MLSAC presents international films

Bravissimo!, Carnegie Mellon’s fifth annual International Film Festival, is underway. The festival, which began on March 21 and will run through April 16, features seven different films, each in one of the seven languages taught by the modern languages department. Films were subtitled in English so that students could enjoy the films regardless of which languages they understand. This year’s theme is “Cultures and Conflicts,” and each film relates to this concept in its own way.

The event was organized by members of the Modern Languages Student Advisory Council (MLSAC) to make students aware of the modern language department and expand MLSAC’s membership. They opened the screenings to the Pittsburgh community in an effort to bring students and community members together through the experience of learning about other cultures.

“We want to raise awareness about the different languages that are taught here at [Carnegie Mellon] and make sure that they’re culturally relevant to students,” said Alyx Kronstein, a junior linguistics and Russian studies major and president of MLSAC.

“[The film festival] is a good opportunity for us to offer free movies for the community,” said Nicole Hallinen, a junior psychology and French and Francophone studies major. “Anyone in the community can come. It’s a really acceptable way of learning about other countries.” Admission is free for everyone, Hallinen added.

This year, the group made sure that food accompanied every movie, both to entice more people to attend the events and to add an additional cultural element.

“We’re making the effort to have food with every movie so it’s more interesting,” Hallinen said. “It draws more people, and they can learn more about a snack they have in that country.”

In an attempt to heighten visibility and recruit new members, the group held a Late Night event, organized by Nicole Hallinen on Friday following the showing of the fourth film in the series, C.R.A.Z.Y., in French. The film details the struggle of a son willing to live a lie to gain the love of his father. Baked goods for the event were donated by Allegro Hearst Bakery in Squirrel Hill. In addition, the group provided Italian biscotti to accompany its screening of the Italian film The Golden Door on Thursday, donated by Enrico’s Biscotti in the Strip District. The Golden Door follows the life of a poor Sicilian family in the early 1900s that leaves Italy for America in search of a better life.

Other films screened were Nobody Knows in Japanese, on March 21, which is based on true events and depicts the lives of four children and how they survive after their mother abandons them; The Edukators in German, on March 26, about three German activists who break into the homes of wealthy people as an act of political rebellion; and Duck Season in Spanish, on March 27, which depicts two 14-year-olds, a pizza man, and a girl next door and how they are forced to relate to each other when a power outage cancels their plans for the day.
The group will show Saving Face, in Chinese, this Wednesday at 7 p.m., and The Italian, in Russian, on April 16 at 7 p.m. Saving Face revolves around a successful Chinese-American surgeon in New York and the challenges she faces when her single mother arrives at her apartment. The Italian is about an orphan who tries to find his mother in light of his imminent adoption by an Italian couple.

The festival is the main event that MLSAC plans each year. Planning began last year, when the group chose the films to be screened and developed the festival’s “Cultures and Conflict” theme.

“All the films interpret conflict in different ways,” Hallinen said. “With all of them you can believe them to be some form of conflict, even though in some of them it might be more direct physical fighting, and others it may be more abstract, like cultural conflict between different cultures.”

Kronstein estimated that a total of 10 to 15 people played a part in executing the festival, the majority of the MLSAC members and associated faculty and staff. In addition to Kronstein and Hallinen, student organizers included Lauren Balderston, a senior information systems major and film festival chairperson, Isabel Gardocki, a senior English major and film festival public relations chair, Nicholas Cole, a junior history major and film festival finance chair, Tokiea Fitzgerald, a sophomore psychology and philosophy major and MLSAC secretary, and Eric Tang, a master’s student in electrical and computer engineering and MLSAC treasurer. They were aided by MLSAC faculty advisor and Spanish professor Felipe Gomez, Japanese professor Sono Takano-Hayes, modern languages undergraduate coordinator Sue Connelly, and modern languages business manager Nancy Monda. The film festival committee did all the legwork to make the event happen, including ordering some of the films from other countries and asking local businesses to donate the food that accompanies the screenings.

For Hallinen and Kronstein, ironing out these minor details is well worth it once the festival is up and running.

“I love when I see a lot of people from community come and how they interact with university students. People our age get a bad rap for being lazy and unproductive, but we’re being productive trying to put on something for the community and showing them that we can contribute. I like seeing how people come together,” Kronstein said.

“We want to show that in learning a language you can do interesting things besides write essays or read novels,” Hallinen added. “You can go understand a movie or learn cultural things in addition to what you learn in class.”