dream...more like a nightmare. Anxiety? no....PANIC, but what are you going to do? - go with flow. i remember a moment or two back when...the time caught unprepared..the questions on my orals that i couldn't answer, catching "my girlfriend" with another guy, missing that curve after having too many. feeling ones' stomach drop, ego crash, heart sink. remember that dream well. thanks for the memories K. glad i'm still

  2. Aren't we all?

    But it's hard to always be prepared for what life throws at you.