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Eastern faculty stay connected through weekly film club

Published on October 13, 2020

Eastern faculty stay connected through weekly film club

After Covid-19 ended all in-person classes for the 2020 spring semester, Eastern Connecticut State University faculty members created a film club to watch and discuss films suggested by one another. The club meets every Sunday at 8 p.m. and features documentaries, foreign movies and more.

Created by Theatre Professor David Pellegrini, the club includes professors ranging from the Education and English Departments to faculty from the Theatre, World Languages and Cultures departments and more. The latest film that was watched and analyzed was the documentary “13th” which is about the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison system. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film refers to the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery, and features scholars, activists and politicians who chronologically explore the topic, beginning with slavery to 2016 when the film was released.

Professors in attendence from left to right are: Professor David Pellegrini of the Theatre Department, Professor Mark Dodd of the English Department, Professor Emerita Gail Gelburd of the Art and Art History Department, David Stoloff of the Education Department, Anna Kirchmann of the History Department, Professor Sarah Tasneem of the Computer Science Department, Professor Anya Sokolovskaya of the Theatre Department and Professor Sudha Swaminathan of the Education Department

Professors who attended the latest meeting included Anna Kirchmann of the History Department, Mark Dodd of the English Department, Professor Emerita Gail Gelburd of the Art and Art History Department, Sarah Tasneem of the Computer Science Department, Anya Sokolovskaya and David Pellegrini of the Theatre Department, and Sudha Swaminathan and David Stoloff of the Education Department.

The discussion began with members sharing how thought-provoking, enlightening and wonderfully filmed the movie was. “I’ve seen so many documentaries on racism and mass incarceration and I thought this film was one of the best ones I’ve seen,” said recently retired Gelburd, who taught a course that focused on African American art history.

Attendees then talked about the visuals used in the film. “As a historian, I was familiar with the majority of the historical context,” said Professor Kirchmann. “I was blown away by how powerful the images are because it wasn’t just your regular documentary, it was a narrative film that DuVernay made visually powerful.”

The professors then discussed the prison system and its social context, such as control, the economy, and the history of America.

Many of the speakers in the film said that facilities such as ICE detention centers are just another name and operation for a prison. “The thing that really struck me with this film was, even though over the course of the past 100 years, the diction and language of society and the law have changed but the words really end up having the same social and legal effect,” said Dodd.

Dodd then expressed his concerns with technology and how it obstructs properly learning about history. “One of the things to me that are so problematic today is the difference between taking a course in history and the streaming that goes on every time everybody opens their computer screen. People would go to this particular scene on their computer and think they have all the knowledge on that topic.” In addition to Dodd’s concerns, Tasneem said, “I would say this film proved what systematic racism is and we need to correctly educate our freshmen about it.”

“I teach freshmen American history and I ask my students how far did they go in high school with American history and they say, ‘We won World War II,’ ‘Rosa Parks was really tired, she didn’t want to get up’ and ‘the I Have a Dream speech’ and this is where it ends… seriously,” said Kirchmann on her disbelief with the lack of historical knowledge students have. “‘13th’ shows history in a very large sweep and this particular documentary sheds light on the rot of history.”

For more information on this club please contact David Pellegrini at pellegrinid@easternct.edu or David Stoloff at stoloffd@easternct.edu.

Written by Bobbi Brown

Categories: Theatre