Professor turns class into campus film fest

The theater lights dim and Charlie Chaplin’s iconic character appears on the screen, complete with his cane, bowler hat and unmistakable moustache. His slapstick antics have the audience’s attention as they watch to see how he’s going to get out of a sticky situation. No, this isn’t a flashback to a 1920s movie theater, but rather a scene from Brindley Auditorium as part of a semester-long film series put on by the communication and media studies department.

 

The series was born from a class, Film History and Criticism, in which students view and discuss iconic films. The professor who teaches the course, Dr. Joseph Tabarlet, has opened his class to the public so that others can view the historic films that are seldom shown in theater-like settings.

 

Tabarlet belonged to the Central Texas Film Society, which hosted a similar series.

 

“We did that for a little over two years at the CAC in Temple. It was a lot of fun. I got to see films that I had never seen before and I was able to introduce people to films that I loved that they had never seen before,” he said.

 

He wanted to bring something similar to UMHB and saw that his Film History and Criticism class would be the perfect opportunity to do so. Films are shown every Monday at 2 p.m. in York 102. Each film in the series either has an important historical significance or has had a lasting impact on the film industry itself.

 

The first few weeks focus on the early stages of the motion picture industry.

John Alton was the cinematographer for musical Singin’ in the Rain, which will be featured during the semester. TNS

John Alton was the cinematographer for musical Singin’ in the Rain, which will be featured during the semester. TNS

 

“In this series, we’re seeing a lot of silent films, and the reason for that is that’s such an important part of film history,” Tabarlet said. “You can’t understand how the film industry developed unless you see those films made before 1930 that in many cases are ignored.”

 

Modern moviegoers may not think silent era films are appealing, but senior general studies major Robert Edwards said they’re more entertaining than one might think.

 

“I don’t think I ever watched too many silent films, but now that I have, me and my wife watch them together for entertainment,” Edwards said.

 

Tabarlet said those who avoid silent films are avoiding a major part of cinematic history.

 

“If they don’t see the silent films because they’re silent, then they’re missing out on a lot. Silent film is an art form ….,” he said.

 

Even though most people think comedy when thinking of silent films, Tabarlet said they can have a powerful impact as well.

 

“I remember the first time I saw The Passion of Joan of Arc, and I was blown away. It was one of the most emotional experiences I’ve had watching a film,” he said. “People who saw something like The Passion of the Christ probably need to see this film because it’s a very different era of film history, but it has a lot in common in many ways.”

 

One of the biggest attractions of the film series is that it takes place in Brindley Auditorium, which offers the feel of an actual movie theater.

 

Junior film studies major Amanda Olmstead said the venue enhances the experience.

 

“It does kind of look like a movie theater and with the ability to bring friends, it’s more of a friendly atmosphere than a class. It’s not so much about studying the films as it is just watching them for enjoyment,” Olmstead said.

 

Even more important to him than the chosen venue is the social aspect of watching films with a group of people.

 

“It’s really important that people see movies with an audience. I think film is a communal medium,” Tabarlet said. “You have to see it with other people … because their reactions feed your reactions and it just makes the whole experience more humorous, more scary, more dramatic or whatever it’s supposed to be.”

Author: Cody Weems

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