The Oklahoma State University Cineculture Film Series started in 2009, and showcases a number of films each semester in order to help raise awareness and learn more about sociocultural, political and economic issues around the world and how they are relevant to us.
It is overseen by Dr. Denni Blum, an OSU professor in Social Foundations, who created the concept when she was a professor at Fresno State from 2004-08. Blum said a university setting is an ideal place to showcase such a film series because of a university’s vested interest in diversity and international issues and its desire to engage with the community.
“The venue becomes a ‘public classroom,’ where community members (including children and the elderly) can come together with the academic community and learn from each other; where both personal experience and intellectual knowledge are highly valued,” Blum said.
The Cineculture Series, which takes place at the Stillwater campus and OSU-Tulsa, shows four documentaries per semester, which are free and open to the public. The films are accompanied by a guest expert, which provides the audience a chance to ask questions about the documentary to someone who has either lived through similar situations or has experience in dealing with whatever the topic is.
The Series has a student president, as well as officers in both Stillwater and Tulsa. Blum said students select the documentaries each semester, and faculty advisers such as Blum, Dr. Jon Smythe, along with board members from the Dan Allen Center, find the guest for the post-screening productions.
The films are chosen based on what is deemed to be the most impactful, though Blum said all the films are deemed to be impactful to the viewers. The difference between seeing these films on Netflix or in a regular viewing setting don’t do the same justice as having a discussion about the film, which is why the film series has been a better way to learn about the issues that are being showcased.
“The dialogue that ensues after the film can make an indelible imprint,” Blum said. “Some speakers will bring literature or petitions for us to take action. Anyone can participate in the post-screening discussion. We have had a 7 year old ask questions and elderly people give testimony to events, such as the impact of the Civil Rights movement in Tulsa, when viewing ‘Brother Outsider.’ The audience is valued as much as the guest discussant. We highlight and acknowledge our community members, many who are unsung heroes. Regardless of level of education, the OSU Cineculture venue becomes a leveling ground, as everyone receives the foundational information in the documentary and this equips anyone to contribute to the dialogue that follows.”
The feedback for the film series has been excellent, according to Blum, and that increased awareness and even some commitment to taking political action have been results of people attending the film series. It also provides a chance for OSU students to receive extra credit from time to time as professors assign their students to see a film and then do a class project based on whatever the film was. Students can even get to the point of receiving a special cord at graduation as part of the diversity program.
The next film for the OSU Cineculture Series is set for 5:30 p.m. Jan. 30, which will be “Revolution 67,” which will showcase an example of police injustice against the African American community. The films are shown in 201 Willard Hall on campus, and are open to students and the community at large. The following are the synopses of the four films to be shown during the spring semester at both OSU-Stillwater and OSU-Tulsa:
* Jan. 30: Revolution 67: In 1967, black Newark, New Jersey taxi driver John Smith was arrested for a traffic violation and allegedly beaten and killed, precipitating the 1967 Newark riots. Revolution '67, with archival footage, details Newark's six-day revolt against poverty and police brutality.
* Feb. 20: The Grown Ups: The Grown-Ups is a glimpse into the lives of adults in Chile living with Down syndrome from director Maite Alberdi. With both humor and heartbreak, the film illuminates legal, financial and societal restrictions that diminish the freedoms of Chile's developmentally disabled population. Winner, Best Female- Directed Film at the 2016 International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.
* March 26: Homegoings: A South Carolina boy obsessed with funerals grows up to be a renowned funeral
director in New York City's historic Harlem neighborhood. Mortuary director Isaiah Owens of Owens Funeral Home in Harlem, N.Y., provides insight into where funeral rituals in the black community, which draw on a rich palette of tradition, history and celebration.
* April 23: Motherland: Ramona S. Diaz's latest film, Motherland, takes us into one of the busiest maternity wards in one of the world’s poorest and most populous countries: the Philippines. There, women face devastating consequences as their country struggles with reproductive health policy and the politics of conservative ideologies. Winner of Special Jury Award at Sundance 2017.