Humanities Film Series

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The Humanities Film Series at York College of Pennsylvania is an interdisciplinary program sponsored by the English & Humanities Department that is designed to promote the humanities on campus and in the surrounding community by encouraging a serious and ongoing examination of and discussion about cinema.    All too often, in our media-saturated and leisure-driven culture, we approach film as a form of disposable entertainment; movies are passively “consumed” and soon forgotten, leaving no lasting impression and prompting little in the way of critical dialogue.  The Humanities Film Series aims to transform such viewing habits by presenting films in an academic context, one in which students and members of the community will learn about the various aesthetic, industrial, social, and historical dimensions of cinema, while at the same time having the opportunity to enter into meaningful debates about the nature of the medium and its effects.  In this way, the Humanities Film Series helps to foster on campus and in the community a renewed understanding of and appreciation for this major art form, one that—along with television—is perhaps the predominant way in which the contemporary Western world represents itself.

The Humanities Film Series will consist of between four and six advertised film screenings per academic year that are free and open to the entire college and to the surrounding community.  At each of the film screenings, a guest scholar or filmmaker will, after a short introductory lecture, present a film and lead discussion about it afterward.  The films screened will vary widely to include classic as well as contemporary American and foreign movies.  The present and past schedules for the series can be found below.


2014-15 Humanities Film Series

2013-14 Humanities Film Series

2012-13 Humanities Film Series

2011-12 Humanities Film Series

2010-11 Humanities Film Series

2009-10 Humanities Film Series

2008-09 Humanities Film Series

2007-08 Humanities Film Series

2006-07 Humanities Film Series

2005-06 Humanities Film Series


2014-15 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2014


Thursday, September 11

The Wizard of Oz (1939), with Author Jay Scarfone

2014 marks the 75th anniversary of the premiere of The Wizard of Oz (1939), one of the most beloved films of all time and a touchstone in American popular culture.  Its colorful tale of young Dorothy and her little dog Toto, who are transported by a twister from Depression-era Kansas to the magical Land of Oz, has enchanted audiences for generations.  And no one knows more about this classic movie than Jay Scarfone.  With co-author William Stillman, Scarfone has written several books on its creation and its legacy, including, most recently, The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion (Harper, 2013).  In addition, Scarfone and Stillman have amassed one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive archives of memorabilia from the film.  As historians and collectors, they have appraised rare Wizard of Oz material for auction houses and lectured extensively about the movie in a variety of venues.  Mr. Scarfone will join us for a special diamond jubilee presentation of The Wizard of Oz and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 11 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, October 16

Freaks (1932), with Professor Will Dodson

One of the oddest and most provocative films produced by the studio system during the classical Hollywood era, Freaks (1932) tells the tale of a band of circus sideshow performers who take revenge when one of their own is targeted by an avaricious trapeze artist.  The movie outraged audiences upon its release and was quickly pulled from theaters by its studio, MGM.  It was later revived in the 1960s as a cult film, but its box office failure more or less ended the career of its director, Tod Browning, who had been one of Hollywood’s top horror filmmakers.  As a result, critics have tended to see Freaks as an unfortunate misstep in Browning’s career; however, Will Dodson, a Professor of Rhetoric, Literature, and Media Studies at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, contends that the film was central to the director’s project of creating a uniquely American brand of cinematic Expressionism.  Professor Dodson will outline this argument in his introduction to the movie and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 16 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, November 20

Blackfish (2013), with Professor Jessica Nolan

Blackfish (2013) is a searing documentary that focuses on the captive life of a killer whale named Tilikum.  Tilikum was captured near Iceland in 1983 when he was approximately two years old.  Since then, he has lived at two different marine parks, performing in shows and playing an important role in captive breeding programs.  He has also been involved in three trainer deaths, the most recent and sensational of which was the 2010 drowning of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau.  Orcinus orcas (killer whales) have been kept in captivity since the 1960s, but there is growing controversy over this practice.  Blackfish examines the costs of keeping these top predators in finite tanks within marine parks.   In her introduction to the film, Jessica Nolan, a Professor of Marine Biology at York College, will present background on these amazing animals, discussing the social structure, vocalization, and ecology of wild Orcas, as well as current research focusing on human impacts on Orca populations.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 20 in Humanities Center 218.




Thursday, February 19

Her (2013), with Professor Dennis Weiss

Do you love your iPhone? I mean really love your iPhone? Is it the first thing you wake up to and the last thing you connect with before falling asleep? Do you find yourself whispering sweet nothings to Siri? If so, you’re not all that unusual today. Pew Research reports that 90% of young adults sleep with their smart phone and one in three would rather give up sex than their phone. Maybe you’re an avatar of the future, at least of the future imagined in Spike Jonze’s Her (2013), a fascinating meditation on technology and the boundaries of humanity. Set in 2025, Her tells the story of Theodore Twombly’s loving relationship with Samantha, an artificially intelligent operating system designed to adapt and evolve. Her portrays a future plugged-in life which echoes cyborg anthropologist Donna Haraway’s observation that, “our machines are disturbingly alive, and we ourselves are frighteningly inert.” Might we learn to love our machines in the not-too-distant future? I mean really love our machines? York College Professor of Philosophy Dennis Weiss will introduce Her and lead a discussion of the possibilities of human-machine love following the screening of this vision of our potential future digital lives.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 19 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, March 12

Laura (1944), with Professor Peter Lev

Laura (1944), the story of an investigation into the brutal murder of a beautiful woman, is widely regarded as a classic example of film noir.  A mystery full of flashbacks and plot twists, featuring dark rainy nights and a detective hero at the mercy of a memorable (albeit unconventional) femme fatale, it is certainly representative of the genre.  But according to Peter Lev, a Professor of Film at Towson University and the author of Twentieth Century-Fox: The Zanuck-Skouras Years, 1935-1965 (University of Texas Press, 2013), it is also an excellent example of collaborative authorship in the Hollywood studio era.  Laura was forged from the strong, sometimes conflicting, visions of producer-director Otto Preminger and studio head Darryl Zanuck; good writing by novelist Vera Caspary and four screenwriters; fine performances by Gene Tierney, Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews and Vincent Price; and a lovely score by David Raksin.  This kind of confluence of talent was made possible by the genius of a system which, although it could be rigid and despotic, produced some of the greatest motion pictures ever made.  Dr. Lev will join us for a presentation of Laura and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 12 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, April 23

Computer Chess (2013), with Director Andrew Bujalski

Set during a weekend tournament for chess software programmers in the early 1980s, Computer Chess (2013) transports viewers to a nostalgic moment when the contest between technology and the human spirit seemed a little more up for grabs.  We get to know the eccentric geniuses possessed of the vision to teach a metal box to defeat man, literally, at his own game, laying the groundwork for artificial intelligence as we know it and will come to know it in the future.  Computer Chess is the brainchild of acclaimed independent writer and director Andrew Bujalski.  Bujalski’s past films include Funny Ha Ha (2002), Mutual Appreciation (2005), and Beeswax (2009), all of which have appeared on New York Times critics' “Top Ten of the Year” lists.  Funny Ha Ha was also identified by A.O. Scott as one of the Ten Most Influential Films of the '00s. Between his own projects, Bujalski has also worked as a screenwriter-for-hire and a teacher of film production at Boston University and the University of Texas.  In a special appearance as part of the Humanities Film Series, this talented and important filmmaker will present his latest movie and answer questions about it after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 23 in Humanities Center 218.


