Fear from around the world

International Film Fest to screen foreign horror flicks to coincide with Horror Film class

Courtney DuChene


Ursinus’s annual International Film Festival had its first screening of the year on Thursday Sept. 15 with the comedy-horror filmHaram Alek,” which put an Egyptian spin on “Frankenstein”. The film kick-started this year’s theme, Global Horror.

The International Film Festival is a longstanding Ursinus tradition. The festival was founded by emerita professor of French, Colette Trout, approximately twenty years ago. Trout started the festival as a way to connect modern culture with language studies. Initially, the films screened had to be recent, made within the last five years or so, in order to give students a sense of contemporary culture. The festival showcases films in each of the six modern languages taught at Ursinus and language students are required to attend the film featured in the language they are studying.

Dr. Matt Mizenko, the chair of the modern languages department, and Dr. Jennifer Fleeger, coordinator of the film studies program, have taken over running the festival. Fleeger and Mizenko have made several changes. Many of these changes took place during last year’s festival.

“When I came, Dr. Mizenko and I thought that it would be a good idea to integrate the film festival, which formerly didn’t have anything to do with the film studies program, with the film studies program,”  Fleeger. “So to do that we decided to create this one credit course, called Topics in Global Film, and we decided that it would be more interesting for us to have a theme every year. Then we dropped the requirement that the films would have to be contemporary because at some point it might be more interesting to compare films over time.”

Mizenko is also in favor of the changes. He says, “I think to shy away from showing a film that was made a decade or more ago–there’s something a little lost there. What I like about the new collaboration is that we have a much wider range of films from which we can draw.”

This year the festival is structured chronologically. The oldest films are shown first and the screenings move towards more modern horror.

Mizenko says, “students take this journey through the gradual progression of the horror genre.”

The horror theme also provides a cultural perspective. Fleeger says, “we chose the theme because we thought it would be interesting to look at what other cultures feared and how they represented those fears on film.”

The films screened at the festivals are chosen from selections given to Fleeger and Mizenko from professors in the modern languages department.  The festival’s theme also coincides with Fleeger’s Horror Film class this semester. The Horror Film students are required to attend all of the International Film Festival screenings just like the one-credit course students. Fleeger believes the “students from each class have a unique perspective based on the kinds of readings they’re doing” and this brings a variety of ideas to the discussion.

Mizenko believes the festival benefits students because “it gives them an opportunity to see how other cultures represent themselves.”

The festival extends that opportunity to community members as well since they are invited to attend the screenings and participate in discussions. “Ursinus does not necessarily have that strong of a connection to the community, and I think Dr. Trout wanted to bring an opportunity for everyone to see foreign film,”  Mizenko.

Fleeger mentions how creating the one-credit course has also brought in more students who would not have otherwise been exposed to foreign film “One of the students in the class told me, ‘I’ve always wanted to attend the International Film Festival, and now that you’ve required it I have a reason to do it,’”  Fleeger.

Solana Warner, a junior who participated in the one-credit course last year  “It’s really interesting to see other cultures you might not necessarily see just through film. I remember last year one of the first films was shot in Saudi Arabia and I knew next to nothing about that culture. I got to see daily struggles and political struggles that I wouldn’t have seen before.”

The International Film Festival runs throughout the fall semester. The screening dates are Sept. 29, Oct. 13 and 27, Nov. 10 and Dec. 1. The screenings are open to all Ursinus students and snacks are served.