Film festival expands offerings 

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East Central University starts 2015 with a reinvigorated form of one of the institution’s most recent traditions. Dubbed ECU Screens, the seasonal event includes a four-part foreign film festival in February and three live productions of the Royal National Theatre via satellite throughout the remainder of the semester. This year marks several innovations for the festival; this is the first time NT Live will broadcast to the Raymond J. Estep Multimedia Center and the first time the film portion of ECU Screens will step away from a strictly French rubric.

Much of the screening series started from what was at one time a faculty member’s passion project. Dr. Steve Benton and Rebecca Nicholson-Weir developed ECU Screens because there were many film theater projects without a solid foundation connecting them all.

“Five years ago, Steve started a French film festival with the notion of spreading the nation’s culture,” Nicholson-Weir, who is an assistant professor of English and co-director of ECU Screens, said.

Armed with a grant, Benton initiated a monthlong spring film festival.

Funding stipulations limited the series to a registry of approximately 70 pieces dictated by the French minister of film. Despite the limitation, the festival’s committee provides both “films that would be popular and things that generally haven’t been seen,” Nicholson-Weir said.

For example, last year, the festival presented Philippe Falardeau’s Monsieur Lazhar from 2011 and Michael Haneke’s Amour of 2012, two films that bolstered a momentous presence within the Academy Awards foreign film division in their respective years.

The film festival starts Friday at 4 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend.

While the movies generally bring a sizable crowd of about 40 to 60 attendees, certain screenings (dramatic and cinematic) have brought forth a tremendous audience.

“Last fall, the Royal Theatre’s production of Frankenstein was the biggest draw, as it sold out,” Nicholson-Weir said. “In November of 2012, Steven Benton brought a documentary to campus: The Reconstruction of Asa Carter. It was kind of a stand-alone event, but it brought a packed house. Academically, it was very interdisciplinary.”
In 2013, the university screened Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, a documentary detailing the trial of Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala.

“At the time, I was teaching a sophomore-level film class, so it wasn’t difficult to use it in the classroom,” Nicholson-Weir said. “It’s something that applies to different classes .... Faculty has been really supportive.”

In contrast, the Royal National Theatre broadcasts are exclusively in the evening, almost always yielding a higher volume of community members.

This year’s selections offer further instructional value through a diversity of themes and supplementary presentations alike. For example, this upcoming festival kicks off with Fedor Bondarchuk’s Stalingrad, which Nicholson-Weir described as “the most expensive and highest grossing Russian film.”

Dr. Christopher Bean, an associate professor of history and Native American studies, will also present a lecture regarding the impact of Soviet Russia before the film.

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On Friday, Feb. 13, the festival takes a turn with Michel Hazanavicius’ OSS 117: Lost in Rio. The piece is a modern spy comedy starring Jean Dujardin as “a French Austin Powers.” “And he’s a huge, oblivious misogynist,” Nicholson-Weir said.

Intended for a more mature audience, this particular screening will be exclusive to those 18 and older.

No, a Chilean film from Pablo Larraín, plays on Feb. 20. Detailing the controversial decision between dictator and democracy, the film will carry weight within the institution’s academics, specifically in the political science and historical departments. Rajkumar Hirani’s contemporary Indian classic 3 Idiots, showing Feb. 27, details “a trio of friends journey at university.”

“We are pairing with an international student organization, of which members will explain what it was like to attend school outside of their home nation in their own words,” Nicholson-Weir said.

In addition, the continuation of the NT Live broadcasts will begin on March 12 at 6:30 p.m. with Bryony Lavery’s adaptation of Treasure Island. Many films will follow, including James Franco in Of Mice and Men on April 30 and Man and Superman and Everyman in June and September respectively.

ECU Screens seeks to bring the sparse, art house theater experience to Oklahoma, Nicholson-Weir said, describing the event as noble and necessary. Visit facebook.com/ECU.SCREENS, @ECUScreens on Twitter and ecuscreens.blogspot.com for more information.

print headline: Film school,ECU presents a month long

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