2013-14 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2013


Thursday, October 17

Suspiria (1977), with Professor Ian Olney

From the 1950s to the 1980s, horror movies emerged from Europe in astonishing numbers and were shown regularly in the United States at drive-ins and at grindhouse theaters of the sort that once filled Times Square in New York City.  Gorier, sexier, and just plain stranger than most American horror films of the time, these “Euro horror” films were embraced by hardcore genre fans and denounced by critics as the worst kind of cinematic trash.  By the end of the last century, they had been more or less forgotten, but today they are being rediscovered by viewers and cited as influences by directors like Quentin Tarantino and David Gordon Green.  What explains the Euro horror revival?  To answer this question, Ian Olney, a professor of English at York College and the author of Euro Horror: Classic European Horror Cinema in Contemporary American Culture (Indiana University Press, 2013), will present a celebrated Euro horror movie, Dario Argento’s occult thriller Suspiria (1977), discussing its unique qualities and its enduring appeal to audiences.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 17 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, November 21

The Good Earth (1937), with Professor Xiaofei Li

The Good Earth (1937) is derived from Pearl S. Buck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name.  The film tells the moving story of a Chinese farming couple whose lives are torn apart by poverty, greed, and the forces of nature.  They struggle to build a life together, but after finally finding success, a plague of locusts descends upon their land, bringing a true test of the couple's perseverance.  The film not only introduced U.S. audiences in the 1930s to family life in rural Chinese, but also helped prepare Americans to consider the Chinese as allies in the coming war with Japan.  In her introduction of The Good Earth, York College professor of Political Science Xiaofei Li will discuss the central role that Confucianism plays in the movie and in traditional Chinese culture. She will also answer questions regarding other key facets of film--its attitude toward wealth, the meaning of its title, and its representation of East Asian culture--after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 21 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, December 5

Compliance (2012), with Director Craig Zobel

Inspired by true events, Compliance (2012) tells the chilling story of just how far one might go to obey a figure of authority.  On a particularly busy day at a suburban Ohio fast food joint, high-strung manager Sandra (Ann Dowd) receives a phone call from a police officer saying that an employee, a pretty young blonde named Becky (Dreama Walker), has stolen money from a customer. Convinced she’s only doing what’s right, Sandra commences an investigation, following step-by-step instructions from the officer at the other end of the line, no matter how invasive they become.  After its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Compliance received rave reviews from critics, especially for the powerful performances of its lead actors and the uncompromising vision of its writer-director, Craig Zobel.  Zobel, who visited York College in 2010 to present his last film, Great World of Sound (2007) as part of the Humanities Film Series, will return to screen this new movie, described by the New York Times as “brilliant” and by Rolling Stone as “indispensable filmmaking.”  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, December 5 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, February 6

All is Lost (2013), with Producer Neal Dodson

Academy Award winner Robert Redford stars in All Is Lost (2013), an open-water thriller about one man’s battle for survival against the elements after his sailboat is destroyed at sea.  Written and directed by Academy Award nominee J.C. Chandor, the film is a gripping, visceral and powerfully moving tribute to ingenuity and resilience.  Deep into a solo voyage in the Indian Ocean, an unnamed man (Redford) wakes to find his 39-foot yacht taking on water after a collision on the high seas.  Using only a sextant and nautical maps to chart his progress, he is forced to rely on ocean currents to carry him into a shipping lane in hopes of hailing a passing vessel.  But with the sun unrelenting, sharks circling and his meager supplies dwindling, the ever-resourceful sailor soon finds himself staring his mortality in the face.  The movie, which premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, is the latest produced by York native Neal Dodson for Before the Door Pictures, a company he formed in 2008 with longtime friends and collaborators Zachary Quinto and Corey Moosa.  Dodson visited York College in 2011 to show Before the Door’s first feature, Margin Call (2011) as part of the Humanities Film Series.  This year, he returns to present All Is Lost and answer questions about it after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 6 in the Waldner Performing Arts Center.


Thursday, March 27

A Test of the Emergency Broadcast System: Cinephilia & Sci-Fi, with Professor Rashna Richards

Sci-fi films from the 1950s are usually thought to invoke fear of Communist invasion and the threat of nuclear disaster. But, made at a time when the slow but ceaseless crumble of the studio system was already underway, they also reveal Hollywood's own eschatological anxieties. Drawing on cinephiliac moments from various sci-fi films, Rashna Richards, a professor of English at Rhodes College and the author of Cinematic Flashes: Cinephilia and Classical Hollywood (Indiana University Press, 2013), will explore how American cinema of this era aligns itself with sagacious storytelling, in competition with a new rival, television, which offered nothing more than cold, indifferent information. She will show how, in representing itself as the endangered species, Hollywood became allied with all that was wholesome, masculine, and American--and under threat from the alien Other. For her, this illustrates how quickly the movies adjusted to the new popular culture landscape; while the studio system did not survive, Hollywood did, by unpredictably adjusting to a new media universe.  A question-and-answer session will follow the lecture.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 27 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, April 10

Bernie (2011), with Professor David Johnson

Bernie (2011) tells the true story of Bernie Tiede (Jack Black), a small-town Texas mortician who forges an unlikely friendship with an older wealthy woman (Shirley MacLaine) that eventually leads to murder.  The crime and trial consumed the imagination of the local community when it first occurred, largely because no one believed Tiede would ever be convicted, so beloved was he by the town.  Director Richard Linklater, collaborating on a screenplay with Skip Hollandsworth from an article originally written for Texas Monthly, brings this strange true-crime story to screen in a film that was initially panned by reviewers but later found commercial and critical success.  David T. Johnson, a professor of English at Salisbury University and author of the recent book Richard Linklater (University of Illinois Press, 2012), will introduce the film, discussing it in the context of Linklater’s work as a director.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 10 in Humanities Center 218.


2012-13 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2012


** DATE CHANGE **  Friday, September 28  ** DATE CHANGE **

The Jones/Havemeyer Wedding (2012), with Director Victor Quinaz

Breaking up is hard to do... on your wedding day.  Phil and Alison's wedding video reveals that the bride and groom are keeping a few secrets from their guests--like the little detail that they are not, in fact, getting married.  At their botched rehearsal dinner, Alison hatches a plan to go through with the wedding despite the fact that she wants to break up.  Phil goes along with it because he secretly thinks his surprise wedding gift will change Alison's mind.  Of course everything gets incredibly complicated incredibly fast when their guests arrive and the wedding party spirals into credit debt, wife swapping, sex tapes, mayhem, and donuts.  And the whole thing is caught on tape by Alison and Phil's videographer.  The Jones/Havemeyer Wedding (2012) is a new, innovative "found-footage" romantic comedy co-writtten and directed by Victor Quinaz.  Quinaz is the mastermind behind the successful web series, PERIODS.Films, and has been involved in the production of many commercials, documentaries, and music videos, with clients ranging from Absolut Vodka and Malibu Rum to the IFC/Sundance Channel and Rockstar Games.  His short film, Chinese Dream (2004), was short-listed for the 2005 Academy Awards and has played in over fifty international film festivals.  He will be on hand to introduce The Jones/Havemeyer Wedding, his first feature film, and answer questions about it after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Friday, September 28 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, October 11

"21st-Century Hollywood," with Professors Wheeler Dixon and Gwendolyn Foster

In the twenty-first century, Hollywood remains the principal superpower of world cinema and a prime purveyor of popular entertainment for global audiences.  But almost everything about the way it makes and markets movies has changed.  Today, Hollywood movies are shot using high-definition cameras, with computer-generated effects added in postproduction, and digitally transmitted to theaters, websites, and video-on-demand networks worldwide.  They are viewed on laptops, iPods, and cell phones, as well as on IMAX screens and in 3-D.  They are the product of cutting-edge technologies that have revolutionized media production, content distribution, and the experience of moviegoing itself.  In a joint address co-sponsored by the Humanities Film Series and the Literature/Film Association, Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Professors of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and co-authors of 21st-Century Hollywood: Movies in the Era of Transformation (Rutgers, 2011), will discuss the radical changes that Hollywood cinema has undergone in the twenty-first century and what these changes bode for the future of the movies in the United States and around the world.  A question-and-answer session with Professors Dixon and Foster will follow the lecture.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 11 in the Collegiate Performing Arts Center.

