Luther College Chips

French film series

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Adjunct Professor of French Ruth Caldwell

Adjunct Professor of French Ruth Caldwell

Photo courtesy of Ruth Caldwell

Photo courtesy of Ruth Caldwell

Adjunct Professor of French Ruth Caldwell

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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“We get to know more about French culture, which is a very important thing when you get to know the language.”

Kien Dao (‘20)

Once every other week the French department screens a French film with English subtitles in the Hovde Room of the Preus Library. The films are a part of the French 239 course Cinema for French Conversation, but the screenings are opened up to anyone on campus who wishes to attend.

Adjunct Professor of French Ruth Caldwell retired from Luther in 2014 after teaching for 44 years. She stepped in for Associate Professor of French Anne-Marine Feat who is currently on sabbatical.

“I have found that it’s too superficial to just do a film a week because there’s too much to discuss,” Caldwell said. “A film is like a text and you have to look at how it’s constructed and scenes that are parallel to other scenes. I teach on Tuesday and Thursday and there’s just no way. Plus, we’re doing it in French which adds another dimension and we need to work on expression and grammar.”

The class spends three days discussing each film. On the fourth day they take a quiz and learn the historical and geographic context for the next film.

Caldwell said it was simple for her to make the class film viewings open events for the campus.

“The film series comes from this class, because here I am with this class and these films and I thought, ‘why not have it be a film series and invite the whole campus to come to the screenings?’” Caldwell said. “I know some students [watch] them on their laptops and I think that’s too bad because you don’t get the full view of it.”

The class watches six films over the course of the semester. Caldwell decided the theme of the films would be the interactions between different ethnic groups and social classes, in addition to a project that incorporates French colonialism and its effects.

“I think it’s very important to incorporate diversity wherever one can in the curriculum and so that was my way of doing it,” Caldwell said. “It’s always important to try to extend the resources of the college and the department to the wider campus community and even beyond. Watching and seeing how they feel . . . makes us more aware of the challenges that people have with class and ethnic differences.”

Caldwell said that, although the French series may be the only one this semester, the other languages in the modern languages, literatures, and linguistics department have all had a film series at one time or another. The programs included are Chinese, German, Russian, Spanish, and Norwegian.

Photo courtesy of IMDB.com
Movie poster for Emily Stifter’s (‘20) favorite movie “Joyeux Noel” in this semesters’ film series.

Kien Dao (‘20) finds the course intriguing as it taught him about French culture and francophone countries (other French-speaking countries) through inclusion of films from African and Asian countries.

“There’s a lot of culture and diversity in that class, and so I’ve really enjoyed it,” Dao said. “We get to know more about French culture, which is a very important thing when you get to know the language. Second, we get to learn a lot of new words. There are old words that are not used anymore, so it’s very interesting to know how the French language has developed through time.”

The course is taught entirely in French and Dao said the greatest challenge is to discuss the films with limited French vocabularies.

“One of the problems is that since we are only 200 level, sometimes we are not able to keep up with what the professor is saying and sometimes she won’t be able to catch up with what we are saying because we don’t have enough vocabulary and grammar to put it into a perfect sentence,” Dao said. “But most of the time we don’t have any problem at all. We are able to understand the main issues and the main topic of what we are discussing and we are able to deliver what we are talking about.”

Music and French double major Emily Stifter (‘20) is also a student in the class. She said that, as a French major, the class is an important opportunity to get involved in French culture.

“It’s important to learn about other world cultures,” Stifter said. “In this class there’s been a nice discussion of the historical context of each film so we can learn about the social classes and various immigrant populations who occupy these social class positions at different time periods.”

Stifter said that her favorite film so far has been “Joyeux Noël,” about the ceasefire that occurred during World War I to celebrate Christmas.

“Something we discuss a lot in this class is how French cinema differs from American [cinema],” Stifter said. “It’s more realistic and the endings are much more ambiguous than the typical happy ending of American movies. For me, this has made ‘Joyeux Noël’ my favorite movie because although it’s about the war and they eventually go to war after their Christmas ceasefire, it’s promising because we know what will happen afterwards historically and that the war will end.”

Stifter said that she hopes more people will get involved with French activities, such as the movie series, at Luther. The next and last movie in the series, “Welcome,” will be shown in Hovde Room Sunday, April 29 at 8:00 p.m.

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