The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Professors share insights via films

If you’ve never watched a movie just because someone smarter than you suggested it, this weekend could be your first screening.
The Better Know a Professor series begins at Harris Cinema Wednesday, Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. The program will start with a discussion with David Harrison, French, and then move to a showing of his chosen film, Sherlock Jr.
Originally released in 1924, and directed by Buster Keaton, Sherlock Jr. is considered a classic of the silent film era.
Keaton not only directs but also plays the main character, Sherlock Jr., a projectionist in a movie theater, who is bored with his job and drifts off into a dream which causes the story to take a dramatic turn.
Harrison, in part, chose the film because of its innovation.“It’s a great film in that it shows techniques of cinema and ideas that would later come out in films that we associate as classics,” Harrison said.
Harrison also sees these techniques as providing an excellent segue to discussion because of the plot’s content.
“Sherlock Jr. is really a film about ‘the movies’,” Harrison said. “So it’s perfect to talk about for film studies, or classic films.”
Harrison first saw Sherlock Jr. during his youth at a family friend’s garage turned home-theater. That garage proved pivotal to Harrison’s development of a love of film.
“I saw a lot of [old 20s, 30s and 40s] films…in that garage,” Harrison said, “it was sort of my introduction to film history.”
Teri Geller, English, began The Better Know a Professor series last spring. The series is part of larger effort to build a cinema culture on campus. In addition to teaching film-based classes, Geller also heads the Cultural Films Committee.
Each segment of Better Know a Professor looks to build a connection between students and professors through film. Geller also wants to expose students to films they may not encounter on their own.
“I want to bring a different type of films to the study body,” Geller said. “Films people have never heard of.”
The inspiration from the program, however, came from a source very familiar to the Grinnell College demographic.
“The idea was based on Stephen Colbert’s ‘Better Know a District’ series,” Geller said.
Every semester the series will take on a new theme, this first semester’s is, fittingly, “Classic Films.”
“It doesn’t have to be classic Hollywood,” Geller said. “Although that’s what people tend to thing when they hear ‘classic films.’”
The second showing in the series, Oct. 28, will be All About Eve, chosen by Astrid Henry, Gender and Women Studies.
If not for the good cinema, or the engaging conversation with a professor, students may be interested in the series for the simple reason that the program was inspired by a staple of our generation.
“The idea was based on Stephen Colbert’s ‘Better Know a District’ series, where he sits down and talks to representatives from different state,” Geller said. “Instead this is a representative from a different [Grinnell College] department, so it brings a very sort of departmental look, but you also get to know your professor better because we all share this love of cinema.”
The series promises good cinema, interesting discussion and professor access—all in one sitting. Almost never before has the Harris cinema been so rewarding. There may even be free popcorn.

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