Pillbox

International Film Festival

The second annual International Film
Festival (IFF) began last Tuesday evening in the McConomy Auditorium. The festival, titled ?Journeying Abroad,? will continue into April and provide an opportunity for the Carnegie Mellon community to see a film from a foreign land each week. Last year?s festival featured films from countries whose languages are taught at Carnegie Mellon, but this year the festival expanded to include films from India, Thailand, and Palestine. The festival has, however, continued to host co-productions whose films are brought by more than one country.
Two campus groups are behind the creation of the IFF: the Modern Languages department and the Modern Languages Student Advisory Council (MLSAC). Yet the festival really benefits from the volunteerism of students within the Modern Languages department as well as some from outside who are simply interested. Also, for IFF 2005 a few of the campus?s international organizations were instrumental in gaining funding and suggesting films that represented their cultures. The Arab Student Organization, Mayur, the Thai Student Association, and the Indian Graduate Students Association are all participants in this year?s festival.
The festival founder and faculty advisor for the project, Paz Macias-Fernandez, was able to speak about the creation of this year?s festival as well as the motivation behind the festival in general. The website for IFF 2005 states that the purpose of the festival is to provide ?...an intentional Service-Learning project that aims at fostering diversity on campus and serving the community.? Macias-Fernandez described the component of service learning through the lens of what it does for others and for those who volunteer: ?The whole idea of service learning is to integrate academic and experiential learning with civic engagement.... They [the student volunteers] are making progress in their academic disciplines and at the same time serving the community.?
Volunteers among students and faculty help to work in the festival, distributing tickets, coordinating events, suggesting films, and fundraising. ?We made a great fundraising effort to raise every penny to bring these great films to campus and got generous gifts from both external and internal CMU sources,? wrote Macias-Fernandez via e-mail.
Susan Gregg, who became president of MLSAC just this semester, also spoke about the current need for volunteers for the festival. ?Of course we recruit people from MLSAC directly, but our organization isn?t really too big,? said Gregg, who is a junior majoring in business administration and German. ?I?m going to be going around in the next week or so to as many Modern Languages classes as possible.? Gregg may have just recently taken over the position of president, but she has plans for increasing awareness of the group and the festival. ?I really want to get MLSAC and this film festival more involved on the campus,? she said. MLSAC is involved largely in communicating with various areas of the school for events such as these and also with coordinating volunteers. Gregg added, ?I want MLSAC to be a way to recruit volunteers and to just get the word out about the festival ... and then also to act as coordinators between Student Life [and other organizations].?
Some student volunteers assisting with the festival are not from the Modern Languages Department. One such student, senior double major in computer science and economics Amos Boon Hui, assisted in the production of the festival by designing the IFF 2005 website. Macias-Fernandez noted that whether language majors or simply interested in the program, the volunteers are gaining experience that will be helpful to them in their careers.
The background to the theme of this year?s festival was inspired by a frequent experience among college students ? studying abroad. This year, the theme is ?journeys,? encompassing the physical, metaphorical and spiritual. The festival had to broaden its topic from the literal idea of study-abroad programs, but it still chose to focus on travel. ?We didn?t want it to be flat ? like a study abroad theme. We wanted it to have some depth. The word ?journey? to us suggests ... a trip, a vacation, a study-abroad program as well as the journey of life,? explained Marcias-Fernandez when asked how the theme developed from the idea of study-abroad programs.
Another of the facets of the IFF mission is the encouragement of an understanding of the ?current state of world cinema,? according to the IFF website. Macias-Fernandez described the goal of the festival and what world cinema may be striving for: ?Any other part of the world feels this pressure to be the same and to be different from Hollywood.... We are trying to get another flavor and other cultural views, other cinema views.? Thus, she added, some of the films may be along the lines of a Hollywood production, but many will be deliberately distinct from typical Hollywood fare.
A final important aspect of the IFF development comes from its promotion of learning, according to Macias-Fernandez. She teaches two classes to two very different audiences, one called Spain: Language and Culture, and one for the Academy of Lifelong Learning, a program sponsored by Carnegie Mellon that helps older students continue their educations. Macias-Fernandez has elected to ask students in her undergraduate course to introduce the films before each showing and to lead post-screening discussions. Other classes similar to Spain: Language and Culture, for other languages, are also offering
students the opportunity to introduce the films before the showings. Students who do so may be brought to the class for the Academy of Lifelong Learning and will discuss the film as experts on the culture from which it comes. Macias-Fernandez says that placing students in this situation will allow for greater learning: Each student, she explained, ?[is] going to have to be the ambassador of this culture.? She added that this ?creates a unique opportunity for enhanced learning and civic engagement.?
Though the festival is a form of entertainment for students, faculty, and the community, it is also a way to focus on multiculturalism and a opportunity to involve students in a service project at Carnegie Mellon.

Michelle Bova
Assistant Pillbox Editor