Thursday, November 15

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), with Professor Ilana Krug

From The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and The Seventh Seal (1957) to Beowulf (2007) and Brave (2012), movies set in the Middle Ages have long proven popular with audiences.  A close examination of these movies reveals, however, that they are often less about the “real” Middle Ages than they are about the fantasies we harbor about that famous historical period.  Perhaps no movie better demonstrates this than Monty Python’s classic satire of medieval England, Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).  The film loosely traces the quest of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table for the Holy Grail, with iconic scenes and dialogue that have become firmly entrenched in contemporary popular culture.  Yet are we to understand this vision of the Middle Ages as a historically-accurate representation of the era, or is it an example of “medievalism?” In her presentation of the film, Ilana Krug, a professor of History at York College, will tackle this question and discuss the broader role of medievalism in popular culture today.  A question-and-answer session with Professor Krug will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 15 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, February 28

Mad Men (2007- ), with Professor Justin Harlacher

Mad Men is one of the most popular and critically-praised dramatic series currently on television.  Since its premiere in 2007, it has generated considerable buzz and has steadily built a viewership that tunes into the AMC Network each week to check in with the charming and mysterious Donald Draper.  The show is part of what some critics have described as a new golden age of television, one in which television programming, once seen as inferior to film, has now become the destination for audiences looking for the kind of complex characters and innovative storytelling previously associated only with cinema.  As part of this year’s Humanities Film Series, two episodes from Mad Men’s first season, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” and “Red in the Face,” will be introduced by York College professor of Film Studies Justin Harlacher, who will discuss the ways in which the show reflects television’s adoption of film’s visual style and narrative techniques, and consider what these changes mean to the ways audiences relate to television programming.  A question-and-answer session with Professor Harlacher will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 28 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, March 21

The Artist (2011), with Weinstein Company Executive Jodi Murphy

One of the most celebrated films of 2011 was The Artist, a heart-felt homage to Hollywood movies of the 1920s.  Although it was shot in black and white by a French director with French actors in the lead roles, and is, for all practical purposes, a silent film, it was embraced by viewers and won most of the top prizes at the 2012 Academy Awards, including the Oscars for Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture.  The enormous success of The Artist can largely be attributed to the efforts of the Weinstein Company, the multimedia production and distribution company that handled the movie’s release in the United States following its premiere at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.  Launched in 2005 by Bob and Harvey Weinstein after their departure from Miramax, the legendary movie company they co-founded in 1979, the Weinstein Company has produced and distributed some of the most popular and critically-acclaimed films of the last several years, including The Reader, The King’s Speech, My Week with Marilyn, and The Iron Lady.  Its enthusiastic and intensive campaign on behalf of The Artist ensured that the film captured the audience and the attention it deserved.  No one knows this better than Jodi Murphy, who is Senior Vice-President of Worldwide Delivery for the Weinstein Company and an alumna of York College (’89).  In her introduction of The Artist, she will offer a unique, behind-the-scenes account of the Weinstein Company’s distribution and promotion of the film; she will also answer questions about her role at the company and her long history working with the Weinsteins after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 21 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, April 25

Coriolanus might be Shakespeare’s least sympathetic hero: the Roman general is a dynamo of violence who sneers at the plebeians and betrays them to invaders.  As embodied by Ralph Fiennes in Coriolanus (2011), however, the character has undeniable appeal.  For critic Slavoj Žižek, Fiennes’s winning portrayal evokes “a saint in an Orthodox icon…offering us the figure of the radical freedom fighter.”  Yet for Dr. Noel Sloboda, Professor of English at Penn State York and dramaturg for the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company, what really makes this version of the tragic figure resonant is the way Fiennes (who co-wrote and directed) humanizes him--without blunting his sharp edges.  Instead, Fiennes helps us understand what has whetted them, evoking the acute anxiety that comes from living in a complex and unstable world.  His Coriolanus tries to play a variety of often-contradictory parts, lurching from husband to son, from leader to follower, from man of war to man of peace, until finally he loses his balance and falls in classic Shakespearean fashion.  Adding a contemporary twist to his characterization, Fiennes also comments on the ways in which film and television frame--and sometimes skew--our perceptions not only of heroes, but also of ourselves.  A question-and-answer session with Professor Sloboda will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 25 in Humanities Center 218.



2011-12 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2011


Thursday, October 27

The Lives of Others (2006), with Professor Mary Boldt

What is a good person?  Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Academy Award-winning film debut, The Lives of Others (2006), examines this question against the backdrop of the Soviet-era East German police state.  Gerd Wiesler, a captain in the German Democratic Republic’s notorious secret police, the Stasi, finds himself questioning his long-held values while spying on a prominent playwright who unwittingly draws Wiesler into a world of tenderness, passion… and danger.  For this unique presentation of The Lives of Others, Mary Boldt, a Professor of German at York College, will provide the historical context necessary to understand the movie, as well as glimpses into subtleties of the film that do not translate in the English subtitles.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 27 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, November 17

Margin Call (2011), with Producer Neal Dodson

A gripping thriller and a clear-eyed indictment of greed and malfeasance on Wall Street, Margin Call (2011) tracks eight people at an important investment bank over the course of a single tumultuous day in the early stages of the 2008 financial crisis.  Boasting an all-star cast—including Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Demi Moore, and Stanley Tucci—the film manages to tackle a hugely complex episode in recent American history in a way that is, according to the New York Times, “both intimately scaled and dazzling in its sweep and implication.”  After its premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, Margin Call went on to play at the Berlin Film Festival and was selected as the opening feature at the annual New Directors/New Films festival in New York.  While the film is a credit to its writer and director, JC Chandor, it is also a triumph for Before the Door Pictures, a production company formed in 2008 by longtime friends and collaborators Neal Dodson, Zachary Quinto, and Corey Moosa: Margin Call is their first feature film.  In a special guest appearance as part of the 2011-12 Humanities Film Series, producer Neal Dodson, a native of York, will present his movie and answer questions about it after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 17 in Humanities Center 218.



**DATE CHANGE**    Thursday, December 1    **DATE CHANGE**

Goodbye Solo (2009), with Director Ramin Bahrani

The latest movie from acclaimed independent filmmaker Ramin Bahrani, Goodbye Solo (2008) charts an unlikely friendship forged on the lonely roads of Winston-Salem, North Carolina by Solo, a Senegalese cab driver working to provide a better life for his young family, and William, a tough Southern “good old boy” with a lifetime of regrets.  Since debuting at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the prestigious FIPRESCI International Critics Prize, Goodbye Solo has been widely praised by film critics.  Indeed, it was named one of the best movies of 2009 by the New York Times’s A.O. Scott, who described it as an “almost perfect film.”  Bahrani himself has been hailed by Roger Ebert as “the new great American director.”  In a special guest appearance as part of the 2011-12 Humanities Film Series, this talented and important filmmaker will present Goodbye Solo, along with his recent short film, Plastic Bag (2009), and answer questions about his work after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 29 in Humanities Center 218.





Thursday, February 16

Weapons of the Spirit (1989), with Director Pierre Sauvage

Scarcely known to the outside world, the small French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon was the scene of an extraordinary episode of communal courage during World War II.  As 75,000 Jews were being deported from Occupied France by the Nazis, the Christian Chambonnais quietly banded together to rescue 5,000 of them—nearly as many Jews as there were villagers—from almost certain death.  Years later, filmmaker Pierre Sauvage discovered that he was one of those 5,000 Jews and set out to discover what had motivated the inhabitants of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon to act as they did.  The result was his award-winning documentary, Weapons of the Spirit (1989), an unforgettable film that opens a window onto the human soul.  Mr. Sauvage will be on hand to present his movie and answer questions about it.  Program begins at 3:30pm on Thursday, February 16 in Humanities Center 218.  A lecture by the filmmaker will follow at 7pm in the DeMeester Recital Hall.



