The Sinclair auditorium welcomed members of the community to enjoy the French thriller film Caché and hold a discussion after the screening on Wednesday evening.
Taïeb Berrada, an assistant professor of French and francophone studies, introduced the second film in the first International Film Series hosted by the department of Modern Languages and Literatures. He intrigued the audience by giving backstory to help understand the film on a deeper level, sans spoilers.
The purpose of the series is to raise awareness of different cultures in addition to creating an appreciation for international cinema. The department wanted to create a conversation including Lehigh students, staff and members of the Lehigh Valley community that concerns issues that cut across languages.
“We wanted to promote an understanding of otherness and different cultures,” Berrada said.
The series is presenting a film for each language that students can major or minor in. The professors hope to entice students into taking courses within the department and perhaps even learning a foreign language. Films of various genres are shown every Monday and Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Sinclair auditorium.
“They’re aesthetic but at the same time entertaining,” Berrada said.
The Israeli and Arab film Ajami kicked off the series on Oct. 19. The crime drama displays the complex relationships between characters of Muslim, Jewish or Christian faiths. It also shows the tragedy of enemies living as neighbors as characters lives intertwine. One such relationship is a Palestinian attempting to create a life with his Jewish girlfriend.
The idea of a film series was conceived a few years ago but was never done due to lack of funding.
“The Provost’s office gave the department additional funds to increase its visibility,” said Antonio Prieto, an associate professor of Spanish and Hispanic studies.
These funds were used to finally bring that idea to life. Prieto said that hosting the festival would be costly due to paying royalties on each film. The extra funds relieved that pressure and gave the ability to make the film series free.
“We wanted to make the films open to students and staff and outside communities,” Prieto said.
Each film was carefully picked. The professors for each language chose a foreign film in its native language that represented their interests. For example, Berrada chose the French film Caché due to its inclusion in a book he wrote. His research includes North African French speaking literature and films and the African diaspora in Europe — France in particular.
Although Caché is a thriller, it serves as a metaphor for France’s history of forgetting traumas of the past and attempting to control what is remembered. Historical context of riots when African nations fought for independence from France is also present in the film.
Prieto chose to focus his film on the historical period in Argentina because he wanted to attract a larger audience. He believes that the film will be especially intriguing to the Spanish community and create a discussion where many can relate to each other.
He also stated that many of the films were picked to showcase international issues. They are used to start a dialogue with the community and to show how diverse various cultures are.
Berrada said that the most difficult aspect of creating the series was advertising. Numerous posters were created, ads placed in various local businesses, newspapers and around campus, as well as announcements placed on Lehigh’s local NPR station.
“The department’s Facebook account is under construction but there’s still announcements about the film series,” he said.
There was a low turnout for the first film. Berrada said that this being the first event of its kind may attribute to the lack of attendance for the first film.
Despite the struggles, the department enjoyed organizing the series. They said they are excited to share knowledge of other countries, time periods and approaches to problems that are expressed in the films in addition to discussing them with those who attend.
Working together also served as a bonding experience for the faculty members whose diverse interests can whose interests are wide.
“It’s a good way to start collaboration between department members,” Prieto said.
The department is curious to see how the series will play out. They hope to attract more viewers with each film.
“People tend to catch on with the event after it’s occurred a few times,” Prieto said.