In February, the prestigious Kourtrajmé film school arrived in Madrid, founded in France by Ladj Ly, famous for telling in ‘Les Miserables’ the reality that he lived in the Parisian ghetto. The idea was (and is) to offer audiovisual training to kids from humble origins and few resources like him and to democratize access to a sector with high entry prices restricted to the highest social classes. But the first edition of the course in Spain, directed by BêO Antarez, has ended in failure.
Neighborhood cinema (really) in Vallekas: “We also need to express ourselves”
Congolese, raised in the same depressed but diverse suburbs of Paris, BêO Antarez, rapper and filmmaker, was in charge of opening the doors of the Kourtrajmé academy in Vallecas. The school was installed in the cultural center ‘El Sitio de mi Recreo’, a municipal cession space. 22 students selected for their talent and desire were divided into two classes, one for scriptwriting and the other for directing. The objective was to carry out two television series projects and end June with their respective pilot episodes, which would be presented to audiovisual platforms.
This first experience in Vallecas has not been as positive as expected, nor as those that were replicated in other parts of the world, such as Paris, Marseille or Dakar, which have even encouraged the start of a new project in the Caribbean soon. In fact, the Madrilenian has ended abruptly with the anger of teachers and students. At the end of May, only three students were still participating in the initiative.
“The structure of the school in Madrid is very weak, we have encountered material and economic problems and I think people have felt cheated,” he says in a conversation with elDiario. is one of the students, who recognizes the difficulties they face in their first year projects that start from scratch.
The reasons for the dissatisfaction can be summed up in the lack of clarity of the academic guide and the lack of material and specificity in the budgets that would be handled to prepare the pilot episodes. Day after day, a non-transparent communication by the management of the school in Madrid and the pressure to meet very tight dates have been increasing internal tensions, as described by the three teachers and the four students with whom this daily.
“A lot of time was wasted”
“Every day you came to see what you were doing and a lot of time was wasted,” acknowledges a directing student. “A month after classes started, we asked the director in Madrid for a pedagogical project and there was none”, adds another colleague, who speaks of “broken promises”. Representatives from France attended the inauguration of the project in Vallecas, according to the teachers, and for a few days they explained Kourtrajmé’s values and way of teaching to the teachers.
However, as recognized from the headquarters in Paris, “each school is independent” and each territory specializes in a type of audiovisual product. A management student pointed out that schedules were not always respected and that it was common for changes to the agenda to be improvised that interrupted training: “Plans were changed, often without warning, and classes were cancelled.”
To this was added the pressure of a delivery date that was already very tight from the beginning, because when it began in February the academic year was reduced to five months. “In five weeks you had to finish an exhaustive project dossier of between 25 and 30 pages, with people whose wealth was that they had never written anything,” said Antonio Martín, a script teacher at the school. “The dates were already set for professionals, well imagine for someone with no experience,” he continues.
Thus, the students with whom this medium has spoken lament the lack of clarity on how to do things, the little time to develop the projects and the scarce material they had, in the first edition of a course that sought to achieve the highest quality with the fewest resources. “I don’t think the idea was that we would do something for Netflix with the material that was there,” says one of the students.
Pedro Gabriel Ruiz, a volunteer audiovisual teacher, was the one who lent his own material for the students to use during the months of training. Ruiz recalls the experience at school with “great disappointment and sadness” and points out that “the kids did not know what resources they had to write the scripts.”
“Obvious communication failures”
The “obvious communication failures”, as several students have put it, reached their peak with the confusion over the budget for the pilot episodes. “It was said that Netflix was going to give support to carry out two pilots and that the team and hiring would be available,” Ruiz comments.
For his part, Martín comments: “There was a moment of great tension in which the students asked the director to know the budget and he said it would be 10,000 euros. However, two days later, after being asked where that money would come from, Antarez retracted and said that he had not given that figure. One of the three students who stayed with the project until the end, comments that this figure was a rumor that spread among the students, but that it was not confirmed. “I understood that the money for the materials would come from Kourtrajmé France,” he notes.
Asked about this wording, Antarez has referred to the words of the Paris address, through an email in which he has declined to participate in this information. In an interview with the director in Madrid, Amade Ly, Ladj Ly’s confidant, confirmed that “each school has a different operation and they are autonomous in terms of budget and financing”.
After most of the students stopped coming to classes, the director in charge, Manuel Requena, who according to his words had been fired a month earlier than agreed, sent a letter to the Kourtrajmé headquarters in Paris. In this text, to which elDiario.es has had access, Requena exposes his anger and disappointment: “Everything has been done from the beginning under cover of a farce.”
After receiving that letter, as reported by Kourtrajmé Francia to elDiario.es, the management in Paris met with the students in Madrid and decided to suspend the school’s activity. By then there were only three students left working with Antarez. In exchange, the recording of the pilot will be resumed in September with greater supervision from the matrix.
The school in France has apologized and has pointed out that behind this generalized anger is the lack of support that Antarez has received in Madrid, who has set up the entire project from the beginning. Ly has explained that “it is not in question that the project will not finish”, in reference to the agreement reached with the dissatisfied students. In the future, she has pointed out, the continuity of the Kourtrajmé brand in Madrid will be valued.
From the Youth Centers area of the Madrid City Council, which manages the space assigned in Vallecas, they assure by email that the projects are evaluated when they end “with the organization, who is currently in the recording process.” From what is extracted that they have not been informed that this process has been postponed.