Although the screens of Cinema at the Whitney go dark this semester, other film societies on campus are ready for their close-ups.
The now defunct Cinema at the Whitney, funded approximately $30,000 a year by the Whitney Humanities Center, hosted two free weekly movie screenings in 35mm and garnered a reputation for intellectual fare.
“In general, we try to offer a wide variety of films, in terms of nationalities, periods, and genres,” said Cinema co-founder Jeremi Szaniawski GRD ’10 last spring. “[But spring semester ’08 was] our most ‘highbrow’ yet.”
That was the problem, Taylour Chang ’11, the president of Yale Film Society, said. “They liked to screen certain kinds of artistic films that were more obscure and very esoteric.”
“They weren’t very successful in bringing in audiences,” she continued. “They were given a lot of power because they had the Whitney Humanities Center and a very good budget, but unfortunately they were taking up that space every week … and people started to question whether that money should be put to other uses.”
Rising from the ashes of Cinema at the Whitney like a celluloid phoenix is Films at the Whitney, a group of faculty in the Film Studies Center who want to help host film-related events at the Whitney. This is different because it facilitates events that happen at WHC rather than dictating what happens, Chang said.
The Cinema at the Whitney is survived by the Yale Film Society, an undergraduate film appreciation society that holds weekly screenings based on monthly themes and invites people who work in the film industry to visit campus.
In the wake of the Cinema, YFS has “much greater access to the WHC,” Chang said. “It’s opened a lot of possibilities as far as using the space: we can pull larger events and be more inventive with the events that we host.”
The Yale Film Society board has two goals for this year: they are trying to be more active in general (the weekly screenings began this semester), and they also want to get more people from the industry on campus.
“We want to foster a film culture at Yale by trying to make available a lot of things that most people wouldn’t be exposed to,” said Elise Brown ’12, YFS Social Chair. “We really want to be more of a well-known club, but we want to be accessible — everyone should feel like they can come [to our events].”
The Yale Film Society is not the only option for those who want to watch movies and meet industry personnel, however. For more specialized fare, turn to the South Asian Film Society. Snigdha Sur ’12, who is a staff reporter for the News, said she founded the group over the summer to celebrate films about South Asia, by South Asians or produced within South Asia.
“South Asia is the largest producer of films — it produces over 1,000 films a year,” Sur said. “Our primary angle is to increase awareness.”
The South Asian Film Society plans to host a film festival from Jan. 29 to Jan. 31 of next year, screening films and bringing major directors to campus. In the future, Sur said, the Society would like to bring in more movies than just those produced in mainstream Northern India. Next year, she would like to screen Southern Indian movies and wants to feature one movie from each South Asian country.
YFS will be hosting a screening of Vincenzo Natali’s “Cube” on Sunday, Oct. 11 and the SAFS will be bringing in two to three directors from the Mahendra Arts Council in late October and early November.