Film festivals can help broaden horizons

Film festivals can help broaden horizons

By Paker Otto

Going to the theater is a special experience, and the feeling of seeing an engaging story play out on a large screen in the dark with no distractions is paradise. The 2020 spring semester brings several film events to students that they can use to broaden their horizons and experience film with others.

This includes the continuation of the 35 mm film series hosted by the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., as well as the NIU-sponsored Tournées Film Festival and Reality Bytes Film Festival.

Film is an important art form that combines other arts such as music, theater and photography. From the experimental films of the Lumière Brothers at the turn of the 20th century to the wonders of “Avengers: Endgame,” film is a language that speaks to everyone. It has developed into major industries in many countries across the world including the U.S., India and France.

Today, students are too accustomed to having films on their handheld devices and are more used to watching content from Netflix and similar streaming services. Because of this, the desire to watch films on a large screen in a theater is diminished.

“I think everything is better on a big screen,” Randy Caspersen, associate professor of media studies, said. “Films were designed to be seen that way.”

However, the price of theater tickets has gone up, which means that the average student might not be able to see films as often. The 35 mm film series hosted by the Egyptian Theatre is a fantastic way for students to see classic films in a forgotten format at a lovely theater. The price is only $8 per student ticket. The series began on Sept. 15 and will continue until May.

“35 [mm] is a purer way to see film,” Jeffrey Chown, an emeritus professor in the department of communication, said. Nowadays, films are mainly shot and shown digitally, so viewing 35 mm films gives the viewer insight into how films were originally screened.

The next film in the series will be “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” on Sunday. “Snow White” is best known as the first animated feature film and made Walt Disney a household name. Other titles include “Gone With The Wind” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

“I think that students should be interested in seeing 35 mm,” communication professor Matt Swan said. “The format is rarely seen, and the quality of film is so different than video.”

Seeing 35 mm films at the Egyptian Theatre is more than a trip to the theater. It’s a fantastic experience that takes one back to the Golden Age of cinema from the 1930s to the 60s. This allows the audience to see a classic film the way people would have seen it when it came out. The 35 mm films also often feature short animated films, newsreels from the time period or other advertisements, including ones that say to only smoke in the theater lobby, a practice now banned in the Egyptian Theatre and most other theaters.

Another film screening students can experience is The Tournées Film Festival, which displays French films, including documentaries and narrative films. The series will take place on select nights in February and March, and all the films will contain French dialogue with English subtitles, according to the event’s Facebook page.

The French film industry is an important part of cinema as a whole and was part of the “new wave” of films in the 60s, Swan said.

Among the films shown will be “Tazzeka,” which chronicles the life of a Morrocan Chef in Paris, and “La Douleur,” a tale of a French woman during the occupation of France in WWII, which will be shown 5 p.m. Feb. 20 and March 5 in Cole Hall, respectively.

Seeing foreign films is good for students, because it expands their minds to other cultures.

“Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films,” Bong Joon Ho, director of the Academy Award winning, South Korean film “Parasite,” said in his acceptance speech at the 77th Golden Globe Awards Jan. 5.

The Reality Bytes Film Festival is an annual film festival held from 9 to 11 p.m. April 13 to 15 in Cole Hall. The festival, founded in 2001 by Communication Professor Dr. Laura Vazquez, displays short documentary and narrative films from across the world, with submissions being accepted until Feb. 23, according to its website.

“Reality Bytes gives a good sense about what students are doing around the world and what can be done,” Chown said.

Many of the films submitted are made by students, both in college and high school, and the students who attend can vote on their favorite films, Caspersen said.

The first two nights of the festival consist of student films, and the final night sees a guest speaker elaborate on their filmmaking experience. Last year’s guest was NIU alumnus Darryl Silver who spoke about his journey from working in the Universal Studios mailroom to becoming an executive producer for television programs like “The Apprentice,” according to a 2019 Northern Star article.

“Reality Bytes might inspire some students who have a desire to make films,” Swan said. “It’s something that’s unique to NIU and is an awesome three days.”

Going to film festivals and local screenings is something students should consider because of the importance of the art form.

“Today’s students are missing the sense of being overpowered by film,” Chown said. “We try to control film instead of having it control you.”

This includes watching films in sections instead of all the way through, being distracted by elements including electronic devices and hardly watching the film. Not only that, but the average filmgoer is less concerned with seeing ambitious artistic ventures and more focused on superhero films, Chown said.

While these kinds of blockbusters are entertaining, people who go out to see films should take a chance more often and see different kinds of films with multiple opportunities to experience films in the DeKalb area.

Watching cinema is not something one should do to kill time because then the film isn’t special at all. A good film should leave a viewer emotionally different and give a viewer a different perspective on something whether it be divorce, as seen in “Marriage Story,” or the role of satire like in “Jojo Rabbit.”

When students make an effort to see different kinds of films, including documentaries, foreign films and classic cinema, their understanding of the art form will be changed.