NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Though the pandemic has slowed down most travel abroad and halted in-person film festivals, Cape Fear Community College hopes to resurrect, in some fashion, a love for both with its Humanities Virtual International Film Festival. The event kicks off today and lasts through Thursday, Mar. 4, streaming three films for free, all to represent foreign languages taught at the college.
The festival has been overseen by French professor Caroline Hudson and humanities department chair Lucinda McNamara for seven years. During the first five years, the festival only focused on French flicks and was branded “Tournées French Film Festival.” It usually took place around Valentine’s Day at CFCC’s Union Station Building downtown.
“Then the grant [we got] required us to take a year off,” McNamara said.
Rather than lose momentum — the festival welcomed upward of 250 people a year — organizers decided instead to broaden its scope.
“So we said, ‘Why don’t we do our own festival?’” McNamara said. “We’ll call it the Humanities International Festival — ‘Why just French?’”
They launched the first one last year before the pandemic shut down everything. The ladies applied for a Mini Star Grant through the CFCC Foundation to receive $500, and paired it with leftover funds from previous years to secure four films.
“It’s between $250 and $350 a film to get the rights to show them,” McNamara said.
Their past experience with distributors made the curation process a little easier. Plus, they already knew what interested their audiences most: films that featured a younger demographic to connect more with the college-aged population and documentaries.
“The students here like things that are culturally relevant to them,” McNamara said. “Documentaries appeal to people from the whole community.”
This year the Humanities International Film Festival features three films. The German selection, “Das schweigende Klassenzimmer (The Silent Revolution),” McNamara said, will appeal to young activists who will be exposed to alternative protest strategies. It follows high-school seniors, ages 17 or 18, who, rather than speak out, silence themselves as a protest against war.
“It’s based on a true story about the communist German Democratic Republic,” McNamara said. “We thought [it was] interesting with everything that’s been going on the past year, politically, here in the States — you don’t hear about a lot of silent protests. Instead, we often hear about the rebellious and wild ones, sometimes violent. So we thought this would be interesting for our students to see how that approach, while seemingly very mild, could be very powerful.”
The French film, “Les Enfants du 209 rue Saint-Maur, Paris Xe (The Children of 209 Saint Maur),” is an historical documentary with a mystery bend, revolving around the German occupation of France.
209 Saint Maur housed around 300 working-class people, a third of them Jewish, during the first 20 years of the 20th century.
“You have this person remembering all these children and people that lived in this building, and then painstakingly trying to retrace what happened to all of them,” McNamara said.
Some died in concentration camps, others disappeared. Yet, the filmmakers find and talk to some survivors, who describe living through that time period.
The Spanish documentary, “Lanzas de todas partes (Spears From All Sides),” deals with environmentalism, as a tribe battles oil companies who want to possess their land.
“It has beautiful cinematography,” McNamara explained. “There’s a whole bunch of drone footage to show you what is essentially the secret tribal nation hiding within this forest. To see it from that perspective is really interesting.”
Though McNamara and Hudson considered hosting the 2021 event as a drive-in, at the end of the day, they wanted films to reach as many people as possible during the two-day festival. Since the screenings are completely free, the streaming platform seemed a more natural fit.
“Plus, you tend not to know what the weather’s like in March: It could be cold, it could be rainy, you know, and we thought, Let’s just make it as easy as possible for the community to see them,” McNamara said.
However, by next year, she said they hope to be back in action and resurrect some of their favorite additions that only in-person events allow. The festival would team up with local eateries or CFCC’s culinary program to serve French pastries when it screened French films in the past.
“And we thought how fun it would be to, next year, include food for all three of these different countries,” McNamara said.
Plus, teachers from foreign-language classes introduce each film. A few will this year for the streaming event as well, but it loses some of its intimacy for students, according to McNamara: “It’s really fun for kids to see their teachers in a different environment other than standing in front of the class.”
The community can check out all three films as part of the International Film Festival at cfcc.edu/filmfest by clicking “request an access code,” and then a password will be emailed to launch the film. All links remain live through midnight on Thursday, Mar. 4.
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