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International Cinema: October 2022 Films Recap

IC explores unique films on cultural convergence.

Film camera recording
Photo by Donald Tong

October 5—Carnival of Souls

Most films are built on a character, idea, or real-life event, but director Herk Harvey was inspired by the old Saltair Pavillion, the Coney Island of the West. This Utah carnival inspired Professor Marc Olivier (European Cinema) to speak on Harvey’s haunting film, Carnival of Souls.

The film opens with Mary, a “Hitchcock blonde ingenue,” crashing her car while drag racing. Miraculously, she survives. Mary then takes a job as an organist for a Christian church in Salt Lake City. After having an uncomfortable encounter with the hotel proprietor, Mary drives herself to an abandoned pavilion (inspired by the real-life Saltair Pavillion) on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. While there, Mary is haunted by “the man,” a white, ghoulish man who appears in Mary’s visions. These haunted visions continue throughout the remainder of the film.

Olivier explained that Mary was an atypical “blonde” in the film. Her status as an unmarried woman unaffiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reflects a fear of loneliness— a trope not commonly used for blonde female leads. Mary attracts no male attention despite her best efforts. “The man” reflects the stereotypical fear in Utah that unmarried young women will die young. In a moment of both comedic timing and Gen Z humor, Olivier said, “If you are a woman who feels alienated, lonely, and unheard, haunted by ‘the man,’ I think Mary would say, mood, girl, mood.”

October 12—The Kebab Connection

As cultural diffusion exponentially increases throughout the globe, racial and ethnic stereotypes often accompany it. Professor Rob McFarland (European Reception of America) presented on the genre of “ethnic comedy” in Anno Saul and Fatih Akin’s 2004 German film, Kebab Connection.

Kebab Connection features the story of Ibo, a Turkish-German boy growing up in the ethnically diverse neighborhood of Hamburg. He and his friends decide to create the first German Kung Fu film in his uncle’s kebab shop. When Ibo finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, the couple grapples with their relationship and cultural differences, but unites through their passion for creating art. The film pays homage to Romeo and Juliet and aims to help young lovers avoid tragedies of the past.

Like Kebab Connection, comedies in the US also play off of racial and ethnic stereotypes. McFarland cited the two major sources of modern American comedy as Yiddish theater and African American minstrel shows. Stars like Fanny Brice, Moms Mabley, Jerry Seinfeld, and Key and Peele helped America diffuse racist stereotypes and use humor to explore identities, fears, and hopes.

October 19—The Man with the Movie Camera

With smartphones in virtually everyone’s pocket, documenting daily life has never been easier or more common. Emmy-nominated Teaching Professor Brad Barber (Documentary Television Production) presented on Dziga Vertov’s Bolshevik-era documentary, Man with the Movie Camera. Although cameras were much less accessible in his day, Vertov’s film also highlights everyday life for the Soviet people.

Vertov created numerous films depicting ordinary life in the Soviet Union and attracted the attention of Joseph Stalin. Stalin wanted Vertov to create a documentary film about a documentary came
raman and meditate on the cameraman’s role in society, ensuring Stalin’s manifestos were ingrained within cinema. Stalin wanted to emphasize through Vertov’s film that life in the Soviet Union was excellent. He claimed that there was no need to compare the Soviet Union to other countries because they had all the technological luxuries of the modern day, explaining his strong desire to feature cameramen and their work.

Vertov’s subject matter reflected the ordinary, but his techniques were far from it. He created special effects with his camera that were impressive even by today’s standards. Vertov edited the film to make his camera look like it “walked” by itself and even risked his life to get impressive shots of trains.

Barber noted that, like Vertov, everyone can be filmmakers when they point a camera at something worth documenting. He added that when people see the beauty in the ordinary, they see things like Christ did. Vertov found the “hidden holiness” around him, despite the Soviet Union’s attempted control over its citizens’ views of the world.

October 26—Julieta 

In Spain, director Almodovar needs no introduction or mention of his first name. His postmodern approach to storytelling has earned him various awards and international fame. Associate Professor Greg Stallings (Spanish Literature and Culture) introduced Almodovar’s 2016 film Julieta, explaining that it combines three contemporary short stories from Canadian author, Alice Munro, including “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence.”

The short stories reflect Munro’s Canadian culture and experiences, but Almodovar decided to connect it to his Spanish culture instead. Rather than making the movie in English with Canadian actors like he initially planned, Almodovar used a Spanish setting and actors, allowing the film to culturally converge.

Despite Julieta being a film without “humor or [literary] illusions,” Almodovar used vibrant and self-proclaimed “fake” colors to portray characters’ emotions. Towards the beginning of the film, Julieta is seen wearing excessive amounts of blue and red, representing oppression and suppressed women’s voices. As she evolves throughout her life in the film, her wardrobe and surrounding set pieces gradually become more yellow. The bright nature of the color represents her enlightenment and epiphany as she grows throughout her trials.

In Memory of Professor Don Marshall, One of BYU International Cinema’s Greatest Directors

On October 25, 2022, Professor Emeritus Don Marshall passed away. Marshall earned his MA in English and a PhD from the University of Connecticut in American Literature. He taught humanities at BYU beginning in 1971. Marshall led BYU’s International Cinema from 1975 until he retired in 2000. He transformed IC by implementing free screenings for students studying languages, and by increasing screening times, both of which helped draw large crowds. Thanks to Marshall, IC is one of the longest-running university organizations showing foreign films in the country. Today, the College of Humanities sponsors a faculty award with Marshall’s name.

His full obituary can be read here. A memorial service will take place at a future date.

Attend the International Cinema lectures and accompanying movies each Wednesday at 5:00 p.m. in 250 KMBL to discover more great films. Check out the semester lecture and showing schedule here.