Has La Femis, France’s most prestigious national film school, lost its mojo?
A highly critical report published late last year at the behest of La Femis’ outgoing president, French film director Claude Miller, suggests as much.
The 60-page report which was drafted by seven former graduates of La Femis, or its predecessor L’Idhec, including filmmakers Radu Mihaileanu (“The Concert”) and Pascale Ferran (“Lady Chatterley”), concludes that “the crisis is there and well dug in, the school is doing badly.” In the report’s introduction, Miller refers to the school’s “structural malfunctions” which led to a two-week student strike last spring — the first student strike La Femis has suffered since its creation in 1986.
Miller said he sympathized with the students who complained about “the apathy, the compartmentalization and opaqueness” at La Femis and their calls for more “interdisciplinary exchange, transparency and opening the school up to the outside.”
The report, which was drafted after 80 hours of meetings with some of La Femis’ 160 students, noted particular dissatisfaction with the school’s directorial department — as opposed to, say, its screenwriting arm, which produced such grads as Rebecca Zlotowski (“Belle Epine”) and Prix D’Ornano winner Lea Fehner (“Silent Voice”).
Directorial students said they disapproved of the school’s teaching methods, which tend to emphasize on-the-fly filmmaking over classroom-taught technical and theoretical skills.
The head of the directorial department, Jean-Paul Civeyrac (who recently left his post), told popular French magazine Telerama, “You learn how to make films by making them. There’s no recipe.”
This was rejected as a “romantic vision of the auteur” by one student and not in line with the practicalities of modern filmmaking. Now students will have to wait until later this month to see if the Miller Report, as it has come to be known, will have any real impact on improving the teaching in the directorial department.