Around the World in Seven Days: World Cinema Film Festival Kicks Off

This week Bowdoin presents the World Cinema Film Festival, drawing upon contemporary films from across the globe and international cinema expertise from across the campus.

Organized by the Film Studies Program with collaboration from an array of other Bowdoin departments and programs, the seven-day festival showcases seven narrative and documentary films from China, Russia, Spain, Denmark, Cuba, and Italy (including one film set in Japan and another in the Central African Republic), all chosen by faculty members. One film will screen each night of the week at 7 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium, Visual Arts Center, Feb. 17-23. The event is free of charge and open to the public; no tickets required.

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“We have a really exciting slate,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of Film Studies Sarah Childress, who spearheaded the event (click here for the full program). Coming on the heels of the 2013 Spanish and Latin American Film Festival at Bowdoin, this year’s festival opens the playing field up to a global level, including such entries as the Chinese documentary “Please Vote for Me,” presented by Shu-Chin Tsui (Asian Studies), and the Russian film “The Return,” presented by Kristina Toland (Russian).

“We wanted to show students, faculty, staff and the community that there is this world cinema conversation,” Childress said. “By presenting the films together within a single week, we’re able to actually see the ways that ideas, techniques, and issues flow among and between countries.”

Following each screening will be a discussion led by the faculty member who selected the film, some co-presenting with students. The faculty presenters – several of whom teach courses in non-U.S. film – hail from a number of different academic departments including Romance Languages, Russian, German, Asian Studies, Film Studies, and Government. “This film festival is very emblematic of the collaborative nature of the Film Studies Program – it really represents the way we’re trying to connect different parts of campus,” said Film Studies Program Director Aviva Briefel.

Memories of Overdevelopment, by Miguel Coyula

Memories of Overdevelopment, by Miguel Cuyola

“In pulling together these diverse filmmaking traditions from around the world, the festival is not only exposing students to an array of non-Hollywood films, but also taking advantage of the fact that we have all of these different faculty perspectives on campus, and that we can provide students with a global view of what’s going on in films today,” Briefel said, adding that the festival’s international emphasis also forecasts upcoming changes in the Film Studies minor, which will require students (starting with class of 2018) to take a course in non-U.S. film.

The cinema extravaganza kicks off tonight, Feb. 17, with “Memories of Overdevelopment,” an award-winning Cuban film that tells the story of an intellectual who finds himself at odds with his new life as a professor. The film’s writer and director, Miguel Coyula, joins Nadia Celis (Spanish) and the Latin American Student Organization to present the film in person. The director of several experimental short films and two feature films that have earned him dozens of awards, Coyula is also an instructor in the International School of Cinema and Television of San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, and the author of the novel Mar Rojo, Mal Azul. His visit to Bowdoin will also include a Feb. 18 workshop for faculty and students on “Making Independent Films in Cuba.”

The Great Beauty, by Paolo Sorrentino

The Great Beauty, by Paolo Sorrentino

Among the festival’s subsequent offerings is one newly nominated for an Academy Award: the 2013 Italian film “The Great Beauty,” presented by Allison Cooper (Italian) and Gretchen Williams ’14, an Art History and Italian major. Childress noted that Cooper “was very prescient” in selecting this film well before Oscar nominations were announced.

Another pair of films on the docket are being presented in partnership with student social houses, an arrangement that “adds a whole level of potential student participation” to the festival, Childress said. “We’re all talking to students in our classes about coming to the festival, but involving the social houses really encourages students to get outside of the classroom and engage in a public forum, with each other and with faculty, to talk about film.”

In that spirit, Evan Bulman ’16 of Reed House is collaborating with Assistant Professor of Government Ericka Albaugh to present “The Ambassador,” a 2011 Danish mockumentary that puts Africa’s blood diamond trade under the spotlight, with a post-screening reception hosted by Reed House. Students of MacMillan House will provide a post-screening reception for the 2012 Spanish silent film “Blancanieves” – which portrays Snow White as a 1920s bullfighter – alongside co-presenters Elena Cueto-Asín (Spanish), Tricia Welsch (Film Studies), and Birgit Tautz (German).

blancanieves

Blancanieves, by Pablo Berger

“One of the things that’s been really important to us is participating in and drawing attention to a really vibrant film culture – helping students understand that yes, film is the subject of serious academic study, but that it’s people and film together that create a film culture,” Childress said. “We wanted to show them that films aren’t just “old films” or “serious films” but that this is an ongoing and a very dynamic art form that can promote really serious public conversation about issues that touch all of us.”

Childress noted that while filmmakers bring their own perspectives and contexts to their work, they also respond to films and other other art forms from their own countries and elsewhere, “both integrating those influences and challenging them,” she said. “This festival really allows us to emphasize not only that films prompt public discourse, but that the films are a form of public discourse themselves.”

Support for Bowdoin’s World Cinema Film Festival has been generously provided by the Blythe Bickel Edwards Fund, the Kurtz Fund, the Film Studies Program, the Department of Romance Languages, the Latin American Student Organization, the Bowdoin Film Society, the Asian Studies Program, the Department of English, the Latin American Studies Program, and the Brunswick-Trinidad Sister City Association.

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