Breckenridge film appreciation class to study the art of the silver screen |

Breckenridge film appreciation class to study the art of the silver screen

Jessica Smith
Leonardo Santana graduated from Madrid Film School and has spent 10 years in the film and television business in Europe and Mexico, including working on the film 'I'm So Excited!' directed by Pedro Almodóvar.
Special to the Daily |

Film Appreciation: The Art Behind the Screen

Dates: Sundays, starting April 13 to June 1

Time: 5-8 p.m.

Location: Eileen and Paul Finkel Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Rd., Breckenridge

Cost: $35

To register, visit

Leonardo Santana wants to share his love of film with others. Santana moved to Summit County last year and quickly immersed himself in local film culture, working as a film reviewer with the Breckenridge Film Festival. For the next month and a half, Santana is making his knowledge of filmmaking and the artistic side of cinema available to others by offering a film analysis class. Provided through the Colorado Mountain College speaker series, and a partnership with the Breckenridge Film Festival, the class introduces film history as well as the various methods of analyzing film, from Hollywood blockbusters to foreign independent pieces. Entitled “Film Appreciation: The Art Behind the Screen,” the class meets Sundays, starting April 13 until June 1.

The artistic side of film

Santana graduated from the Madrid Film School and since then has taught classes, worked in film and television for 10 years in Europe and Mexico, and sent his own independent project to a number of film festivals worldwide. He also had the opportunity to work with Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar on the 2013 movie “I’m So Excited!” starring Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

“It was such an unforgettable and rich experience, and I definitely want to share that with people,” Santana said.

The upcoming Film Appreciation class is the one that he taught for years in Madrid.

“It’s not only a class, but also a stage for people to join and discuss cinema,” he said. “The focus is 100 percent film, but it also looks at other artistic expressions, such as plastic arts.”

Part of the course, Santana explained, is viewing paintings from various periods and using the same techniques to analyze those as used when analyzing film.

“It is mandatory to understanding (how) film develops,” he said. “Film, cinema, is much more than just what you see on the big screen in commercial theaters.”

The first class will go over basic film terminology, and feature a 15-minute clip of a film for analysis. Later classes will watch feature-length films, with discussion and analysis afterwards. Santana will also provide exercises for recognizing certain techniques or styles, such as the use of a close-up in one scene, transitions between scenes, a character’s dramatic arc, and so on.

As for what films he’s chosen for his students to watch — “Everything. We are going to see everything. I mean, not everything,” he said with a laugh. “Our audiovisual galaxy nowadays is in constant expanding, but we are going to see from Hollywood old-time mainstream movie hits to very independent French films from the ’60s. We are going to see excerpts from iconic Japanese cinema and we are also going to watch South American new wave, which is super interesting, and people don’t know about it. We’re also going to watch a Polish film and French film.”

Calling fellow film buffs

The course is not just for movie experts, but for anyone who has an interest in learning more about film, said Santana. His only caveat is that some of the films may contain adult content that may not be appropriate for younger viewers, and recommends his students be around age 17 and up.

“No matter what way you look at it, no matter what level of experience you have with film, it’s going to enhance your experience,” said Janice Kurbjun, executive director of the Breckenridge Film Festival, of Santana’s class.

Kurbjun connected with Santana during last year’s film festival, and said he is donating his time to teach the course. Proceeds for the course go to the CMC speaker series, while spreading Santanta’s knowledge and passion for cinema will enrich the experience of festivalgoers this year, she said.

“Generally speaking, major motion pictures employ a lot of the techniques that make film great. … As far as independent film is concerned, it’s going to enhance our experience all the more, because independent filmmakers tend to want to explore those techniques a little bit more — the sound, light, color, videography techniques, all kinds of things,” she said. “So when you step into an independent film in September (at the Breckenridge Film Festival), you’re going to be able to pick out some of those things and appreciate the film a little bit more.”

While Santana is looking forward to sharing his experience and his understanding of film, he really hopes to encourage discussion in each class.

“I will be providing technical and professional information, but I really welcome everyone who wants to share their opinion to watch the films and (study) the plastic arts we’re going to see,” he said.

Santana’s goal with his class is not only to teach his students some new terms and methods of analysis, but to open their minds to the artistic nature of filmmaking.

“Whoever joins the class will open themselves to the reality that images have meaning, whether they are a top Hollywood mainstream (film) or an independent, small European production,” he said. “At the end of the class, people will gain a heightened awareness of the quality of a film and will know how to recognize the hidden devices.”

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