Latinidad with Russian Eyes
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Latinidad with Russian Eyes
Oksana and Elena were two Master's degree (M.A.L.S.) students from Russia who were enrolled in LATS 41. They brought a very unique perspective to our class, one which they chose to explore in their video-based final project, "Latinidad with Russian Eyes." They interviewed a wide variety of people and included the Guillermo Gómez Peña performance piece, "Orozco Mexotica," which ocurred on May 23 & 24, 2002 on the Dartmouth campus in the Baker Library reserve room.
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Elena: For my final project I decided to research the opinions of different people about Latinos in Dartmouth College and present this research through Russian eyes. I worked together with Oksana on video interviews of Dartmouth students, both American and Latin American. We also interviewed two professors who teach Spanish, a Chicano performer, Guillermo Gomez-Peña, and the students who performed in the Mexotica project. In order to add a Russian perspective in the movie, we put our voices and the voice of a Russian student. The diversity of characters and voices in the movie allowed us to enrich the presentation of Latinidad and to reveal the various aspects of Latinos.
Oksana: The final project, which was a video film made by me and my friend Elena Odinokaya, helped me to create in my mind a well-organized picture of all the new information I received taking this course. Our film is called "Latinidad with Russian Eyes." The title itself reveals the main perspective of the contents. We were "Russian ethnographers" analyzing the attitude towards Latin Americans [and Latinos] at Dartmouth, and the way Latin Americans [and Latinos] feel about the media's representation of their culture.
Oksana: To a certain extent, working on the final project changed my attitude to electronic media and performance art, as well as television and films. They are definitely very strong forces that influence public opinion and its attitude to various aspects of life. Most of people that we talked to were speaking about stereotypes created my mass media and about their tremendous influence on the population. The Latino stereotypes existing in the United States are well spread and generally similar in all the parts of the country.
The situation is gradually improving in comparison with past times for Latinos in this country. Television, radio and the press have had both positive and negative effects on this situation. On the one hand they create stereotypes, and on the other give some chance for Latinos to speak and to be heard. In past decades, people from Latin America started to appear on the TV-screens, on the newspaper pages, and on radio. They were reminding the population about their existence and they demanded to be taken into consideration.
Elena: I found out a lot about the process of transforming video into digital file by using iMovie software. First we recorded the whole event or an interview, created clips in the computer program, and then cut the clip into pieces and chose the appropriate ones. The process of using video, [an external hard] drive, and iMovie was extremely useful and efficient because it showed me the perspectives of modern New Media.
Elena: The collaboration influenced the process of developing our project a lot, because first of all, Oksana and I had similar opinions about the interviews we recorded. We shared the Russian language [and our cultural perspective] determined the framework of our project and helped in creating the script and editing the interviews.
Oksana: I think that working together helped us to observe the various sides of the problem we were working on and made our film "multicolored" and "multisided." To my mind the project that Elena and I made is significant not only for us, but for everybody else who takes interest in cultural issues and the opinions that people of different nations express. It is a short film and it is fun to see. The interviews that we took were "unprepared" ones, and the people were sincere and natural answering our questions.
Oksana: When working on our movie we had a lot of doubts and concerns. We wanted it, on the one hand, to reflect our visions and understanding of the course, and on the other hand, to be interesting and clear for the people who were going to watch it. As every artist creates most for his audience we, by making the film, were thinking about the people's reception of what we have done. It is important to be able to predict at least the approximate reaction of the public.
Elena: The media system at Dartmouth College allows every student to use a video camera, then to put the recorded material of the movie and place it on the Internet. It is really wonderful that a student can create whatever he wants and present it to large audience.
Oksana: Both of us learned many things for this relatively short time of the video making. First of all, we learned to use the iMovie program, which was completely new for us when we started the project. Another thing that I had to do was to go to a party where I knew almost nobody and simply start talking to people and asking them to give me an interview. We looked strange with the camera, and some people probably suspected something bad about us. That was a challenge, and I'm glad I managed to overcome shyness and fear of the unknown. That led me to some terrific interviews, which significantly enriched our film.
Elena: Undoubtfully, the methods of teaching through creating a final project and the presentations of readings in class were much more efficient than writing long papers, and also the style of teaching encouraged free creation. By producing my movie I got several times more knowledge and skills than through writing endless papers. A paper doesn't allow a student to express feelings and emotions because it's an academic paper, while a movie gives an opportunity to be a scriptwriter, a director, an operator, an editor, and a producer, and in practice to create a representation of Latinos by using media.