Acclaimed Franco-Malian director Ladj Ly opens free cinema school

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Have we found the next generation of cinematographers? At the very least, the newly opened Kourtrajmé in Madrid give such hopes.

The school opened this week in Vallecas, a southern neighborhood of the Spanish capital with 24 talented but underprivileged young people from 200 applications.

Among them is Steven Bruce.

"I love cinema, I love music, I love, you know, art in general. And actually I've always had a lot of ideas in my mind and I know I am not from a rich family and everything, so actually I've always (been) waiting for something to happen so I can, you know, find the way to show what I have to show," he says.

The school is based in El Sitio de mi Recreo, a youth center managed by the city council and the man behind it, is filmmaker Ladj Ly.

The French-Malian directed 'Les Miserables', a 2019 movie about crime in the Parisian underworld. It won the Cannes Jury prize for best film.

This is the fourth school he's opened - two others operate in France and a third in Dakar, Senegal.

Ly hopes to encourage a new generation to follow in his successful footsteps.

"The idea of these schools is to train those young people who don´t have the chance, the opportunities or the means to enrol in a cinema school, because we know that nowadays it is too difficult to enrol in film schools," he explains.

"And we had the idea to settle on the city outskirts, in difficult neighborhoods, precisely to give them the opportunity and also so that they are motivated by having a school in the neighborhood where they can study cinema."

The program will consist of a six to nine month course, focused on scriptwriting and directing TV series.The students will develop pilot episodes for two series, which will later be offered to the cinema industry to go into production.

It's an opportunity that student Liliana Obregón used to think was beyond her financial means.

"In Madrid there are a lot of very good schools and I have applied many times, they have chosen me for the work I have done but then I have not been able to continue because I cannot pay 1,000 euros a month, nor 500 euros because the little I can work is to help at home," she says.

Mina El Hammami, a Spanish actress who will be the Kourtrajmé Madrid's 'godmother', is willing to share her experience with the young students.

She says the free courses mean people who never thought they could pursue a career in the film industry will now have opportunities.

"In the end, this will make it possible if someone has that dream and has been afraid to say "I want to be a writer or I want to be a filmmaker" because that term has not been heard at home, not even with his friends. That is what happened to me, I was embarrassed to say that I wanted to be an actress because they were like: what are you saying? At that time my life was to be in a park with people and watch life go by," she says.

The students believe they will be able to make cinema and TV that better reflects real life.

"The typical movies where some mansions appear, with swimming pools, parties, good clothes... you say: wow, I want to be like that girl, but in reality I am like this. Seeing a normal family on TV makes us, working people, connect with it," says Obregón.

And El Hammami agrees that their diverse heritages and backgrounds mean the students will have stories to tell that have not been heard before.

"There are a lot of people who were born here in Spain and who come from different origins that will be able to tell stories from their experiences. It's not other people without their background narrating, it´s themselves writing a script or directing, hopefully, an actor or an actress. I think that is what this will contribute to us, especially to the students," she says.

"And I think this is necessary because in the end, I, as a woman of Moroccan origin who was born in Spain, I really want there to be many projects that aren't clichés."

Rapper and producer BêO Antarez is the school's director. He says Spain's TV industry needs new blood.

"We see the same faces every time and it's time to add some new faces. More diversity, how can I say it, more new stories, more people we are not used to seeing," he says.

So these are the faces of the future. Maybe one day someone here will be walking the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival or Hollywood's Oscars.

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