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Midwest Undergraduate Film Conference returns to Notre Dame

Observer Scene | Thursday, April 10, 2008

The 2nd Annual Midwest Undergraduate Film Conference kicks off this Friday at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts, and runs through Saturday evening. Admission is free and all speakers will present in Browning Cinema. Assistant Professors of Film, Television and Theater, Christine Becker and Christopher Sieving co-organized the conference and have worked to collect undergraduate authors of 30 of the best papers on film and media from all over the Midwest.

All students in Notre Dame’s FTT Honors Program were encouraged to submit proposals to the conference, but proposals from non-Honors students were accepted as well.

The Conference, which began last year under the direction of Associate Professor of Film, Television and Theater, Pam Wojcik, is once again a landmark event.

“[T]his is the sole undergrad-only media studies conference in the country,” Becker said.

Six Notre Dame seniors were among those chosen by Becker and Sieving to present this weekend along with undergraduates from other schools such as Indiana, Northwestern, the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago.

Becker sees the conference as an instrumental learning experience for all the students involved.

“It’s a great way for these students to learn more about media studies, it helps students develop relationships with their peers from other area schools, and it also gives them professional presentation experience,” Becker said. “Many of the presenters are interested in going on to graduate study, so the conference offers a great place for them to get a taste of that kind of advanced academic experience.”

The topics for the weekend’s papers are wide-ranging and diverse. Topics include “Female Revenge Films,” “Forgotten Film Stars,” Canadian and Iranian cinema, classic directors such as Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Bresson, as well as discussions of more recent films – like “Atonement,” “Stranger Than Fiction” and “Se7en.”

But the conference isn’t just for FTT majors.

Senior Honors student Brittany Lash, who will be presenting her paper entitled “The Modern Popular Hero in Cinema” on Friday evening, stressed that the conference is for all students, encouraging students of every major to attend the event.

“I think non-FTT majors would be surprised by how interesting it is,” she said. I’m talking about heroism and ‘Independence Day.’ Another paper is on ‘The X-Files.’ It’s not just films you haven’t heard of.”

And there are other reasons for attending too.

“[Students] should come because they get to hear these great new ideas that their peers are writing instead of dry, academic drivel in their text books. We’re presenting on a lot cool shows and movies,” said Senior Honors student Jenni Fong, who will be giving her paper entitled, “Because We Believe: Cult TV Fandom and The X-Files” on Saturday.

The conference is also a way to reward students for their outstanding work.

“They’re doing work that is of publishable quality,” said Becker, “This conference will help to give them the recognition they deserve for those efforts.”

The conference will function in three person panels with each panelist presenting a 20 minute paper, followed by 15 minute question and answer session run by a moderator. Becker pointed out that she was very pleased with how many of the moderators and panelists lined up. “For instance, FTT’s Donald Crafton will be moderating the panel on silent film exhibition,” she said. “And he’s one of the leading experts on silent cinema, so I know that both he and the students will find the experience and the sharing of knowledge really gratifying and productive.”

Jessica Burgers, a senior Honors student will close out the conference Saturday with an examination of the children’s subgenre of horror in her paper, “Children’s Horror in the 1970s and 1980s.”

“My interest in the topic is based on my own experiences with and enjoyment of children’s horror when I was younger, such as R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series, the television show ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ and the film ‘Hocus Pocus,'” Burgers said.

Other Notre Dame students who will be presenting at this weekend’s conference include, senior Maria Iuppa, presenting her paper, “A Hint of Perversion: Domesticity in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt,” and Breana Leader presenting on “Disney and Counterculture.” On Saturday, senior Cassie Belek will present her paper ‘Pos-Mens’: Product Integration in “30 Rock.”

Contact Mark Witte and [email protected]