Written by Bradley Bommarito
From February 17 through 26, Roanoke College’s Department of Modern Languages hosted its Third Annual International Film Festival (IFF) virtually. These online movie screenings occurred via Zoom and offered a post-screening panel-led discussion. The 2021 RC IFF’s movie selections were focused on the year’s theme: Social Justice and the Oscars. The goal of this theme is to spark meaningful dialogue across different disciplines and cultures and to create greater awareness of international cultures.
“Given the tense climate surrounding social justice and humanitarian issues in the states and all around the world we felt this year’s theme needed to contribute to the conversations,” said Dr. Elizabeth Groff, Assistant Professor of French and one of RC IFF’s main sponsors..
Films in this year’s line-up included the Indian film Court (2014), Russian film Léviathan (2014), Korean movie Parasite (2019), French film Un Prophète (2009), German movie The White Ribbon (2009), Spanish film Motorcycle Diaries (2004), and Italian movie Bicycle Thieves (1948). Many of these films have received nominations and awards from prestigious movie organizations and film festivals, including the Golden Globe, Academy Award, Venice Film Festival, and Mumbai Film Festival.
“All the films except Court were Oscar winners or nominees. The exception of Court highlights the outstanding international cinema neglected by the Academy and forces us to think about the films we consume, why we consume them, and their influence on society and global issues such as social justice,” said Groff.
Panel discussions following each film featured two to three panelists from RC and the local international film community. Groff notes that these discussions offer a uniquely engaging opportunity for students to process the films they just watched.
“In the past, students who have stayed for the discussion have really gotten a lot out of these screenings – attesting to the impact that such powerful films can have on individuals,” said Groff.
The year’s RC IFF is sponsored by Roanoke College and Roanoke Valley Sister Cities. Roanoke College sponsors include the Departments of Modern Languages, Anthropology, Sociology; Screen Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Peace & Justice Studies concentrations; in addition to the Student Activities Board, Student Government Association, French Club, as well as the Jordan Endowment, Office of Community Programs, Center for Studying Structures of Race.
Groff’s personal favorite from this year’s selection is the internationally acclaimed film Parasite.
“Parasite…won Best Picture for a reason! It is so original and unlike anything that we typically see. Amazing cinematography. I won’t say more because if you haven’t seen it, go watch it! The Zoom screening recordings will be posted on the RCIFF website,” said Groff.
She encourages students who would like to explore the international film community more to seek out these movies from international film festival lists and streaming services.
“Start with the festival films! Please go to the website https://www.roanoke.edu/rciff . Afterwards, if you are hooked on international cinema, …either take a film course here at RC, search Fintel Library’s amazing selection of international cinema (so many all languages!), or go to Kanopy.com (a free streaming service with your RC id) or Netflix and select international cinema. Just looking at what Kanopy and Netflix offer under international cinema is a great place to start,” said Groff.
The last film in the lineup, Motorcycle Diaries, plays tonight at 7 PM via Zoom. Visit the RC IFF website for more information and to join.
“I’m all about promoting international cinema and happy to give students suggestions if they want to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org ), and I’m sure all of our other amazing film specialist faculty would be happy to do the same (see the panelists of this year’s festival),” said Groff.