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Philosophising by making films: ‘I’ve never understood the material so well before.’

There was a time when student Lelani Antar wanted to go to film school. She ended up studying International Studies, yet she didn’t quite say goodbye to film. For her minor, she and three other students made an essay film.

‘I chose International Studies because I had this idea that I didn’t know that much about the world,’ she says. ‘I really enjoy academic research, but a lot of our current research is rather dry. I missed a more multidisciplinary approach.’

Looking with artists’ eyes

The minor in Creative strategies for a society in change solved this problem. Within this minor, you learn to look at the world around you with artists’ eyes. Then you reflect on your observations by making an essay film together. Lelani’s enthusiasm for the essay film is clear: ‘I really fell in love with it, and it’s a good stepping stone towards taking an artistic approach to academia.’

She herself demonstrated this in her own film, in which she reflects on identity with three fellow students. ‘We were assigned groups randomly,’ she explains. ‘In an essay film you need a subjective point of view, so first we interviewed each other on camera. We kept on finding that all four of us had a lot of questions about identity and what it means.’

Learning by doing

In the film, those questions are enriched by philosopher Jacques Lacan’s concept of a ‘mirror phase’. ‘The format of an essay film made it easier for us to engage with this topic,’ Lelani believes. ‘Lacan’s psychoanalytical research can be quite complex. By putting ourselves in the film and performing what he was discussing, it became a lot more accessible. It was difficult at times to be this vulnerable, but at the same time, it’s probably the best academic research I’ve done. Because of the learning through experience, I felt very connected to the material; it really was relevant to our lives. It’s maybe a little idealistic to say, but I think I’d be able to understand the material of other programmes better if it was presented this way.’

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