Those taking a foreign language or interested in foreign films will have the opportunity to take a cinematic tour of the world with the modern languages and literatures department. From May 19 to 22, the department will present a mini film festival titled “In Four Days Around the World: Movies You Did Not Expect.”
Corinna Kahnke, who teaches all German language and literature classes at Cal Poly, organized the festival. She said the films have something new to offer, that they are not just the most obvious or traditional films coming from that country.
“The overall idea is that the films are a little bit unusual,” she said.
Kahnke has been screening German crime and horror films this quarter on Wednesdays from 7 to 9 p.m. “Benny’s Video” (1996), the film she chose for the festival, fits in with this quarter’s horror genre and will screen on Wednesday evening. The crime and horror series will continue until the end of the quarter.
The festival includes films in Russian, German, French and Spanish. Each of the four films are subtitled in English and will be shown in the language lab in the Erhart Agriculture building, room 128. The screenings will commence at 7 p.m. and will run until about 9 p.m. with a discussion of the film afterward. Before each film, the Cal Poly instructor who chose the film will introduce it and speak briefly about it to the students. Snacks will also be provided for the festival’s patrons.
Kahnke puts on an event for the department each quarter, but the film series, she said, will bring all the languages together for the first time. Her goal for the festival was to put something out where all the students could join together. Kahnke said she uses a lot of film in her language and literature classes, and that film is a great tool for learning the everyday speech of a language.
The festival opens Monday with a Russian film, “Kavakazskiy plennik” (“Prisoner of The Mountains,” 1996), which will be presented by Tom Trice of the history department, who has studied Russian extensively. The film, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, is a war drama that recounts the plight of two Russian soldiers who are ambushed and held captive by Muslim rebels as collateral for a man’s son being held in a Russian prison.
Trice said he selected the film because, although set in contemporary Russia, it connects modernity with the country’s Soviet and imperial pasts – and it is also one of his favorite films.
“In the two major Russian programs I took, they always incorporated film as part of the process,” he said.
Trice also said he found cinema helpful in learning the language, for it’s one thing to sit in a classroom and learn the language but another to listen to film or radio and encounter the idiomatic expressions and different accents. Film is “a window into any culture,” and “the history of film is so much more dynamic than what Hollywood has to offer,” he said.
The series continues on Tuesday with “Diarios de motocicleta” (“The Motorcycle Diaries,” 2004), a biographical account of the early travels of Ernesto “Che” Guevara across South America. Kevin Fagan, who teaches Spanish, Italian, philosophy and humanities classes at Cal Poly, will present the film.
“We want to promote Latin American culture here at Cal Poly,” Fagan said. “I did the Latin American movie because I lived most of my adult life in Latin America, and my wife is South American.”
Fagan, who is the faculty coordinator of the exchange program between Cal Poly and Universidad La Serena in Chile, said he finds the film helpful for students not only to understand the customs, politics and religion of South America, but also the geography of Chile, Perú and Colombia.
“We think it’s important to show the reality of South America,” he said.
The festival closes on Thursday with the French film “Gouttes d’eau sur pierres br–lantes” (“Water Drops on Burning Rocks,” 2000), presented by Brian Kennelly, chair of the modern language and literature department.
Kennelly said that he chose the film because of its curious nature.
“It involves couples, coupling, transsexuality, France, Germany, the 1970s and one of France’s most avant-garde directors,” he said. Kennelly said French cinema tends to be bolder and more daring than what Americans are used to, but he hopes the students will keep an open mind.
“That’s the danger in showing this film, but I think people will like it.”