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World Cinema Festival brings foreign films to College campus

and | Tuesday, January 28, 2020

When Bong Joon-ho accepted a Golden Globe for his film “Parasite,” he urged audiences not to let the barrier of subtitles prevent them from enjoying foreign films.

In line with Joon-ho’s perspective, the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership (CWIL) will bring foreign films — and subtitles — to the Saint Mary’s community this week with its annual World Cinema Festival, which will take place Tuesday and Wednesday. 

CWIL director Mana Derakhshani said the film festival has occurred each year for over a decade.

“The film festival has always been under my direction,” she said.

The festival began with the help of a grant that funded it for several years and was a series of French films at first.

“When that grant … ended then we decided to just do our own kind of international film festival, and we’ve been doing it every year since,” Derakhshani said.

The films selected for the festival come from a variety of sources, Derakhshani said.

“Typically I try to get suggestions from people,” she said. “I go online and look for films that have won awards, look for films that are directed by women sometimes, depending on the year. Some years I’ve done all [of the films] directed by women.”

Among the places she looked for films is an organization called Women Make Movies, which aims to support women producers and directors and “amplify historically ignored voices,” according to its website.

“I try to make it more commercial films than documentaries just to attract more students,” Derakhshani said. “I don’t want it to sound like it’s another class they have to go to, so I look for films that are entertaining.”

She said she likes to choose films that have “cinematic value” that students might not seek out on their own. Sometimes she chooses award-winning films, but this is not always the case.

The film festival will begin on Tuesday with a showing of director Eric Khoo’s film “Ramen Shop.”

“‘Ramen Shop’ is not award-winning … because it’s kind of a sentimental story … but it’s kind of visually good, and it’s ideal for foodies who like to watch a lot of films about food,” Derakhshani said. “So it’s light-hearted but it’s good.”

Wednesday’s film, “The Chambermaid,” is a Mexican film directed by Lila Aviles.

“[This] one is a better film in terms of critical reviews, and it has been nominated for some awards,” Derakhshani said. “[It’s] very different than the first one. I wouldn’t call it light-hearted. It’s more … slow paced — a day in the life of a chambermaid in a luxurious hotel in Mexico, so it’s kind of a slice-of-life kind of thing.”

Derakhshani said she thinks showing these films provides a learning opportunity for students.

“My goal all along has been to [contribute to] the internationalization of the campus — trying to bring to campus global awareness [and] some idea of what cinema looks like or feels like outside of Hollywood and the regular films that [students] are exposed to,” she said. “… Often I try to bring films that are in the languages that are being taught on campus because it’s also an additional language practice for students. … They are in the original language, so the expectation to read subtitles is there.”

The films provide an avenue to explore other cultures in a fun and enjoyable manner, Derakhshani asserted. 

“If you want to study break and were looking for something fun to do or change of pace, learn something about a different culture,” she said.

The World Cinema Festival will take place in Vander Vennet Theatre at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The screenings are free and open to the public.

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About Genevieve Coleman

Genevieve Coleman is a sophomore at Saint Mary's majoring in English literature and secondary education with minors in theatre and English writing. She currently serves as Saint Mary's News Editor.

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