**DATE CHANGE**    Thursday, March 8    **DATE CHANGE**

Dead Snow (2009), with Professor Cynthia Miller

In the 1940s, our greatest fear was that the Nazis would win the Second World War.  Now, it’s that they’ll come back from the dead.  Nazi zombies have shambled, lumbered, and run headlong through popular culture since the mid-twentieth century, creating a small but significant sub-genre of films, and raising questions about the nature and function of these recurring social villains. Beginning as an offshoot of  “evil scientist” narratives of the World War II era, and finally making their way to the Sundance Film Festival in 2009, Nazi zombies have wrested a place of note in the horror film genre, drawing on symbols, spectacles, and social fears over half a century old, to evoke—and mock—audiences’ deepest fears.  Guest speaker Cynthia Miller, a Professor with the Institute for Liberal Arts at Emerson College, will help us to better understand the cultural phenomenon of the Nazi zombie movie by screening Dead Snow (2009), one of the most recent examples of this popular and controversial sub-genre.  A question-and-answer session will follow the film.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 8 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, April 26

The "Complete" Metropolis (1927), with Professor Ian Olney

Think of the most popular science fiction movies in recent memory: Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Matrix…  It’s quite possible that they (and many other contemporary sci-fi movies) wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for a silent German film made eighty-five years ago: Metropolis (1927).  While it is largely forgotten by moviegoers today, Metropolis is a landmark film in its genre; it established at a stroke the imagery and themes that have come to define science fiction cinema.  In an exciting recent development, an uncut negative of the film was found at an archive in Buenos Aires.  Almost a half an hour longer than other existing prints of the movie, it allowed preservationists to restore footage to the film that was previously considered lost and premiere a “complete” version of Metropolis in 2010.  It is this version of Metropolis that will be presented as part of the 2011-12 Humanities Film Series by Ian Olney, a Professor of English at York College, who will discuss the film’s legacy and answer questions about it.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 26 in Humanities Center 218.



2010-11 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2010


Thursday, September 30

Beeswax (2009)

A marvelous new film from Andrew Bujalski, one of the brightest stars in indie cinema, Beeswax (2009) revolves around the personal and professional entanglements of twin sisters Jeannie and Lauren (played by real life twins Tilly and Maggie Hatcher).  Jeannie co-owns a vintage clothing store in Austin, Texas with Amanda, a semi-estranged friend who she fears is trying to end their partnership.  Lauren leads a looser, less tethered existence and is considering getting out of the country altogether.  Imbued with an innate charm, Beeswax is a story about families, friends, lovers and those awkward moments that bring all of them together.  A.O. Scott of the New York Times recently selected the film as a “NYT Critics’ Pick,” calling it a “remarkably subtle, even elegant movie.”  Bujalski himself is acclaimed as the godfather of “mumblecore,” a movement in contemporary American independent cinema driven by the digital revolution and an ultra-low-budget, do-it-yourself approach to filmmaking.  According to Cinema Scope magazine, he is “making what may prove to be the defining movies about [his] generation.” In a special appearance as part of the 2010-11 Humanities Film Series, this talented and important filmmaker will present his latest movie and answer questions about it after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 30 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, October 21

Great World of Sound (2007)

Directed by Craig Zobel, Great World of Sound (2007) is a recent independent film that blends fact and fiction in a unique and fascinating way.  It follows Martin (Pat Healy) as he applies for a job at a company training prospective “music producers.”  During training, he pairs up with another new employee, Clarence (Kene Holliday), a middle-aged man trying to change his career path.  On the job, the two travel to small towns where their company has placed newspaper ads inviting undiscovered musicians to audition for a record contract.  Martin and Clarence present themselves as representatives of a music label who are signing artists and giving them a chance to let their music be heard… for a small fee.  Once they have the money, however, they skip town, leaving the aspiring musicians high and dry.  Interestingly, while the characters of Martin and Clarence are fictional and played by actors, the auditioning musicians in Great World of Sound are real people who responded to the kind of newspaper ads featured in the story and had no idea they were being filmed for a movie.  Great World of Sound has won a number of awards at film festivals across the country and has garnered high critical praise.  Zobel himself was named by Filmmaker Magazine in 2007 as one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”  The Humanities Film Series is pleased to present the work of this gifted director, who will be on hand to present his film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 21 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, November 18

Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

Oliver Stone’s Born on the Fourth of July (1989) captures the essence of American life for the post-World War II baby boomers who bore the brunt of the Vietnam war.  While the film cannot explain the entirety of the war, it nevertheless provides a window through which that understanding can begin.  Combat itself plays a small role in this movie.  Rather, it focuses on the life of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), who enlists in the Marine Corps right after high school and who, on his second tour in Vietnam, is paralyzed from the chest down by an enemy bullet.  As a young enlistee, Kovic at first embraces at face value the conventional wisdom of his America, a United States basking in its unprecedented power; after his devastating injury, however, he begins to question its self-image as a protector of freedom and a country whose ideals remained unsullied by corruption and self-interest.  In his remarks before the screening, Dr. Phil Avillo, a professor of history at York College, will discuss how Stone and Kovic confront a myriad of issues surrounding the Vietnam War, including the American arrogance, militarism, and materialism that fueled it, and show how they grapple with the consequences of the war for the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam and the hundreds of thousands wounded whose lives paralleled at some level Kovic’s.  A question-and-answer session with Dr. Avillo will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 18 in Humanities Center 218.





Thursday, February 17

Nacho Libre (2006)

Nacho Libre (2006) is a comedy directed by Jared Hess and loosely based on the life of Father Sergio Gutiérrez Benítez, a.k.a “Fray Tormenta”, a Mexican Catholic priest who became a masked wrestler to support an orphanage that he founded in Teotihuacan, Mexico.  Hess’s adaption, starring Jack Black as Brother Ignacio, a.k.a “Nacho Libre,” blends tragedy and comedy as “Nacho” wrestles to provide for his orphans and discover his existential place in a world of poverty, wealth, violence, hope, and love.  While the film is in many regards a “stupid” and predictable “Jack Black” comedy, Dr. Victor Taylor, York College professor of philosophy and religious studies, argues that it offers an excellent example of what the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as the “comedy of Christianity,” a dialectical or ironic reversal in which Christianity achieves its full expression in a Christ-centered atheism.  Dr. Taylor will outline his unique take on the film before the screening and lead a question-and-answer session about it afterward.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 17 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, March 24

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Everyone knows that in order to watch a film adaptation as an adaptation, you have to know something about its relation to the story or novel or comic strip it’s based on. But what exactly do you have to know? Is it possible to watch an adaptation as an adaptation even if you’ve never read the original? And if the adaptation draws on a dozen earlier versions of a familiar story instead of a single version, do the filmmakers really assume that you know every earlier version?  These are questions that fascinate Dr. Tom Leitch, a professor of English at the University of Delaware and the author of Film Adaptation and Its Discontents (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).  In a special appearance as part of the 2010-11 Humanities Film Series, Dr. Leitch will use Tim Burton’s recent adaptation of Alice in Wonderland (2010) to test the hypothesis that you need to have read the book before you watch the movie and stimulate a conversation about what kinds of background knowledge filmgoers are most likely to have when they settle back with their popcorn to enjoy a new film adaptation whose literary source they may never have read.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 24 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, April 28


In Bruges (2008)

Irish playwright, screenwriter, and filmmaker Martin McDonagh is no stranger to controversy.  Although he has been nominated for four Tony awards, two Academy Awards, and countless other honors, many critics feel McDonagh is a sensationalist hack.  Mary Lockhurst, for example, has written that he is a "thoroughly establishment figure who relies on monolithic, prejudicial constructs of rural Ireland to generate himself an income."  McDonagh's recent move into the world of cinema prompted more backlash: Variety labeled his feature film debut, In Bruges (2008), the tale of two hit men (Colin Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson) on vacation in the Belgian city of Bruges, "highly erratic," "far-fetched," and generally "weak."  In her presentation of the movie, Laura Eldred, a professor of English at Lebanon Valley College, will connect In Bruges with McDonagh's earlier work and present an argument for the value of his unique aesthetic.  In her view, the film is clearly an outgrowth of McDonagh's previous work; however, his usual gothic emphasis on the inescapable past, brutal violence, and family dysfunction paves the way for some innovations--namely, a new interest in the possibility of personal growth and redemption.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 28 in Humanities Center 218.



