Featuring foreign film

Within this year, the Film Studies Program will have featured films from Japan, Korea, Italy, Russia, Sweden, India, the Czech Republic, Czechoslovakia and Taiwan.

Yale is bringing an increasing number of rare and expensive international films to campus, with film screenings, course offerings, conferences and festivals looking beyond the Western hemisphere. Though international films — especially old ones — are costly and hard to locate, Yale’s resources, technology and specialized faculty enables the University to bring these 35-mm and 16-mm films to campus, administrators and professors interviewed said.

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“We have the equipment, we have the expertise, so we have been allowed by the international archives to show these films,” Film Study Center Manager Ann Horton-Line said.

Film Studies Program Chair John MacKay said he can now travel to Russia and buy prints from the state film archives, which cost around $4,000.

Though the availability of 35-mm prints has been an important factor in determining Yale global offerings, MacKay said faculty interest in global cinema is the backbone of the expansion of programs.

“The University having an interest in this is one thing, but to really make it happen you need the faculty who know these different areas,” MacKay said.

Ryan Cook, a doctoral candidate in Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures who has helped organize the upcoming Japanese film series, said the Film Studies Program’s collaboration with other departments might have caused the strong presence of international film on campus.

“[The Film Studies Program] is not an independent department; it’s linked to other departments,” Cook said. “A lot of faculty have specializations in other languages. We sometimes end up with these film programs centered around national traditions.”

Indeed, MacKay said he and a lot of the other faculty in the program are associated with national literature and comparative literature departments.

Though Film Study Center Director Michael Kerbel pointed out that the Center’s collection is still largely weighed toward U.S. films, with near 7,000 American titles, he noted the huge increase in the last decade in Japanese and German films. Kerbel said the center had 19 Japanese titles in 1999. A database search today yields 1,128.

Kerbel added that students have also provided the energy and initiative to complement faculty efforts. A group of students has purchased DVD movies from Bulgaria and Romania to be shown on campus before being added to the Film Study Center collection.

Wanwan Lu ’12, a film studies major, said she often goes to film screenings when she gets e-mails from the Film Studies major panlist or the Yale Film Society, or for her classes, but she added that she often doesn’t attend films with which she is unfamiliar.

Film Studies professor Dudley Andrew, who teaches a course on “World Cinema” and has organized the annual Film Studies Program conferences on international film, said the level of film culture at the undergraduate level is not nearly as high as it should be.

“We’ve tried to reignite the love for foreign film,” he said. “But the curiosity for seeing really brilliant films made elsewhere feels like homework. Maybe people see cinema as something you study rather as something you just go to.”

Yale shows at least 80 films from its own 35-mm and 16-mm collection per semester as well as many films from outside its collection. The Film Study Center database lists 240 Indian, 253 Chinese and 1,103 German titles.

Comments

  • toosinbeymen

    This would be a fantastic development. I learned to love foreign and art films by being exposed to them.

    I don’t know how someone could compare viewing a smart film (although not all foreign films are) to home work. I also came to love learning by exposure to ideas. This certainly can’t be a prevalent attitude at Yale. Say it ain’t so.

  • David Mayes

    Hi,
    I’d like to encourage the Film Studies program to acquire more films (including documentaries) from a wider variety of countries. Iran for example, has made quite a splash on the art film circuit over the last decade, often with their intimate perspectives on the lives of children. I live in Cape Town and frequently attend film festivals to learn more about the world around me in places such as Iran, Lebanon, Israel, South Africa, Philippines, etc..

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