Every winter, the Movies at Meadville becomes a gateway to cultures from all over the world, thanks to the International Film Festival, which showcases foreign films within 10 miles of Allegheny College.
The event is sponsored by the Department of Modern Classical Languages and screens films that rank among the best in their country. The festival spanned five weeks, featuring a new film from a different country every Monday from Jan. 27 to Feb. 24.
According to Wilfredo Hernandez, associate professor of Spanish and the organizer of the festival, the event this year is more exciting than ever before, with a series of great films that are more than worth the while to see.
“The faculty of the department select a movie for every language that we teach in the department,” Hernandez said. “Chinese, Arabic, German, French and Spanish movies are the films we choose from, five movies are selected, and one movie is shown every week.”
Hernandez emphasized the importance of these films and how it is beneficial for students to take a break out of their busy day to experience and learn from them.
“The festival shows movies that are very relevant and important in the sense that these movies were selected among the best in their country,” Hernandez said. “We want students to learn and be enlightened from watching these films, so quality is very important and that is how we base our movie choice.”
The idea of the film festival is to allow students the opportunity to experience foreign films in theatres which may not be featured as often as films made in the United States.
“You don’t see as many foreign films in the United States showing in theatres, other than big theatres downtown, so we wanted to give people in Meadville an opportunity to have this special experience,” Hernandez said. “Commercial success is not our main priority, but rather our goal is to share what is relevant, culturally speaking.”
Shannan Mattiace, professor of political science and international studies, said she loves to attend the festival. She believes that it not only presents a way for students to unwind and relax, but is also beneficial for anyone who is interested in learning languages.
“The International Film Festival is beneficial for language learners, who get the opportunity to practice their language comprehension,” Mattiace said. “It is beneficial for all residents of planet Earth because we get to learn about each others’ customs, behaviors, ideas and cultures.”
Much like Hernandez, Mattiace believes that it is difficult to find a way to see international films in Meadville, so the opportunity to do so here is important to her.
“My favorite part of the film festival is the films, of course,” Mattiace said. “We get to see very few international films at the Movies at Meadville, and for one month in the middle of winter we are treated to five.”
Along with the experience of seeing international films, Mattiace also values the aspects of community that the film festival brings about.
“This is truly an incredible treat, and it is also neat to attend a film showing in Meadville with many other people in our college and town community,” Mattiace said. “Usually when I go to the movies there are between zero to 10 people watching the film with me.”
Mary Wagner, emeritus professor of French, is also passionate about the festival and believes that the whole town of Meadville, not just the Allegheny community, will be given the opportunity to see these films and learn from them.
“The International Film Festival benefits not only Allegheny, but the rest of Meadville, as well,” Wagner said. “The films that are chosen for screening are shown at (the Movies at Meadville) free of charge, so it is a fantastic opportunity for people to enjoy their night and learn the language.”
Hernandez believes that interest in the International Film Festival is slowly but surely growing, which can only bode well for the future of the event.
“Usually we show the movies on a Wednesday, but this year we switched the showing dates to Monday due to Wednesday often being a busier time of week,” Hernandez said. “So far this year our attendance has gone up for the event, so I do not know all the factors that go into this spike in attendance, but I do know that the timing is definitely important in interesting people enough to come out and see these films.”
The International Film Festival is described as a fantastic way to learn and experience different cultures. As the festival comes to an end, those involved in organizing the festival hope that people who attend can look back on the event as a positive and fulfilling experience.