2009-10 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2009


Thursday, September 24

The Guatemalan Handshake (2006)

Filmed on location in South-Central Pennsylvania, The Guatemalan Handshake is the impressive feature film debut of independent filmmaker, Todd Rohal.  It tells the story of the disappearance of a small-town demolition derby driver, Donald Turnupseed (actor-musician Will Oldham), who suddenly vanishes after a massive power outage, setting into motion a surreal series of events affecting his hapless father, his pregnant girlfriend, a pack of wild boy scouts, a lactose-intolerant roller rink employee, an elderly woman in search of her lost poodle, and his best friend: a ten-year-old girl named Turkeylegs.  Narrated by Turkeylegs as she pieces together Donald's puzzling disappearance, Rohal's rural tapestry explodes in unforgettable widescreen surprises: a woman attends her own funeral, a childhood TV legend leaps from a cliff, the sun rises sideways, and a bright orange electric car changes hands again and again.  Chaotically absurd with an underlying poignancy, these droll vignettes come crashing together in a climactic demolition derby that marks the exhilerating debut of an adventurous storyteller. The Guatemalan Handshake premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival in 2006, where it won the Special Jury Prize; it has since been screened at well over a dozen other film festivals internationally and has garnered high critical praise.  Rohal himself has been named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”  The Humanities Film Series is proud to present the work of this talented director, who will be on hand to present his film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 24 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, October 29


The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Donnie Darko.  Pink Flamingos.  Showgirls. Eraserhead.  Napoleon Dynamite.  Plan 9 from Outer Space.  Dazed and Confused.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  The Big Lebowski.  Although these movies were made in different eras, by different directors, and in different genres, they have one thing in common: they are all considered cult films.  Some of them were box office failures when they debuted, scorned by general audiences and critics alike; others never received a proper release, playing only as “midnight movies” in seedy downtown theaters or on college campuses.  Over the years, however, they have all become famous--and in some cases infamous--examples of offbeat, alternative cinema.  But what exactly makes a movie a cult film?  Does it have something to do with the characteristics of the movie itself?  Cult films are often notable for their oddball qualities; compared to mainstream movies, they are wild, wacky, weird, or just plain bad.  Or does it have something to do with how the movie is treated by its audience?  Cult films often have extremely dedicated and enthusiastic fans, who regard them with an almost religious reverence, watching and re-watching them obsessively, quoting choice lines of dialogue, and even dressing up like their favorite characters.  Is it possible to define exactly what a cult film is?  To find out, York College film professor Dr. Ian Olney will present a screening of one of the most popular cult movies in recent memory: The Big Lebowski.  A truly strange picture that combines elements of the detective movie, the western, the buddy film, the musical, and the stoner comedy, it tells the story of Jeffrey Lebowski, aka “The Dude” (Jeff Bridges), an aging ex-hippie living in early-1990s Los Angeles who--along with his bowling buddies, the short-fused Vietnam vet, Walter (John Goodman), and the timid, clueless Donny (Steve Buscemi)--becomes involved in a mystery surrounding the kidnapping of a wealthy heiress.  Following the screening, Dr. Olney will lead a question-and-answer session devoted to determining how and why this movie can be considered a cult film.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 29 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, November 19

Human Canvas

An Evening with Emmy-Winning Make-Up Effects Artist Chris Burgoyne

Were you moved by the sight of the aged and infirm John and Abigail Adams at the end of the recent HBO mini-series devoted to their lives?  Were you horrified by Father Brennan's gruesome death in the 2006 remake of The Omen?  Were you thrilled by the appearance of the fierce tribal warriors in the climactic scenes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull?  If so, it was partly thanks to the work of Emmy-winning make-up effects artist Chris Burgoyne and his team.  Although we tend to think of the director as the prime creative force behind a film, cinema is a uniquely collaborative medium; artists like Burgoyne--using prosthetic sculpting, molding, and casting techniques, along with other tricks of the trade--play an important role in bringing the director's vision to life on the screen and helping audiences to accept movie illusion as reality.  In a unique appearance as part of the 2009-10 Humanities Film Series, Burgoyne will give a live make-up effects demonstration and discuss photographs and clips of his work from the projects mentioned above, as well as from Love in the Time of Cholera, Duma, Last Holiday, CSI, ER, Little Britain USA, and other film and television productions in which he has been involved over the course of his career.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 19 in Humanities Center 218.





Thursday, February 18

Children of Men (2006)

The genre of science fiction often focuses on imagining the future of humanity, or even whether humanity has a future.  It is precisely the uncertain future of humanity that is the premise of Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men; the film depicts a near-future in which human beings can no longer reproduce.  Because of the impending end of the species, human society has become increasingly violent, hopeless, and desperate.  Though the film presents a hyperbolic scenario, it is not wholly dissimilar to past cultures' attempts to come to terms with the threat of smaller-scale disasters.  Such attempts to make sense of disasters frequently lead to apocalyptic religious perspectives.  Children of Men may help us consider how and why humans have been attracted to apocalypse throughout human religious history and, alternatively, to consider the ways that religious perspectives may help us understand contemporary fascinations with these dystopic visions.  Dr. Christa Shusko, a professor of religious studies at York College, will introduce the film and lead question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 18 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, March 18


From the Gallery to the Cinema

Avant-Garde Art and Experimental Film in the 1920s

Fernand Léger.  Man Ray.  Paul Strand.  Marcel Duchamp.  Salvador Dalí.  These men were some of the most important and influential avant-garde artists of the 1920s; indeed, their groundbreaking contributions to painting, photography, sculpture, and assemblage helped to define this key era in the history of twentieth-century art.  Lesser known, however, is the fact that they were also accomplished filmmakers who made equally vital contributions to experimental cinema at the same time.  In the final event of the 2009-10 Humanities Film Series, Dr. Pamela Hemzik, a professor of art at York College, will trace the path taken by Léger, Ray, Strand, Duchamp, and Dalí from the gallery to the cinema during the 1920s, comparing and contrasting famous works of art they created over the course of this pivotal decade with the films that they made concurrently: Ballet Mécanique, Le Retour à la Raison, Manhatta, Anémic Cinéma, and Un Chien Andalou, among them.  After her talk, Dr. Hemzik will also lead a question-and-answer session focusing on, among other things, the influence that these films continue to have on contemporary world cinema.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 18 in Humanities Center 218.


Thursday, April 29


What Makes a Successful TV Show?

An Evening with Writer/Producer Chad Gervich

People often marvel at which shows survive on TV and which don't.  And even more curiously--which shows become hits and which don't.  Why does According to Jim last eight seasons and Arrested Development barely survive three?  If anyone knows, it's Chad Gervich.  Gervich is a television producer, book author, and playwright.  As a writer and producer, he has worked on numerous scripted and reality shows for both TV and the Internet, including Foody Call on Style, Celebrity Drive-By for E!, Wig Out for Warner Brothers, Spellbound for the Weinstein Company, Speeders for TruTV, and Reality Binge for Fox.  As an executive at the Littlefield Company/Paramount Television, he helped develop and maintain series and pilots for ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, UPN, and the WB.  He is the author of the bestselling TV-writing guide, Small Screen, Big Picture (Random House, 2008), and he writes for Writers Digest and Daily Variety.  In a unique appearance as part of the 2009-10 Humanities Film Series, Gervich will break down the creative elements of successful TV shows and examine how they're different from other forms of storytelling--like film, online entertainment, even novels--and why networks and studios develop the shows they do.  He will discuss current shows like The Mentalist, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy, as well as classics like Friends, The Cosby Show, and I Love Lucy, and talk about why some succeed and others fail--and how you can use this information to think of your own hit show ideas.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 22 in Humanities Center 218.



