Expose, Examine, Explore: Students of Santa Barbara International Film Festival class review 150 movies

Whitney Clark

At only 7:46 a.m. , Nico Maestu is greeted by a group of eager students waiting impatiently outside of room A173, breathing streams of warm breath into the frigid air.

Once inside, the soft pitter-patter of keyboards is soon heard underneath the electric light of the classroom. At 7:51 a.m., Maestu’s students are already busy blogging, commenting and critiquing film.

“This is the first class I have ever had where people show up early and leave late,” said Maestu. “The students are very motivated.”

For the first time at Santa Barbara City College, the School of Media Arts offered a 10-day Film Festival Studies class this semester. The $200 class, developed and taught by Maestu, was centered at the 23rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

“I love going to film festivals, so I thought, how can I translate that love of festivals to students?” said Maestu, who teaches numerous film studies courses at City College, including contemporary American film and great directors.

The 17 students enrolled had the opportunity to view 27 films of their choice throughout the festival.”Being able to see all these amazing foreign films and documentaries was an experience of a lifetime,” said film production major Beau Brigham. “I learned that film has a different impact on every individual.”

Each morning the students met for class where, Maestu said, there was “a little bit of lecturing and a lot of one-on-one.” During the afternoons, students were released to view as many films as possible.

“Although lecturing in class can be good, it is great to get a hands on approach,” said Maestu.

Maestu taught students about the various types of film festivals and how to write film reviews to post on their student-run Web site , which now boasts approximately 150 of their reviews.

Even though Brigham took a few of Maestu’s classes and has admitted to having a camera in his hand for the last seven years, he had never written a film review before.

“Film has a different impact on every individual,” said Brigham. “The way one film affected a person could have an entirely different effect on another.”

In addition to viewing films at the festival, the students were able to attend Opening Night Ceremonies, a Q & A with “Moonstruck” director Norman Jewison, a Q & A with SBIFF Director and City College instructor Roger Durling, as well as a Director’s Panel which included the directors of “Juno” Jason Reitman and “Knocked Up” Judd Apatow.

“I learned so much in those few hours,” said Music major Becca Solodon. “The time seemed to fly by and I think that everyone was really into it and learned a lot.”

According to Maestu, the students in his class loved posting reviews on their Web site so much that most of them want to continue to update the site with new reviews throughout the semester.

“It has given me a chance to be a part of something that people my age rarely get a chance to do,” said Reed Griffin, film studies major. “The collaboration has been wonderful.”

Currently Maestu is working on scheduling other film festival Studies classes for upcoming semesters. Ideally, he would like to go to six a year, including the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado.

Huddled in the corner of the hushed room of A173, Brigham and Griffin quietly discuss their favorite films of the festival and their encounters with world-famous moviemakers.

“To talk to them face to face was unreal,” gushed Brigham.

“Yeah,” said film studies major Reed Griffin, nodding. “A lot of them helped me realize that I’m not crazy!”