Some viewers watch a film and see familiar actors move about the screen. A few might study the technical aspects of the production. Others might just relax with their friends and view a world different from their own.
Although audience members may buy a ticket for the same film, their viewing experiences vary. Through film screenings at UW-Madison, viewers can share their experience with people who are different from themselves. By offering diverse screenings, the campus provides viewers with both entertainment and unique perspectives.
“Engaging with film is a way to hear about other people’s opinions,” said Vincent Mollica, a UW-Madison undergraduate and projectionist for the Marquee Cinema in Union South. “That element has really had a big impact on me.”
Various organizations on campus curate films that range from blockbusters to independent and foreign films. The Wisconsin Union Directorate Film Committee decides on the screenings in the Marquee, allowing any student on campus to join and participate in the process of selecting films.
According to James LaPierre, a UW-Madison undergraduate and the director of WUD Film, the committee aims to show free films that would not get to campus by any other means. They achieve this by curating film festivals that showcase diverse genres and filmmakers.
“We’re always working on our festivals, trying to think of new stuff to do,” said LaPierre. “Expand our programming, particularly films that are by non-white, non-male filmmakers.”
WUD Film is one club on campus that screens films for free. According to LaPierre, the Wisconsin Union Directorate provides funding for the committee so members can design programming for the community.
According to WUD Film’s web page, the committee collaborates with other groups on campus to screen movies. This includes the Cinematheque, a theater organization affiliated with the Communication Arts department.
“That’s a super cool program that’s very different from ours,” said LaPierre. “Their programming tends to be classic film and mostly older stuff with a splash of contemporary, whereas we are mostly contemporary with a splash of older stuff.”
According to LaPierre, the Marquee hosts a Cinematheque series each semester called “Marquee Monday,” where the Cinematheque plays a film in the Marquee three Mondays during the semester.
Like the Marquee, the Cinematheque offers free admission. According to the Cinematheque’s web page, the group receives funding from the Anonymous Fund and the Brittingham Foundation so the public can enjoy free films.
By designing film schedules and collaborating with one another, groups like WUD Film and the Cinematheque create a sense of community in Madison. According to Luke Holmaas, a teaching assistant in the Communication Arts department, regular viewers strengthen these connections on campus.
“You get a stable group of people, and they’re bringing a lot to the table, a lot of different perspectives, a lot of different backgrounds and experiences that can help foster and add new stuff [...] to nurture that sort of community feeling,” said Holmaas.
College campuses like UW-Madison’s provide spaces to build film culture because of the resources available, according to Holmaas. Outlets like WUD Film give members the chance to voice their perspectives by attending meetings and recommending films.
“The best thing about WUD is the degree to which there’s discussion and collaboration with different committee members,” said Mollica. “We decide movies as a group. We discuss pros and cons as a group.”
In Madison, film creates the opportunity to improve campus climate. According to Mollica, the WUD Film Committee wants to make sure venues like the Marquee offer a safe and open space for everyone in attendance by curating screenings and activities that promote inclusion.
“It’s something we discuss a lot, and try to figure out new ways to make sure we’re doing that correctly,” said Mollica.
Communication Arts courses on campus also challenge students’ perspectives by raising questions about diversity and race. The course “Introduction to Film” recently screened “Do the Right Thing,” a 1989 film directed by Spike Lee that examines racism in Brooklyn, N.Y.
According to Holmaas, the film’s perspective on racial biases challenges him as a viewer.
“It provides [...] an embedded perspective that is different from an external [...] news-type view, and one that’s also more potentially multifaceted [...] speaking as a white person who’s not able to be within and understand that particular issue,” said Holmaas.
Film as a medium can create a platform that draws attention to social issues. The films screened on campus support the idea of inclusion and acceptance.
“I don’t think that we’ll be able to solve anything, but I don’t think that’s what necessarily we’re even going for,” said LaPierre. “I think just really doing our part to improve campus climate and showcase films with filmmakers and actors from a wide variety of backgrounds while, at the same time, still having a really robust program.”
At UW-Madison, film fosters a sense of community by providing a space for people to come together and attend these screenings. Viewers can see films at both the Marquee Cinema and the Cinematheque this weekend with showings of Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” and Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” respectively.