Connecting cultures through the big screen

The 2023 International Film Festival sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Allegheny College is here.

“A tradition that can roughly be dated back to the 1950s has returned once more to our lovely community,” said Professor of Spanish and organizer of the 2023 film festival Wilfredo Hernández, as he welcomed both students and the Meadville community to the Movies at Meadville. “We as the Department of World Languages and Cultures here at Allegheny College are excited to present a bit of our culture and stories through these select movies, and hope you are able to reflect on your culture as well.”

Hernández encouraged everyone to attend the film festival, experience films that might not usually be presented at the local theaters.

“It’s for free, it’s fun, the weather hasn’t been bad recently,” Hernandez said. “We are talking about five films in five weeks. It’s great to do something different, especially in the winter, so I hope you enjoy the wonderful films that we have presented.”

The films were selected through a nomination process where each section of the WLC department nominated three movies. With the collaboration of The Movies at Meadville, one was selected to be shown in theaters. This year, “The Man Who Sold His Skin” was the only nomination from the Arabic section, having overwhelming support from all its faculty.

Having started on Feb. 2, the festival is scheduled every Thursday night, ending on March 2. “The Man Who Sold His Skin” showcases the Arabic department. “Wolf Warrior” represents the Chinese section, with four languages represented within the movie. The French department selected “The Summit of the Gods,” a live-action adaptation of a Japanese manga of the same name. The German section chose the award winning movie “Ich bin dein Mensch.” Lastly, the Spanish department is represented by “Argentina 1985,” a true story about the people’s prosecution of a bloody militant leader.

Instructor in Chinese Xingzhi He spoke about how commonality between cultures is being portrayed in “Wolf Warrior.”

“The story is very straightforward, having a clear good guy and a villain,” He said. “Similar to Western hero ideology, it gets at the core values that they are supposedly fighting for. In this new era of globalization, we kind of come to the agreement that it matters not the specific manners in which we survive, but understanding that people are people. No matter what government we are in, we just want to survive and help our kids survive. I hope this film made people think about how they interpret their culture to others.”

A regular attendee of the film festival and a student taking classes in the Chinese curriculum, Emily Eschenfelder, ’26, was caught by the powerful message of “The Man Who Sold His Skin.”

“The movie showcased not only the exploitation of Syrian refugees but all refugees and immigrants around the world who are seeking help only to be taken advantage of and mistreated,” Eschenfelder said. “The way the movie made such a tough topic digestible was a pleasant surprise to see.”

Allegheny students were able to go to the theater with the help of Don Sumpter, who drove shuttles to and from the movie theater so that everyone had a chance to experience the fest.

“Allegheny providing shuttle transportation for students was a great decision, especially in the winter time, but the organization was a bit lackluster as there weren’t enough seats to accommodate everyone that wanted to go,” said SooHo Park, ’25. “I know there are two shuttle runs, but for the demand I have noticed around campus, the shuttle system needs to be improved.”

The cost to rent theaters and transportation has been on a steady climb, and in accordance, Hernández has become more cognizant about the issue of money.

“There was a time a couple years ago where we would have the film festival every semester instead of once a year, but things have become too expensive to continue in the same manner,” Hernández said. “I was unaware of some of the transportation issues students were having, but transportation is something we can improve on and will strive to improve on for the remainder of the movies.”

The International Film Festival has two Thursday screenings left: Feb. 23 and March 2. Shuttles will take students to the Movies at Meadville from Brooks Walk at 6:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Each showing is at 7:00 p.m.

“With over a hundred people in the first screening and a packed theater for the rest, Film Fest has been a success this year and we hope you enjoy the remaining films,” Hernández said.