CFS a triumph of the arts at Villanova

Joe Cramer

Film is undeniably a significant part of our culture.

Beyond the films that you see in the top-10 listings at the box office each week are a wealth of unique and insightful portrayals of life, death, love and other universal concerns. Much like writing, thoughtful cinema can serve as a vault for ideas, sentiments and philosophies held by a particular culture at a given time. It can represent life as it is, or life as it should be.

Villanova’s Cultural Film and Lecture Series (CFS), which screens films in the Connelly Center Cinema, is one program that recognizes and celebrates this potential in film.

Founded in 1980 by Joan D. Lynch, the CFS traditionally shows 10 films per semester, each with an accompanying lecture and discussion panel designed to elaborate on some of the essential themes within each work.

Each semester a theme is selected, and the 10 films that play throughout the semester all explore and contribute to a greater understanding of that theme. Most films that play are classics, independent films, and documentaries and foreign films. Basically, the kind of film you won’t find at your local multiplex.

The draw of CFS screenings doesn’t only encompass the films themselves, as often the screenings themselves draw fascinating speakers to comment on the subject matter represented in a particular film.

Sometimes these speakers are professors who are experts of the topic, and sometimes they are writers, directors, and other industry professionals. What this amounts to is a unique combination of perspectives that provide much insight into the themes being studied.

The current series is called “Women Take the Camera,” and is a celebration of women working in cinema, a traditionally male-dominated field. Monday night featured a screening of the film “Caramel.”

The evening began with an introduction by the director of the CFS, John O’Leary. He announced some notable upcoming films in the semester, and soon introduced the guest speaker of the night, Nassar Chour, a professor of film at Villanova in the Communications department.

The film hit on a very personal level for Chour, who spent a “significant” period of his life in Beirut, where the film takes place. His introduction to a topic that is undoubtedly foreign to many students did much to familiarize the audience with the subject matter.

“Caramel” tells the story of five Lebanese women dealing with love and loss in Beirut. Chour noted perhaps the most striking aspect of the movie: the way it deals with ordinary life in a region characterized by American society as violent and turbulent. Chour argued that the true triumph of the film is the way it “breaks the pattern of ‘them and us.”‘

A film about the Middle East that deals with the personal rather than the political, it invokes a striking familiarity. In effect, it reveals the common desires that unite all people, regardless of race or gender.

The introductory speaker, a staple in Monday night showings, is one of the main draws of the CFS. Students, faculty and loyal film-buffs from the community at large alike came on Monday to hear Chour speak about a subject close to his heart.

The CFS offers a uniquely personal take on film that one would be hard pressed to find anywhere outside of a film festival.

“Caramel” is only one of the many superb films that the CFS will offer this semester. The committee in charge has made sure to integrate the films series into the academic community of Villanova, with many ACS professors encouraging their students to see the films as a part of the curriculum.

There are eight more chances in this semester alone to experience this fantastic program, and at no cost to students, these are opportunities that no one should miss. The CFS is one of the finest examples of Villanova supporting and embracing the arts, and it is ideal for anyone who loves film or new experiences.

Like “Caramel,” the triumph of the CFS is the way it embraces alternative views. Whether the film is a documentary about a little-known political figure or a deeply personal insider perspective of life and love in a foreign land, the CFS calls attention to views, ideas and cultures that otherwise might be missed.

Upcoming CFS Films

“Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed” Feb. 7, 8, 9

“Born Into Brothels” Feb. 14, 15, 16

“Thin” Feb. 21, 22, 23

“Working Girls” March 14, 15, 16

“Ciao, Professore!” March 21, 22, 23

“Getting Off” March 28, 29, 30

“Alice In Wonderland” April 4, 5, 6

“Washington Square” April 18, 19, 20