2008-09 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2008


Thursday, September 25

Home (2008)

York, Pennsylvania has long been the quintessential, salt-of-the-earth American town, touting a proud cultural, architectural and industrial history.  But after a steady migration to the suburbs that began in the 1950s, poverty, crime and blight have become the city’s current hallmarks, straining its finances, tarnishing its image and demoralizing its citizenry.  In the midst of these challenges, some have sought a revolution in York--an economic revolution.  When municipal, county and area business leaders unveiled a plan to level part of a low-income, residential neighborhood and build a minor league stadium, promising it to be the catalyst behind millions in urban redevelopment, who could argue?  But what happened to those who lived in this neighborhood and made way for the stadium?  Houses are built with wood and nails, brick and mortar.  Homes, however, are built over time with family and memories; they are deeply associated with our sense of self and security.  How are these intangible values assessed when one is compelled to move?  In order to find out, Brian Plow, an Assistant Professor of Electronic Media and Film at Towson University, produced and directed Home (2008), a documentary that examines the story of baseball, urban redevelopment and the human cost of bringing them to York.  The Humanities Film Series is proud to present the York premiere of Home, with a special introduction by Mr. Plow.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 25 in Humanities Center 218.



Wednesday, October 22

Halloween Magic-Lantern Show and "Cinema Before Film" Lecture

In conjunction with the Division of Art at York College, the Humanities Film Series is pleased to present a performance by the American Magic-Lantern Theater.  Travel back in time with the boisterous fun of America’s only Victorian magic-lantern show.  An authentic 1890s visual extravaganza projected on a full-sized screen--the kind of show that led to the movies!  Spooktacular Halloween stories like Poe’s The Raven, bizarre animated comedy and outrageous songs--all dramatized on screen by a live showman and singer/pianist.  The audience participates in the fun, creating sound effects and joining in chants and hilarious sing-alongs like The Worm Crawls In.  Plus, following the show, there will be an illustrated lecture about the history and cinematic techniques of the Magic Lantern.  For 16 years, the American Magic-Lantern Theater has delighted audiences from Lincoln Center to Singapore.  “What a hoot!” says NEED“You’ll be enthralled,” says The Family Adventure Guide to Connecticut.  But National Public Radio says it best: “It’s an incredible experience . . . Don’t miss them.  They’re a living national treasure!”  For adults and children ages 6 and up.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Wednesday, October 22 in the Collegiate Performing Arts Center.



Thursday, November 20

Movie Poster Image for Catch Me If You Can

Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Music is a key ingredient of cinema; all too often, however, we overlook its importance when we watch movies.  Consider the case of Steven Spielberg's chase thriller, Catch Me if You Can (2002).  Based on a true story, Spielberg's film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abagnale, Jr., the youngest con artist on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List during the 1960s.  Starting at the tender age of 16, Abagnale began a five-year string of impersonations and forgeries.  He went by countless aliases, but the FBI agent trailing him (played in the film by Tom Hanks) knew him as the Skywayman.  Abagnale managed to use his skills to cash in on millions of dollars. He took on such identities as an airline pilot, a doctor, a professor, and even an assistant attorney general. The success of the film owes much to the musical score composed by longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams.  Williams, in a departure from his usual symphonic style of movie composition, offers an unusual jazz-inspired score featuring a saxophone soloist in many of the music cues.  Indeed, not since Henry Mancini's Pink Panther theme has the saxophone played such a major role in a film score.  Here, it effectively evokes the 1960s, while helping the movie to walk a delicate line between drama and comedy.  Susan Loy, a professor of music at York College, will introduce Catch Me if You Can, discussing in more detail how the film uses music to help create tone and define settings, characters, and themes.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 20 in Humanities Center 218.





Thursday, February 19

Miss Evers' Boys (1997)

In 1932, the United States government started a medical program to treat black men for syphilis at the Tuskegee Institute, which housed the South’s only black hospital. Funding for the program was soon cut, but money was made available to continue a study of the effects of untreated syphilis in black men to determine if blacks and whites were similarly affected by the disease.  The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Adult Male Negro was poorly designed, had no real oversight, and continued despite advances in medicine, changes in research protocol, World War II, penicillin’s development, and the increasing pressure for civil rights.  The program was in place until 1972, when it was finally exposed to the public. Today the study is considered one of the worst moments in the history of American medicine.  It produced few, if any, valuable scientific insights, but it was instrumental in the birth of medical ethics and increased concern for welfare of all study participants.  In 1992, this story was dramatized by David Feldshuh in his play, Miss Evers’ Boys, which used as its inspiration the long-time participation of Nurse Eunice Rivers in the Tuskegee Study.  In 1997, Feldshuh’s play was turned into an Emmy- and Golden Globe-award-winning HBO film starring Alfre Woodard and Laurence Fishburne.  In honor of Black History Month, Dr. Rory Kraft, a professor of philosophy at York College, will introduce the film and discuss the role of the Tuskegee Study and other landmark events in the formation of medical ethics as a legitimate discipline.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 19 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, March 26


The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Shakespeare’s early farcical comedy The Taming of the Shrew (1592-4) has been popular for over 400 years.  Beyond very different stage versions over the centuries, the play has spawned a musical, Kiss Me Kate (1953), and a recent teen film, 10 Things I Hate about You (1999).  Moreover, Shakespeare’s staged battle of the sexes has been interpreted in a variety of ways: as an example of patriarchal misogyny, as an expression of companionate marriage recommended by early-modern Protestantism, as a proto-feminist play in which a smart and  independent woman gets her way, and as the triumph of mutual love over both psychological insecurities and confining social conventions.   In the turbulent 1960s, two recently married global stars--Shakespearean actor Richard Burton and Hollywood beauty Elizabeth Taylor--asked Franco Zeffirelli, Italian opera, stage, and film director, to direct their cinematic production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew (1967).  The film went on to gross twice its budget in the USA and three times worldwide; it was also nominated for two Oscars and two Golden Globes.  Interestingly, however, it featured many additions, cuts, and changes to the Bard’s comedy, all of which resulted in a surprising new interpretation of the play.  In his introduction to the film, Dr. David Kranz, Dickinson College Professor of English and Film Studies, will compare the source text and the film adaptation, outlining the dramatic and cinematic ways in which Zeffirelli represented his interpretation of Shakespeare’s comedy to twentieth-century filmgoers.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 26 in Humanities Center 218.



Thursday, April 23

The Black Maria Film Festival

The Black Maria was the world’s first motion picture studio.  It was built in West Orange, New Jersey in 1893 by Thomas Edison to facilitate the production of the earliest moving images known to the public.  Edison’s motion picture technology allowed previously unimagined expressive possibilities and freed creative individuals to interpret and represent--and audiences to experience--the world as never before.  It is this pioneering and adventuresome spirit of innovation and pursuit of fresh, insightful, passionate, and diverse independent filmmaking that originally inspired the Black Maria Film and Video Festival.  Since 1981, this annual festival, an international juried competition and award tour, has been fulfilling its mission to advocate, exhibit and reward cutting edge works from independent film and videomakers. The festival is known for its national public exhibition program, which features a variety of bold contemporary works drawn from the annual collection of 50 award winning films and videos.  The York College Humanities Film Series is proud to host a selection of short films from the 2009 Black Maria Film and Video Festival.  The program will be introduced by the Festival’s Director, who will also lead a question-and-answer session after the screenings.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 23 in Humanities Center 218.



