Rijsdijk is described as an inspirational teacher of film studies, film production and screen-writing. His energy, enthusiasm and deep generosity and passion for and encyclopaedic knowledge of the medium of cinema have captivated a generation of students. Rijsdijk has succeeded in giving them the tools necessary to engage critically with film.
"While students pursue the 'right' answers in essays and exams," Rijsdijk writes, "I believe that what is more important than the answers are the questions asked– I tell my first-years in the first lecture that by the end of the course – even if they don't continue to study film – they will be the smartest people in the room, not because they are cool and can make in-jokes about cult movies, but because they will have the tools to critically engage with the inundation of visual communication which they encounter every day.'
Rijsdijk inspires in small-group settings as well as in his large lecture classes. His screenwriting students are nurtured and encouraged to find their creative voices with his characteristic blend of firmness and kindness; his postgraduate teaching is likewise energised by what a colleague describes as "his characteristic mix of inventiveness and intelligence".
Students are enchanted by his lectures, "fast-paced, action-packed affairs," a former student writes, "moving deftly between a startlingly broad range of disciplines, drawing with ease from an unimaginably vast mental library of pop culture and high theory. Rijsdijk can link Friedrich Nietzsche to Han Solo in a single lecture and still have time for questions. Nobody explains films like Ian Rijsdijk".
Rijsdijk's connection with, and influence on, his students continues well beyond their UCT years, into their careers in the film industry. As one up-and-coming director declares, "there is absolutely no way that my career could have blossomed in such as way without my degree from UCT and the sage mentorship of Dr Ian-Malcom Rijsdijk, who, to this day, still remains an important advisor in my work. This after all must be the surest sign of good teaching: when a teacher remains a friend long after the final assignment was handed in."
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The Distinguished Teacher Award is the highest accolade awarded to teaching staff at all levels within the university. Through the award, the University of Cape Town acknowledges the primary place of teaching and learning in the university’s work.
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