WHOA – Janan Ali

My name is Janan Ali, and I am a nontraditional, 2022 UC Santa Cruz, Film and Digital Media graduate. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to study Film History and Restoration and attend the Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival in Bologna, Italy during the summer of 2022, through the UCSC Global Seminar program. 

Were it not for financial aid and The Gilman Scholarship, I wouldn’t have had access to this memorable international educational opportunity. 

The Il Cinema Ritrovato Film Festival, held annually, is composed of sections of film collections with film sections of, for example, classics or noirs, Von Stroheim’s silent cinema, Peter Lorre, and Sophia Loren’s films. These film collections were exhibited in screenings at different theaters throughout the city. There were single speakers like director John Landis or filmmaker Wes Anderson, and daytime panels on film restoration and conservation. Sometimes it felt like a treasure hunt to find the best shortcuts between theaters to save time between screenings. Watching Von Stroheim’s Foolish Wives (1922) at night in the Piazza Maggiore, with a hundred or so other cinephiles was sublime.

During my stay, I gained much real-world information from experts in the field, like UC Santa Cruz graduate, American Zoetrope Film Archivist, and Restoration Supervisor James Mockoski, who restores The Godfather film series. He spoke to us about his career journey and suggested possible educational career pathways. 

Our class witnessed restorations in progress at L’Immagine Ritrovata, a respected Bologna-based film lab specializing in restoration and conservation work that collaborated with the festival.

One thing I struggled with while abroad was my living situation. Unlike most students, I was booked alone in a single room, reducing my potential for COVID-19 infection. This left me feeling isolated since our class members were situated all over the packed hotel. I found myself down the hall from another American student group that regularly partied late at night and early morning. Some days,  I rarely slept more than four hours a night. 

I discovered that with all my preparation to travel to Italy, I’d forgotten to get phone coverage in Europe and couldn’t buy a local phone number or phone coverage. This left me out of touch with classmates and instructors after I left the hotel and forced me to plan for those circumstances.

Additionally, I sometimes felt insecure about being older than everyone else in the group, although it was never an issue with my classmates. Sometimes I think I unconsciously pushed myself to accomplish more than I could. Both professors and other students chuckled when they saw my schedule of sometimes 4 to 5 events daily.

After a few initial talks with classmates, I understood that even though most of the other students were generations younger than myself, some also experienced a similar disorientation with travel, food, and heat as I had. I hadn’t considered how much a heatwave could take away focus and energy. The weeks of 105-degree temperatures made me recognize I needed to look after my health and accept my physical limitations. I couldn’t attend as many events as I’d scheduled and started taking days off to rest and reset.

I speak almost fluent Italian because I married an Italian and lived in a provincial Adriatic coastal town for five years. Although I hadn’t been to Italy in twelve years, I could recall a great deal. I became fluent again by using my ability to speak Italian to chat with the employees in the hotel, with cashiers or bus drivers, and with locals to ask for directions. Talking to Italians in their language, either in restaurants or offices, helped me feel more connected and less far from home. I also translated for classmates whenever they needed me, which I enjoyed.

Budgeting for food was also a concern. I often bought healthy snacks, fruit, juice, cheese, and crackers at a local supermarket a 15-minute walk away from the hotel and stored them in the mini-fridge. I also bought reasonably priced dinners at a local pizzeria or nearby Japanese restaurant. Organizing my time and getting rest became essential to managing the packed schedule, and by the last week, I managed to scale the four hundred and ninety-eight steps to the top of the Assenili Tower.Since I participated in the Global seminar in Italy, I learned that as a Gilman scholar, I have access to other scholarships. I also learned of another possible career path via The Middlebury Institute in Monterey, CA, that may help me pursue employment in International education management. I want all students, especially transfer and re-entry students, to be aware of this opportunity to travel to pursue your scholarship and career interests. The opportunities to explore are numerous, with many available global learning programs and scholarships, like the Gilman scholarship, to help you financially.