February 2015, Volume 19, Number 1

Academics

 

Zooming In on Interdisciplinary Learning

In the fall, to a packed house at North Campus’ School of Entertainment & Design Technology (SEDT), film director and producer Rubén Abruña showed his groundbreaking documentary The Absent House. The work, which had its world premiere at the 35th Annual Festival of the New Latin American Cinema in Havana, Cuba, left the audience bubbling with questions. MDC students aspiring to follow in the independent filmmaker’s footsteps wanted to understand every detail of the process.

“Where can I get blueprints to create a pole cam like the one you used for the crane shots?”

“Would you use IndieGogo crowdfunding again in the future?”

“How did you negotiate payment for use of the archival footage across multiple platforms?”

Solutions on All Fronts

The questions were met with insightful answers by Abruña, who taught film, video production and post-production at MDC’s SEDT for nearly a decade before completing his documentary. His extensive experience includes working in TV and radio in addition to film, where he has written, produced, directed and edited numerous documentaries, commercials, promos and videos in Miami, New York and Puerto Rico. In addition, he has edited award-winning documentaries including South of Brooklyn, What About Coral? and The Battle of Vieques.

“I learned so much when he was my professor, and now again through this lecture here today,” said SEDT alumna Tamara Benavente, who now works in the film industry.

From Micro-Homes to Parachutes

The documentary and discussion crossed academic disciplines by offering timely lessons not only to SEDT students but also to those studying architecture. Distributed by Icarus Films, The Absent House tells the story of architect Fernando Abruña Charneco, a designer from Puerto Rico and pioneer of green architecture who confronts climate change with a clever variety of constructions, including a house without a roof and a micro-eco home on wheels in addition to small dwellings that can be parachuted into disaster areas to create shelter in the aftermath of floods and hurricanes.

Abruña Charneco, who is the filmmaker’s brother, apprenticed with R. Buckminster Fuller, inventor of the Geodesic Dome and Dymaxion car. From that early tutelage, Abruña Charneco developed his own unique style while always remaining true to his mentor by employing Fuller’s design mantra of “doing more with less.”

Collaborations Across Departments

“This was an exceptional opportunity for MDC students, faculty and staff to see the cutting-edge film that opened the Greenbuild Film Festival in New Orleans,” said Paola Plevak, program professional at MDC’s Earth Ethics Institute, which hosted the screening and discussion. “We look forward to more cross-disciplinary collaborations like this one.”

After the film’s screening, professors and community leaders shared ideas on architecture, urban planning and ways for MDC students to participate in service-learning projects.

“I hope that exposing students and the Miami community to this sort of architecture and thinking helps move us toward innovative sustainable design,” said Blair Butterfield, director of The Art of Cultural Evolution.

— BK


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