Classical and Modern Languages Department shows foreign-language films

The Classical and Modern Languages Department is hosting a film festival featuring eight French, Spanish and German movies. The department started showing these films Friday, January 25 in the Baldwin Hall Little Theater and will continue every Friday and Saturday night until February 16. The showings start at 7:30 p.m., and admission is free for everyone.

This year’s theme is focusing on topics of race and diversity, with the goal of engaging in an interesting dialogue about these issues. French professor Audrey Viguier explained the importance of covering matters such as these. As the adviser for United Speakers, an organization that offers free English lessons, tutoring and interpreting services to Kirksville and Milan, she included a diverse selection of films to represent a variety of cultures.

“We always focus on diversity in this film festival,” Viguier said. “It’s our job; we teach foreign languages. When you learn a language, you also learn cultures. Even French culture without an ‘s’ doesn’t exist. It’s French cultures, with an ‘s.’”

Spanish professor Sergio Escobar explained the power behind cinema and representation. The movie he selected provides a glimpse into Latin American race relations and issues involving cultural identity.

The story is about the coming of age of a 9-year-old boy growing up in Venezuela with naturally curly hair and his struggle to retain his sense of identity. People call him Pelo Malo, which is the title of the movie and translates to “Bad Hair.” Ultimately, he has to decide between giving up an important part of who he is or conforming to what society and media expect from him.

“Originally you start looking at identity as the way you look, the way you speak, the things you speak, all that is connected,” Escobar said.

German and French professor Andrea Davis selected the movie “Neuland,” which is a documentary about the hardships people go through finding their place in a new culture. Translating directly as “new territory,” this narrative follows the stories of a group of teenagers over the course of two years as they try to make a new life for themselves in Switzerland.

“It shows both sides,” Davis said. “It shows people who are still in the process. You have to give it your all, you have to make a step, you have to learn a different language, you have to accept the culture. It teaches other people to not assume things about these individuals and to become a learner about their culture as well.”

Chad Myers is a freshman Staff Writer for Truman Media Network.