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MCC International Film Series
Learning About Different Cultures Through Movies
Art Professor Jan Arabas never knows what will inspire her in the
quest to develop globally themed projects at Middlesex. But when
the "aha!" moment occurs, she recognizes it instantly.
Her latest brainstorm, to create an international film series on
campus, occurred in the summer of 2011, while she was attending
a National Endowment for the Humanities Asian Studies
Development Institute in Honolulu.
"We had seen several films by Southeast Asian filmmakers, and I
immediately thought, `Why not do something like this at Middlesex?'
We've got students from different cultures attending the college,
and we could show films that look at their cultures and learn about
them," said Arabas.
In the fall of 2012, she launched the MCC International Film Series
and has overseen it each semester since. With a $5,000 Annual Fund
Grant from the MCC Foundation, Arabas purchased 12 films and
obtained screening licenses. Free and open to the public, the series
screens several films each semester.
Now in its second full year, the series features an impressive
line-up of movies, shown on a monthly basis. Each event concludes
with a post-screening discussion led by the filmmaker or Middlesex
faculty members. Thus far, films have explored Cambodian, Kenyan,
Brazilian, Iranian, Syrian and Chinese cultures. The college owns
the films, which can be borrowed from the library.
Arabas' favorite movie is "The Light in Her Eyes," about a woman
in Syria who founded an Islamic school for girls and women. "I
responded to the intimacy of that film. It presented a completely
different view of life in Syria normal women doing normal things,
like going to school and birthday parties. I could imagine any of
them as a friend," said Arabas.
Collaborating with community organizations to co-present films is
something Arabas encourages. This spring, the International Film
Series partnered with Lowell Women's Week to screen "Girl Rising,"
a movie about nine girls from around the world, on March 6.
Next fall, in partnership with Lowell
Telecommunications Corp., Light of
Cambodian Children, and Middlesex
Academy Charter School, the series will
bring documentary filmmaker Kalyanee
Mam to campus for the screening
of Mam's "A River Changes Course."
Winner of the Sundance Film Festival's
World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for
Best Documentary, and other awards,
"A River Changes Course" is about three
contemporary Cambodian families facing
hard choices as they struggle to maintain
their traditional way of life in the wake
of rapid development.
The screening and director's visit is also
supported by a grant from the Cultural
Organization of Lowell (COOL), and
will give aspiring filmmakers from the
co-sponsoring groups a chance to learn
about filmmaking.
"We look for ways to partner with other groups
with the films we show, and also to help our
own students chart a course for
possible careers," said Arabas.
In the future, she hopes Middlesex students will
become involved in preparing panel discussions
on the films, and to assist faculty in tying the
films to various courses. "This film series
offers many educational possibilities,"
said Arabas.
Nancye Tuttle
"Bitter Seeds"
6:30 to 9 p.m.
Thursday, April 17
6:30 p.m. screening; 8 p.m. discussion with Business Professor James Dottin
Every 30 minutes a farmer in India kills himself in despair because he can
no longer provide for his family. Will cotton farmer Ramkrishna be next?
Manjusha, the neighbors' daughter, is determined to become a journalist.
Ramkrishna's plight becomes her first assignment.
"Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry"
6:30 to 9 p.m.
Thursday, May 1
6:30 p.m. screening; 8 p.m. discussion with Art Professor Jan Arabas
Ai Weiwei is China's most famous international artist, and its most
outspoken domestic critic. This is the inside story of a dissident for the
digital age who inspires global audiences and blurs the boundaries of
art and politics.
MCC's International Film Series is supported, in part, by a grant from the MCC Foundation. For more information, contact MCC Dean of Global
Education Dona Cady at 978-656-3470 or or Professor of Art Jan Arabas at 781-280-3784 or
2013-14 International Film Series Schedule
Two films remain in the 2013-14 International Film Series. Free and open to the public, screenings take place in MCC's Federal Building Assembly
Room, 50 Kearney Square, on the Lowell campus. Each screening will be followed by a group discussion led by a Middlesex faculty member.