2007-08 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2007


Thursday, September 27

The Films of Jay Rosenblatt

The 2007-08 Humanities Film Series will open with the presentation of two critically-acclaimed films made by Jay Rosenblatt, a veteran independent director described by the San Francisco Chronicle as a “major artist” whose films exhibit a “deep, unfeigned and unmistakable respect for life in its many forms.” Human Remains (1998) is a haunting documentary that illustrates the banality of evil by creating intimate portraits of five of this century’s most reviled dictators: Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Franco and Mao. Though based on historical figures, Human Remains is contemporary in its implications and ultimately invites the viewer to confront the nature of evil. King of the Jews (2000) is a film about fear and transcendence. Utilizing Hollywood movies, 1950s educational films, personal home movies and religious films spanning the history of cinema, the filmmaker depicts his childhood fear of Jesus Christ. These childhood recollections are a point of departure for larger issues, including the roots of Christian anti-Semitism and the need for forgiveness and healing. Director Jay Rosenblatt will introduce his films and lead a question-and-answer session after the screenings. Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 27 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.



Friday, September 28

A Lecture by Film Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum

The New Film Criticism and the New Cinephilia: Paradigmatic Shifts

In a recent New York Times article, A.O. Scott questioned whether film criticism still matters in an age where, in spite of almost universally negative reviews, Hollywood movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and The Da Vinci Code gross millions of dollars at the box office, while critically-praised arthouse and foreign cinema fails to find an audience.  At the same time, other commentators maintain that film criticism is undergoing a renaissance, thanks largely to the platform that the internet has provided to amateur critics. 

Jonathan Rosenbaum argues, however, that current claims that film criticism is becoming extinct, and counter-claims that it’s entering a new golden age, miss the point.  We should instead be focusing on how the fundamental changes in the way we now watch movies necessitate entirely different critical perspectives.  Today, when someone says, “I just saw a film,” we don’t know whether this person saw something on a large screen with hundreds of other people or alone on a laptop--or whether what he or she saw was on film, video, or DVD, regardless of where and how it was seen.  We’re living in a transitional period where enormous paradigmatic shifts should be engendering new concepts, new terms, and new kinds of analysis, evaluation, and measurement, not to mention new kinds of political and social formations, as well as new forms of etiquette. In most cases, however, we’re stuck with vocabularies and patterns of thinking that are still tied to the ways we were watching movies half a century ago.  In his talk, Mr. Rosenbaum will map out the possible directions that a new film criticism and a new cinephilia might take.

Jonathan Rosenbaum is widely recognized as one of the most important voices in contemporary American film criticism and an outspoken champion of world cinema produced outside the commercial mainstream. He is the lead film critic for the Chicago Reader and has authored many books on film, including Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See (A Cappella Books, 2002); Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), and, most recently, Discovering Orson Welles (University of California Press, 2007). The lecture is free and open to the public.  No tickets or reservations are required. Program begins at 7:00pm on Friday, September 28 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.



Thursday, October 25

A Special Screening Hosted by Film Professor Ray Carney

Honoring the Legacy of Beat Cinema

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's Beat Generation masterpiece On the Road, Ray Carney, Professor of Film and American Studies at Boston University, will be re-creating one of the major artistic events of the Beat movement. John Cassavetes' Shadows and Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie's Pull My Daisy were originally given their world premiere screenings on a double bill at Amos Vogel's Cinema 16 in New York on November 11, 1959. The two films have seldom or never played together on the same program since then. Now, almost a half century later, they will be brought together again. Professor Carney will introduce the screening and briefly discuss the Beat Movement.

Professor Carney co-curated the Whitney Museum of American Art's Beat Culture and the New America 1950-1965 show, is the author of more than ten books on film and other art, and manages the largest non-commercial web site in the world devoted to the art of film (at



Thursday, November 15

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

An Inconvenient Truth (2006), one of the most widely-seen and discussed documentaries in recent years, presents Al Gore’s campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide. Intertwining simple but harrowing statistics with personal reflections, Gore explains that the tools and methods to reverse the damage we have done are at hand and that the economic consequences of tackling the problem are positive rather than negative. This documentary helped to open a national dialogue about the scientific evidence underlying climate change and the observation that our warming world is impacting physical and biological systems. Dr. Keith Peterman, a chemistry professor at York College, addresses issues associated with climate change in his courses and has participated in field studies related to climate change in the tropics and the artic. He will introduce An Inconvenient Truth by discussing a case study of species impact due to climate change observed by York College students during a recent field study in the cloud forests of Costa Rica. A question-and-answer session will follow the screening. Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, November 15 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.




Thursday, February 14

Killer of Sheep (1977)

Killer of Sheep (1977) examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse. The film offers no solutions; it merely presents life--sometimes hauntingly bleak, sometimes filled with transcendent joy and gentle humor. It was directed by independent African-American filmmaker Charles Burnett on location in Watts over a series of weekends on a budget of less than $10,000, most of which was grant money. Finished in 1977 and shown sporadically, its reputation grew and grew until it won a prize at the 1981 Berlin International Film Festival. Since then, the Library of Congress has declared it a national treasure and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the “100 Essential Films” of all time; it was also released theatrically for the first time in 2007 and received rapturous reviews from critics around the country. Most people, however, have never heard of this important film or its director. In celebration of Black History Month, York College film professor Dr. Ian Olney will present Killer of Sheep, making a case for its historical importance and artistic value.  A question-and-answer session will follow the screening. Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 14 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.



Wednesday, March 19

Dodo (2006)

An alternately harrowing and hilarious autobiographical documentary about growing up in a dysfunctional family in Western Pennsylvania, Dodo (2006) charts the emotionally-strained relationship between director Bob Golub and his late father, a domineering and abusive alcoholic nicknamed “Dodo.” Golub, an actor and stand-up comedian by profession (he has appeared as a comic on The Tonight Show and Comedy Central, and his credits as an actor include Goodfellas and Art School Confidential), first conceived Dodo as a one-man stage production, which he performed live in theaters around the country. Encouraged by the positive reviews garnered by the show, he decided to transform it into a film, drawing on home movies of his family that he made as a teenager and combining them with newly-shot footage of the town where he grew up, as well as excerpts from his comedy routines and the one-man performance piece, interviews with himself and others, and scenes from an unfinished dramatic movie based on his life. The result is a powerful and often very funny portrait of family dysfunction and its consequences that has won widespread audience praise and critical recognition--most recently at the Pittsburgh Film Festival, where Dodo was awarded the prize for Best Documentary. Director Bob Golub will present his film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening. Program begins at 7:00pm on Wednesday, March 19 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.



Thursday, April 17

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

On one level a cautionary drug tale, A Scanner Darkly (2006) is also a paranoid fantasy of life in a 21st century surveillance culture in which the distinctions between reality and fantasy and self and other are melted away in a pharmacological and technical mélange. Richard Linklater’s film, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, employs a unique rotoscoping technique to give form to Dick’s trenchant observation that “so-called ‘reality’ is a mass delusion that we’ve all been required to believe for reasons totally obscure.” Dr. Dennis Weiss, a professor of philosophy at York College, will introduce A Scanner Darkly and situate it in Dick’s fictional and film oeuvre. Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 17 in York College's Humanities Center Film Viewing Room.



