Film group has liberal bent

Members of the Berkeley People’s Film Society, a left-leaning organization revived last year, said they hope to attract both sympathizers and critics.

This approach seems to be working, at least for Party of the Right Chairman David Barnes ’03.

“If they show good movies for free, I’ll go and see them regardless of whether this is an explicitly liberal group,” Barnes said.

Graduated Yalies Mackenzie Baris ’01 and Jessica Champagne ’01 restarted the film society, which shows movies about such issues as labor and human rights, last year.

Activist films run in the family for Baris. Her father was one of the founding members of the Berkeley People’s Film Society when he was at Yale in the late 1960s. So Baris said it seemed natural to use the same name when she and Champagne wanted to create a film society last year.

“Jess and I thought it would be funny to show films about social justice under the name ‘Berkeley People’s Film Society’ because it calls to mind both the collectives of the 1960s and Berkeley, Ca., a center of student activism and one of the most left-wing communities in the country,” Baris said in an e-mail.

Barnes too has a connection to the original society — another founder, David Zincavage, was in the Party of the Right.

The new Berkeley People’s Film Society is part of the Social Justice Network at Yale.

“[The society] is basically just an informal organization of people who get together every now and again to watch social justice-related movies,” Abigail Vladeck ’04 said.

Member Jacob Remes ’02 said he is glad the organization maintains a relaxed attitude.

“Our motto is ‘We put the social back in socialism,’” Remes said. “Activists in college tend to take themselves really seriously — they get burnt out. We do want to have fun, encourage people to relax and be social, and we do that by watching movies.”

Remes is a staff columnist for the Yale Daily News.

He said the society shows films on a wide variety of activist issues.

“It has a dual purpose,” Remes said. “To show movies with themes about unions or peace or whatever. And to attract people that don’t necessarily share our views of unionization, breaking down skepticism in some Yalies.”

Yale Film Society co-President Kevika Amar ’02 said she had not heard of the Berkeley People’s Film Society and does not consider the group competition.

“Most of us in the Yale Film Society are big fans of film in general,” Amar said. “We prefer to work with other societies, not have them as competition.”

Barnes said activist films might be an effective means of conveying liberal messages.

“In modern usage, social justice seems to stand for liberal ideology — affirmative action, living wage and so on,” Barnes said. “Regardless of whether I agree with these proposals, I don’t believe the left at Yale does a particularly good job convincing those who disagree with them.”

Remes defines social justice differently, but said the Berkeley People’s Film Society does watch mostly leftist movies.

“My definition [of social justice] would include peace, equality and democracy, and environmental protection,” Remes said.

The new society has held four movie nights since it began in the fall semester last year.

“It has occasional film nights with themes, like ‘Union musical night,’ where we will show two or three movies on the same subject,” Baris said.

“The [group] is a very informal society that shows films related to social justice.”

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