As someone who loves film, it’s exciting for me when I see a poster on campus advertising a movie screening or series here on campus. Granted, that excitement is usually followed by disappointment when I notice that either I have seen the poster too late and the showing has already happened or that my schedule will prohibit me from attending the event, but that is beside the point.
If you’ve looked at any of the recent LeeRoy emails, you might have noticed just how many of these film screenings there have been on campus. Just last week, two organizations hosted events on campus (the Black Student Union with a showing of “13th” and the EAST Program with a short Taiwanese Film Festival) in addition to Dr. Benjamin Stevens’ weekly “Classical Receptions” film series and the return of Movies at Mabee with “Moana.” The appeals of movies as focuses for campus events are easy to see. Movies are easy to gain access to and most of them are entertaining. However, there are inherent values to film screenings that I feel aren’t being addressed, and those are the educational and communal values and mores we go to college to understand.
In addition to the accessibility of film and the fact that the majority of films are purpose-built to entertain in a way that cannot be said about art forms such as paintings or photography, another reason film is so popular for group screenings is the fact, unlike with other narrative art forms like literature, that it can be consumed simultaneously by many people.
The fact that film is so easy to implement as the focus of a group event is enough to make it a popular choice by campus organizations for open events. This mass media aspect of movies makes them well suited to bringing together groups of people on campus.
Besides being a practical choice for a campus event, film is also an educational choice. As mentioned earlier, the Black Student Union held a screening of “13th” last week, a documentary film about the United States’ prison system and its connections to slavery. Film screenings such as these can serve a similar function to guest lectures since they teach students and faculty members about topics that they might not have known about previously, and in doing so, encourage discussion on campus.
However, film, as an art form, is not as limited in its ability to educate as a lecture. As an art form film can also be culturally educational. This is where film screenings like those in Dr. Stevens’s film series really shine. These film showings encourage the viewers to consider the film the same way they consider a work of literature. In addition to adding a new layer to films such as “Interstellar” and “Ex Machina,” this mindset for viewing a film also urges the audience to think more consciously about the ideas being presented in the film.
With the added context of why the film is shown, such as Dr. Stevens’s connections between the films and classic myths, or the EAST Program’s celebration of Taiwanese culture, or the BSU shining a spotlight on systematic oppression, these film screenings cease to be simple campus gatherings and take on a new role as educational experiences.
By pressing for critical thought and discussion concerning the films themselves or what the films are about, these events help to promote a more culturally literate student population and a more comprehensive dialogue about critical issues facing our country and world.
A student body that knows more about art and tradition from our own culture and from cultures around the world. By hosting film screenings campus organizations and faculty are helping to educate others and be catalysts for creative dialogues here at Trinity.