The West Virginia University History Film Forum
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 11, Number 1, February 1981
- pp. 14-15
- Additional Information
THE WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY HISTORY FILM FORUM By John A. Maxwell For nearly a decade the Department of History at West Virginia University has sponsored a "History Film Forum" of eight to ten presentations each academic year. It was started to supplement classroom activities and to contribute to the general education of a larger number of students who might well be interested in films, but not within the context of learning about historical developments. It has also served to introduce faculty and their interests to a greater audience. The History Film Forum is not a course in itself. Rather, the Forum is an additional dimension of instruction and a contribution to campus intellectual life. Films are chosen for their relevance to the interests of faculty and to their courses and for general appeal to university and town communities. Frequently faculty require that their students attend; often the films are used for extra credit assignments; mostly they are recommended for the general education of our students and for the opportunities they provide to meet informally with faculty to discuss issues or events treated on film. The Forum is a modest one. Faculty are asked to submit titles as well as approximate dates during the semester which would be of greatest benefit. For example, films on medieval or ancient history themes are shown in the fall when the greatest number of students are enrolled in the first course in Western Civilization. The coordinator then works out a schedule and selection of films, with an eye on resources available to the department for the Forum. All the films are ordered in the spring, and the major theater in the student activities building is booked in advance. John A. Maxwell Is a memben ofa the Hlstony Department at West Virginia University. 14 Advertising consists of prepared statements to the local and student press. Sometimes the press will publish an overall announcement with the entire schedule, then a week in advance of each film, a more detailed statement is published. Flyers are sent to faculty in related disciplines for classroom announcements and posters are placed in prominent areas. The best results have been experienced with well-known films, or any film dealing with Hitler and the Third Reich; on several occasions students had to be turned away from showings of Mein Kampf. When several departments are interested in a particular film as was the case with The Sorrow and the Pity, better turnouts are experienced, and as well as better discussions that reflect several disciplines and approaches to the subject of the film. World War II is popular, as are biographical films or the more extravagant costumed films dealing with historical topics. Often the Film Forum presents unrelated films. Thus one semester the first offering was Triumph of the Will (to ensure a large audience and to advertise the other films) followed by The Sorrow and the Pity, Harlan County USA, Birth of a Nation, and Night of the Hunter. However, themes are often successful. Thus a series on "Revolution Past and Future" included The East is Red from the People's Republic of China, Mexico: The Frozen Revolution, a documentary, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and Potemki ? . Each film is open to all members of the university and town communities and is free of charge. A faculty member gives a brief five to ten minute introduction and announces a discussion to follow in a smaller room in the student center. The discussion is informal and often selected faculty and classes are especially invited to discuss the film. Chairs are placed in a circle to facilitate discussion and coffee and soft drinks ensure a more relaxed atmosphere. Our experience has been that the forum not only adds an additional dimension to the study of history, but it provides opportunities for faculty and students (and community people) to meet and discuss history informally. Visibility and a low-key advertisement of faculty and offerings are not unimportant with many institutions experiencing enrollment declines. 15 ...