PIFF Report: Sound lectures

In addition to a ton of movies, PIFF also hosts some master class lectures, technology exhibits, and panel discussions. The Asian Network of Documentary hosted two master class lectures on sound and I went to both of them.

The one on Saturday marked my first “that’s bullshit” moment of the festival. The brochure described the event as “free” and “For all audience [sic] who are interested in documentary filmmaking.” But when I got there, a girl stopped us at the door and said “invited guests only.” Wait, what? I was about to raise a stink, but my Korean friend talked her into letting me and my friend in.

We sat down and noticed that the speaker was French. So I went back to get a translation box. “Let me see your pass.” I did. “Sorry (big smile), guests only.” “Look,” I said. “You’ve got a stack of them sitting there unused. The lecture’s about to start. Give me two of them and if your guests come in and want them, I’m sitting right over there.” So she did.

The lecture was given by Daniel Deshays who, according to the brochure, has worked with a lot of prominent French directors. He made some interesting points, but for the most part it was rudimentary for me. (I’m sure the students and younger filmmakers got more out of it than I did.) I also disagreed with one of his fundamental points, but I didn’t get the chance to ask him to clarify. In his defense, the translation was awful. He’d speak for a good while but the translator would get maybe a handful of words out.

The second one given yesterday by Nobuyuki Kikuchi unfortunately wasn’t much better. Again, I had a major disagreement with his main point (which I really don’t want to get into). He also didn’t seem in the best of spirits. In fact he seemed bored.

I hate to be hyper critical. I appreciate that they came and offered their time to be there. But sound is such a fascinating subject. I don’t understand why every sound lecture has to spend a half hour or more on the “talkie” and the birth of multitrack recording. It’s boring. They should spend the time talking about storytelling, emotion, narrative depth, all of these really great aspects of sound in film.

These gentleman are obviously very accomplished in their work. I know Koreans are impressed by weighty resumes and impressive credits, and it’s probably the reason they were invited. But I think it would be good to balance things by having at least one academic come to speak about such subjects. Isn’t that what they’re for, at least in part? – to communicate the deeper aspects of a topic, the ones the practitioners put into use but aren’t necessarily the best at conveying it in words. It makes me especially appreciative of people like Walter Murch, Randy Thom, David Toop, and Brian Eno — the few who can do both very well.

Today it’s back to more screenings. It’s been tough securing tickets, even with my pass. All the good movies seem to be getting snatched up in the morning. So I wasn’t able to get what I wanted. But they’re free; who am I to complain?

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