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Award-winning director Alexander Payne to give Scholars Convocation lecture

Director+Alexander+Payne+has+been+chosen+to+give+a+lecture+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+15+for+the+semester%E2%80%99s+final+Scholar%E2%80%99s+Convocation.+Contributed+photo.
Director Alexander Payne has been chosen to give a lecture on Thursday, Nov. 15 for the semester’s final Scholar’s Convocation. Contributed photo.
Director Alexander Payne has been chosen to give a lecture on Thursday, Nov. 15 for the semester’s final Scholar’s Convocation. Contributed photo.

On Thursday, Nov. 15, the College will host Academy Award-winning director Alexander Payne for this semester’s final Scholar’s Convocation. Payne is the director of several critically acclaimed films. His notable films are “The Descendants,” (2011) and “Nebraska,” (2013).  His most recent film is 2017’s “Downsizing.” “The Descendents” depicts the aftermath of a Honolulu attorney’s divorce with painstaking realism.

“Nebraska” is a dark comedy in which an elderly man convinces his son to road trip with him from Montana to Nebraska in order to claim a non-existent million dollars that he believes awaits him there.

“The Descendants” and “Nebraska” have both won their share of awards, ranging from the Academy Award for Best Screenplay (“The Descendants”) to the Palme d’Or (“Nebraska”), which is given to the top film at the Cannes Film Festival. Those two films aside, Payne has earned nominations and awards for earlier films such as “About Schmidt” (2002) and “Sideways” (2004).

A native Midwesterner, Payne hails from Omaha, Nebraska, and is expected to talk about his connection to the Midwest and the ways it informs his work. After graduating from high school, Payne majored in Spanish and history at Stanford before attending UCLA’s film school for his MFA. Despite leaving the Midwest, his work is often set in Nebraska and deals with issues through characters that are ostensibly as normal as anyone else.

Payne has a unique connection to the College, too. His late brother, Nicholas Payne ’72, was an anthropology major at Grinnell.

The Scholars Convocation has been a staple of the College since the 1970s. The mission is to bring a variety of speakers to campus that discuss work in a range of disciplines. Professor David Harrison, French, noted in an email to The S&B, though, that he believes this is the first time an independent filmmaker with critical praise as wide as Payne’s has visited campus.

In addition to being perhaps the first major filmmaker on campus in recent memory, Payne’s presence on campus also makes a symbolic case for artistic practice, specifically film making, as scholarship that is as important as more traditional research.

There are no other planned Scholar’s Convocations from artists this year, so Payne’s lecture is one that students and faculty will not want to miss.

Payne’s lecture will take place at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 15, in the Joe Rosenfield Center, Room 101.

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