Student Life

Souter: University Union should collaborate with niche campus groups for film screenings

University Union provides film screenings in Gifford Auditorium multiple nights a week, in addition to other advance screening events. The organization’s latest offerings this semester have been packed with Hollywood blockbusters – “Jurassic World,” “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Ted 2” are just a few examples.

UU works to be representative of the entire Syracuse University community when it puts out surveys for the concerts it hosts, but its film screenings appear to be geared toward a very specific audience.

The glut of recent, American-made, major studio productions that UU features may have the widest appeal when it comes to the college-aged demographic it serves, but these are not the only movies worth showing. University Union should team up with smaller, lesser-known groups on campus to enrich its movie lineup with foreign, independent and classic films.

The relative monopoly the U.S. has on the film industry has overshadowed the production of films from other countries for decades, and it isn’t even the world’s most productive movie industry. India’s “Bollywood” and Nigeria’s “Nollywood” are multi-billion dollar industries that produce more films than the U.S., according to Fortune magazine, but their films rarely make it out of the ethnic enclaves of immigrants on American soil.

Foreign films offer a fresh perspective on everyday life, relationships and interpersonal conflicts that aren’t deeply explored in the trite romantic comedy, action and animated movie genres typically offered by UU.

The foreign language department at Syracuse University frequently requires students to watch foreign films as part of the curriculum. The program makes a point to expose students to the existence of some popular dramas (“City of God”) and fantastical films (“Como Agua Para Chocolate,” “Pan’s Labyrinth”).

Last year, the Spanish department held a screening of “El Orfanato,” a spine-chilling psychological horror film, just in time for Halloween. UU, which is showing horror movies this month, is disadvantaging itself by omitting subtitled scares – “[REC]” in particular.

If UU features some of the films that smaller groups on campus promote, it can become more representative of the great work produced outside of mainstream Hollywood.

Recently, the Student Hip Hop Organization held a screening of a film called “Dope,” which was produced independently by familiar entertainers Forest Whitaker, Pharrell Williams and Sean “Diddy” Combs. In addition to its indie status, the critically acclaimed film features a leading cast of black actors. The group needs the influence of niche groups to diversify its screenings.

Cult classics and blockbusters from their own era should have a place in UU screenings. Classic movies like “Heathers” and “Goodfellas,” in addition to older black-and-white films like “Citizen Kane,” and “A Streetcar Named Desire” all scored 95 percent or higher on the popular critic rating site Rotten Tomatoes. Classic films are embedded within the fabric of American culture, and it’s worthwhile to show them to UU’s young demographic.

UU disadvantages itself by showing mostly new, American-made, large studio productions in the rom-com, action and animated film genres. The addition of foreign, independent and classic films will promote a more well-rounded appreciation for all that the art of cinema has to offer.

Zhané Souter is a senior broadcast journalism major and forensic science minor. Her column appears weekly. She can be reached at and followed on Twitter @zhanesouter.


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