With the World War I film series soon to close, the Truman State history department commemorates the centennial of the “great war.”
The series, which began Sept. 10 with the airing of 1969’s “Oh What a Lovely War,” concluded Nov. 10 with 1937’s “Grand Illusion,” airing in the Baldwin Hall Little Theater. The department thought a film series would the best educational medium to attract the student body and encourage discussion on the war.
Sarah Mohler, Film Studies Department Co-chair, says film communicates a message in a beneficial way, but not always the best way. She also says a connection between the viewer and the film’s characters forms through shared reactions to certain situations.
“The best films allow us to experience something from the point of view of participants and can make it very intimate,” says Mohler. “We have the emotional reactions of others around us.”
History professor Jeff Gall says he thinks the best way to commemorate the centennial of World War I was through a film series. Gall, who hosted 2005’s “Joyeux Noel,” made his selection based on the film’s focus on the relationships between soldiers through the celebration of Christmas. In the film, opposing forces sign a truce and gain insight into each other’s way of life.
“There was no major criterion in the selection process,” Gall says. “These were great films that talk about the war and that we all enjoy.”
Gall says he hopes that even after he retires later this year, the film series becomes an annual tradition for the department.
Film and Education
Dereck Daschke, religion and philosophy professor, serves as the administrator for the Kirksville Film Circle and as a member of the Tuman Film Studies Department committee. Daschke says that when one chooses fiction as a teaching method, they choose it for the quality of the narrative because it helps viewers to understand the impact of that particular event on people.
Daschke recently worked with Take Root Cafe, airing the documentary “A Place at the Table,” to raise funds for their organization. He says film serves as a representation of the true nature of a situation for people who have never lived through it, especially in the case of war.
“[Film] will always create an idealized version of whatever it is you are presenting,” Daschke says. “That’s both a benefit and a drawback.”
History professor Sally West collaborated with Gall in the selection process for the film series. West says she selected the 1997 film, “Behind the Lines,” because of the focus on how shellshock challenges the standard perceptions of masculinity, a topic she has discussed in her Women’s and Gender Studies course. She says film helps communicate the significance of this issue as World War I became the first war to highlight the effects of shellshock on soldiers and their leaders.
The Importance of WWI
West, born in England, says America focuses too greatly on World War II and not enough on World War I compared to Europe. She attributes this to the amount of time that has passed since the war as well as the lesser role America played in World War I. She says she hopes to educate the Truman student body on the war’s significance within the near future.
“We hope that sometime before 2018, Truman will offer an interdisciplinary course on World War I for freshmen,” West says. “We’ve had a lot of interest in the faculty to do this.”
The history department will continue to honor the centennial of the war, and aims to schedule future events to expand education on the world war over the next two years. Along with proposing interdisciplinary courses, the department will invite alumnus Shawn Faulkner during March to discuss the life and accomplishments of Gen. John J. Pershing. The department also traveled Nov. 6 to the World War I museum in Kansas City to further educate students on the war’s significance.