Arts / Community

Film Club: a virtual community cinema

Lots of people enjoy movies, and love an opportunity to watch a film from the comfort of their bed. This year, Dana Hall’s new virtual Film Club is helping the community take this interest to a whole new level. Rather than watching an entire movie, in meetings, club head Sazan Khalid ‘21 shows movie clips of just 6-8 minutes and then invites the group into film analysis and discussion.

Along with Sazan, Film Club meetings are also run by faculty advisors Dr. Pam Slater, Director of Counseling, and Dr. Julia Bucci, Upper School English teacher. Film Club offers two meeting times through Zoom every Thursday, at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., in efforts to include students in different time zones. 

Sazan shared her inspiration for the creation of the Film Club, saying that “I fell in love with film at home before I even came to Dana, and I saw this American way of creating interest groups and I thought why not? I’m never going to get this chance again, I’ve never had that opportunity.” Her inspiration also stemmed from her life at home, as she explained, “I just fell in love with film due to the limited resources that Iraq has to offer its students. Films offered a passage to view into a world that I wanted to be a part of but couldn’t. In a rather traditional society you are closed off from the world, and I disagreed with my society on several things, so I used film to find comfort, but also I feel like I traveled the world from my bedroom.”

Club member Charlotte Underwood ‘21 shares similar perspectives on film and joined the Film Club because “over quarantine I started really enjoying watching movies and just wanted to dig deeper into the analysis of films.”

According to Sazan, “there isn’t a specific type of film [I choose], but I either go with blockbusters or specific films that I have seen as a film lover, and have realized there are so many things from a film perspective to talk about, whether it is about dialogue, screenplay, cinematography, how a character is built, or how specific directors, especially those who are renowned, make modern classics.”

Charlotte added, “I like how we do lots of different things. We talk about the director’s style, the cinematography, screenwriting, or sometimes we talk about whether we liked the movie or not. We also watch a variety of movies, and are always watching different genres and styles. Because of this, I learned a lot about how directors make certain decisions for their movie and screenwriters.”

Ultimately, Sazan strives to find a balance between entertaining movies that typically would engage more students and movies that have strong messages. Sazan doesn’t want the Film Club to just be a time during the school day for relaxation, but “I also just want to share brilliance in visual storytelling … and share films where we can learn something from them.” 

So far, Film Club has analyzed movies such as Interstellar, a sci-fi/adventure film from 2014; Psycho, a horror/thriller film from the 1960s; No Country For Old Men, an award-winning western/thriller film from 2007; Little Women, a 2019 romance/drama; and Cycle, a comedy/family movie from 2017.

In February and March, the Film Club watched Moonlight in honor of Black History Month. Sazan explained, “especially being Black History Month, Moonlight is an amazing film to do because not only does it highlight black skin, not only does it highlight this marginalized identity, but it really attacks everything from a coming of age film, to becoming an adult and dealing with a harsh society.”

However, Sazan also commented that “Initially I was frankly scared to do Moonlight because I didn’t grow up having race discussions or sexual identity discussions, so it felt like it was not my position to take up this topic. I decided to approach it from a film perspective but encourage my students to be involved. I realize that I am in no place to make any commentary on social identity, not only because I don’t identify with it, but because I am certainly not knowledgeable to be in any position to teach people about what it’s like to come from an LGBTQ+ community. I decided to just do the movie, do it from your heart, do it from a film perspective, do it because you love it, and then you’ll see how the students communicate, how the students take in the information.… It’s okay to take on things you feel unprepared for … and be in conversations you are frightened to be a part of. I was afraid I might offend someone, I was afraid I might say the wrong things, but all of that works out when you realize your position, and you tell your members what you can give them, and what you would love for them to contribute.”

In future club meetings, Sazan is hoping to do a crash course on French cinema and the French new wave, which was a revolution of cinema throughout the 1960s in France. Sazan has in mind the movie Breathless, which is a French crime and drama film written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 

Sazan has loved being the head of the Film Club this year, saying that the students’ engagement and excitement makes the club worthwhile. Sazan added that, “whenever the students come into the meeting, they watch the scene, and they completely fall in love with it. They start having questions like, ‘why did he do that?’, ‘how did he do that?’ and they get so excited, and seeing their reactions on screen made me so happy.”

One of the primary challenges of the Film Club is “making people realize the power of film and how we really need to get out of our comfort zones when it comes to the type of movies we watch,” according to Sazan. 

Because Sazan is a current senior, she will be unable to lead the Film Club in upcoming school years. However, she is hoping to keep the spirit of the Film Club alive for years to come at Dana Hall, that it will become a permanent integration into the community, and will continue the important, analytical discussions of films. Charlotte is a senior as well, and although she will not be able to be a part of Dana Hall’s Film Club, she is hoping to take film courses throughout her time in college.

Sazan and Charlotte both urge students to join the film club on Thursdays for a break from reality, a chance to delve into another dimension, and integrate the art of film into your life!

Image: Photo still from the film Moonlight.

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