Field Notes

Now Showing at Hamilton – F.I.L.M.

Music departments have concerts. Art departments have exhibits. Film studies, however, often exists in a vacuum. Visiting Professor of Art History Scott MacDonald believes that colleges have been missing out on opportunities to create intellectual, energized film scenes on their campuses. That's why he brought F.I.L.M. (Forum for Image and Language in Motion) to the Hill.

Each week MacDonald, who teaches courses on film history and theory, as well as on the genres of avant-garde and documentary film, selects works that vary widely in topic and style. F.I.L.M. has featured a pair of 1920s silent comedies, a documentary about Al Jazeera and "Homage to Canyon Cinema," selected films associated with the influential 1960s avant-garde film group from California.

The series also brings to campus speakers who share insights on film production and history, such as MacDonald's own presentation on the influential Art in Cinema Film Society, on which he is currently writing a book. World-class director Mira Nair (Mississippi Masala, Salaam Bombay, Vanity Fair) will visit campus this spring as the annual Tolles lecturer to discuss her film Monsoon Wedding, in which a family travels from around the world to reunite in New Delhi for a last-minute arranged marriage. Others to appear include Iranian artist Shirin Neshat (Passage, Women Without Men) and Academy Award-winner and master of montage Chuck Workman (Precious Images), whose histories of various aspects of commercial film are a regular part of the Academy Awards shows. Workman will discuss examples of his "recyclings" of iconic moments from commercial film.

There's no question that F.I.L.M. features a diverse assortment of styles and subject matter, but what all the films and lectures have in common, says MacDonald, is that they demonstrate how the world of film is much more diverse and energetic than most realize. "Today, we've created a culture of knowing what you're going to experience before you go into a film," MacDonald said, "but we should see film-going as an adventure, not just as entertainment.

"When you walk out of one of our events, you should know something, specifically something about media history, that you were not aware of when you walked in," he added.

MacDonald also hopes to encourage film-viewing as a social and intellectual pursuit. "I'm not excited about solitary film-watching on computers and DVDs," he said. While noting that the Internet and digital technology have been beneficial in making more kinds of film available to more people, MacDonald believes that film-viewing should be a community activity, especially on a college campus.

For MacDonald, film is an "intellectual nexus" — a way of thinking about the world that works across boundaries of academic disciplines. He has tried to emphasize this concept in his teaching career at Utica College, Bard College, the University of Arizona and now at Hamilton. Nature films, his newest research area, are a prime example of how the sciences, humanities and the arts meet and overlap, and MacDonald would like to explore this genre in a course.

-Caroline O'Shea '07

Contact Information

Stacey Himmelberger

Editor, Hamilton Alumni Review
198 College Hill Road
Clinton, NY 13323
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