The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the editor: a critique of SGA films choices

The SGA films this weekend are “Drag Me to Hell,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” the 2007 Rob Zombie remake of “Halloween”—or you could watch “Jaws” in an inner tube at the pool tonight. Chances are you never heard about the Asian horror fest (organized by AAA) that I covered in the arts section. Like the multitude of foreign films screened by various campus groups in settings more modest than Harris over the years, the attention given to the horror fest this week pales in comparison to the monolithic presence of SGA films on campus.

This is not to say that SGA isn’t somewhat entitled to its status as the main source for films—it is the student group that wields the largest budget devoted to all things movies, after all. However, like so many things in the world, it’s not a question of much but how you use it. For the past couple years, SGA films has failed to account for the diversity of multicultural tastes and voices on campus, so that the semester schedule is once again packed from start to finish with films made by white (usually American) men—movies that you probably could have accessed at your local cineplex or on TNT. In fact, on this semester’s schedule of SGA films, only one was directed by a woman (“Big”—and perhaps not the finest example of feminist cinema) and only two were directed by non-white men (“The Code,” which was actually a Cultural Films Committee pick, and “Ponyo”).

This is a travesty. Halloween is an especially appropriate time for delving into more global film canons. In addition to the thriving horror film cultures in Asian countries from Thailand to Japan to Malaysia, countries like Mexico, Italy and Iran boast impressive horror film industries. Even if we stay in Hollywood there’s the question of gender—is it fair to show Rob Zombie’s banal recycled version of “Halloween” when so few us of have seen Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire classic “Near Dark”? Don’t get me wrong—”Drag Me to Hell” and “Rosemary’s Baby” are as marvelous as “Halloween” is terrible, but there’s something to be said for the pleasures offered by other industries’ horror films that you just can’t get from the old Hollywood book of scares.

Next semester’s SGA films schedule is all kinds of wide open right now, and I encourage you to make suggestions to the films chair that will shake up the old white guy schedule. As AAA officer Ivy Lee observes, “It would be nice if there were some kind of alternative offered that didn’t have to be in a designated ‘x-ethnicity film week’, to be forgotten by the next weekend.” We go to a liberal arts school where we like to define our tastes as eclectic and our minds as open. This means treating Harris not just as a second-run theater for formulaic Hollywood leftovers, but as an opportunity for discovering the cinematic glories that never put a dime in Michael Bay’s pocket.

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