2006-07 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2006


Tuesday, September 12

City of Hope (1991)

Almost fifteen years before the release of the recent, Oscar-winning Crash (2005), John Sayles's searing independent film, City of Hope (1991), dramatized the racial, economic, and political tensions simmering in contemporary urban America by chronicling the ways in which the lives of a large cast of socially-diverse characters intertwine in a fictional New Jersey city.  Weaving together their stories in a way that challenges stereotypes and defeats the viewer's expectations, Sayles creates a rich and compelling tapestry that remains provocative today for its insights into the fractiousness of modern-day social relations in the United States.  Dr. Jack Ryan, a professor of English at Gettysburg College and the author of John Sayles, Filmmaker (McFarland, 1998), will introduce the film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, September 12 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Tuesday, October 24

Rough Cut (2005)

Rough Cut (2005), an independent documentary directed by native Pennsylvanian Todd Klick, demonstrates once again that truth is stranger than fiction.  On January 10, 2003, a woman was found murdered in her East Pennsboro Township home.  Eight months earlier, an independent horror film was shot on the nearby Appalachian Trail.  How did these two events tie together?  Rough Cut explores the twisted tale of two young filmmakers who had a dream of making a horror movie and the bizarre events that followed.  Director Todd Klick will introduce his film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, October 24 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Tuesday, November 14

Butterfly (1999)

Set in rural Spain in 1936, Jose Luis Cuerda's Butterfly (1999) tells the story of a young schoolboy who forms a special bond with his teacher, a crusty old man who, despite his fearsome reputation among his pupils, takes the boy under his wing and teaches him to appreciate literature and nature.  The boy's idyllic education is interrupted, however, by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, which teaches him real-life lessons about political persecution, discrimination, religious hysteria, and the terror of war.  Dr. Cindy Doutrich, a professor of Spanish at York College, will introduce the film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, November 14 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.




Tuesday, February 6


Train of Life (1998)

Radu Mihaileanu's comic fable, Train of Life (1998), tells the story of the inhabitants of an Eastern European Jewish village who discover, in the summer of 1941, that their shtetl is about to be invaded by German troops.  To avoid being sent to the death camps, the villagers decide to fake their own deportation by masquerading as a group of Nazi soldiers and Jewish prisoners, and embarking on a wild train ride towards the Russian border and the promise of freedom.  Dr. Kay McAdams, a professor of history at York College, will introduce the film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, February 6 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Tuesday, March 13


Good Night and Good Luck (2005)

George Clooney's recent, Oscar-winning film, Good Night and Good Luck (2005), recreates a crucial chapter in twentieth-century American history when acclaimed CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow took to the airwaves in a personal, patriotic crusade to challenge the infamous anti-Communist witch-hunt being conducted by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the mid-1950s.  Although the events depicted in the film take place fifty years in the past, its observations about the importance of an unfettered press to a free, open, and democratic society are timelier now than ever.  Dr. Jill Craven, a professor of film at Millersville University, will introduce the film and lead a question-and-answer session after the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, March 13 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Tuesday, April 17

Short Films: Tracks (2005) and Civil War (2006)

The 2006-07 Humanities Film Series ends with two independent short films directed by native Pennsylvanian C.C. Webster.  Tracks (2005), winner of the award for best short film at the 2005 Quittapahilla Film Festival, tells the story of an environmental science teacher who inherits an old car from her estranged father.  She plans to get rid of the unwanted gift as quickly as possible, but finds this surprisingly hard to do when it keeps giving her pieces to a puzzle about the man she thought she wanted to forget.  Civil War (2006), a short film sponsored by the Lifetime cable television channel, tells the story of a mutiny that happens between a group of 13-year-old girls on a field trip to the battlefield of Gettysburg, focusing on the harsh cruelty of young women towards each other.  Director C.C. Webster will introduce her short films and lead a question-and-answer session after the screenings.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Tuesday, April 17 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


2005-06 Humanities Film Series


FALL 2005


Thursday, September 22


A Very Long Engagement (2004)

The most recent film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of the international smash-hit  A Very Long Engagement tells the World War I story of a young woman named Mathilde (played by Amelie star Audrey Tautou) who receives news that her fiancé, Manech (Gaspard Ulliel), has been killed in the Battle of the Somme.  Refusing to believe that Manech is truly dead, Mathilde, who walks with difficulty because of a childhood case of polio, resolves to find him, embarking on a journey that is by turns whimsical and horrific.  In his introduction to the film, York College Professor Ian Olney, who teaches and has written extensively about European cinema, will discuss what A Very Long Engagement tells us about the current state of filmmaking in Europe.  For the American moviegoing public, European film has long been synonymous with challenging “art cinema”: the opposite of the mainstream, commercial fare produced by Hollywood.  This may no longer be the case, however, as the growing popularity of European movies like A Very Long Engagement—a very expensive film, largely financed by Warner Brothers, that tells an epic story with state-of-the-art digital effects and a cast of international stars including Audrey Tautou and Jodie Foster—would seem to indicate.  A question-and-answer session led by Professor Olney will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, September 22 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Thursday, October 27

France Divided (2002)

France Divided, a complex and compelling documentary produced, directed, and authored by Eileen M. Angelini, Ph.D., and Barbara P. Barnett, M.A., explores the two sides of France during World War II.  Both collaborators and resisters are seen through the eyes of seven French people: a Holocaust survivor, three hidden children, two historians (including Serge Klarsfeld) and leader of the French Resistance Lucie Aubrac.  Each interviewee presents a very different account of the times by virtue of his or her personal experiences.  Also included are the historic public apologies of the French government and the Catholic Church.  In her introduction to the film, Philadelphia University Professor Eileen Angelini, who co-authored, co-directed, and co-produced France Divided, will discuss the impact that her study of French complicity with and resistance to the Holocaust has had on her teaching and share anecdotes of her experience making the documentary.  A question-and-answer session led by Professor Angelini will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, October 27 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.




Thursday, March 16

The Women (1939)

Before there was Sex in the City, there was The Women.  George Cukor's wickedly funny comedy of manners tells the story of a happily-married socialite, Mary Haines (Norma Shearer), who discovers that her husband is having an affair with a gold-digging perfume salesgirl (Joan Crawford).  At the urging of her acerbic best friend, Sylvia (Rosalind Russell), whose marriage is also on the rocks, Mary travels to Reno to get a divorce; however, while waiting with a group of similarly-minded women at a dude ranch outside of Reno for her divorce to become final, Mary has a change of heart and decides to fight for her marriage.  In her introduction to the film, York College professor Colbey Emmerson Reid, who teaches and has written extensively about the intersection of cultural, literary, and cinematic sophistication in the first half of the twentieth century, will discuss the feminization of the American public sphere during that era, explaining how, in Cukor's classic Hollywood comedy, the techniques of gossip, flirtation, and deception undermine the distinction between public and domestic spheres, and showing how such strategies turn marriage and the home into sites of important modernist experimentation.  A question-and-answer session led by Professor Reid will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, March 16 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


Thursday, April 6


All or Nothing (2002)

This quintessentially representative film by Mike Leigh, the director of the recent, Oscar-nominated film, Vera Drake (2004), takes a documentary-like look at the fragility of working-class family life and love in a drab South London high-rise housing project or “sink” estate.  It concentrates, after provocatively hinting at a number of potential plotlines, on the disintegrating relationship between a taxi driver (Timothy Spall) and his common-law spouse (Lesley Manville) and their nearly-grown children.  These are characters, played by screen newcomers and superb veteran Leigh performers, too lethargic or afraid to ask for love despite their immense need for it.  A family emergency provides a catalyst for the renewal of shared affection and trust.  In his introduction to the film, York College Professor Emeritus Edward Jones, author of All or Nothing: The Cinema of Mike Leigh (Peter Lang, 2004), will discuss the director’s collaborative working methods and draw attention to some of the cinematic means Leigh uses to achieve his distinctive tragicomic effects.  This film clearly demonstrates the humanistic intimacy that comprises the art and power of Mike Leigh as a world-class filmmaker.  A question-and-answer session led by Professor Jones will follow the screening.  Program begins at 7:00pm on Thursday, April 6 in York College's DeMeester Theatre.


If you have further questions about the Humanities Film Series, please contact Dr. Ian Olney at or visit his web page at


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