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Film Studies department set to open 20th festival

When the lights go down tonight in the Isenberg School of Management, it’ll be for the University of Massachusetts Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies’ 20th-annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival.

Matthew Harrison/Collegian

Matthew Harrison/Collegian

“The concept of the festival is to bring in cinema that is on the world stage,” said Daniel Pope, an assistant curator for the festival. “(It is also) cinema that you would not find in the multiplex. Cinema that you would not normally have access to.”

Beginning tonight and ending on April 25, the MMFF will screen a film each Wednesday night and will feature directors from around the world. This worldwide aspect of film is a central theme each year.

“There is a consistent element of transnationalism,” Pope said. “There is a world cinema element to the festival.”

The latest installment of the festival is called “Continuities.” This theme features films that will investigate the past and how it affects people’s thoughts and actions in the present and future.

The festival will feature 11 films, a number of which will be New England premieres, according to a University press release. Nine of the filmmakers, three of which are Five College alumni, will also attend discussions following their showings.

There will be films from France, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United States, according to a University release.

“The festival focuses on productions that revisit the past and interrogate the present, with special attention to European productions that highlight cultural diversity,” said Catherine Portuges, festival curator, in a press release.

Pope echoed his program director’s sentiments.

“Continuities has to do with memory and the persistent relevance of the past in the present,” he said. “A number of films have to do with the legacy of the Holocaust and World War II. … It is this continuity with the past where the past does not just dissipate as time rolls irrevocably forward.”

Pope said the film festival not only presents itself as an opportunity for film enthusiasts, but students, faculty and community members alike to discover a “caliber of film that they have not been exposed to in the past.”

“I think that once (the festival) is discovered it is like finding a treasure, really,” he said. “People that find it and come are amazed.”

For those who do take the opportunity to attend the festival, Pope said they will be afforded the chance to improve or supplement their world view.

“There is the sense of the opportunity to reconsider long held ideas you might have had,” Pope said. “It is really just a chance to add to and enrich the understanding that you already have. … So anybody who wants to understand the world that surrounds, the world that is not necessarily present to them directly, cinema can bring that to them.”

The MMFF first launched in 1993 and has since presented the “best of contemporary feature, documentary, and experimental film making from around the world” each spring semester, according to the event’s brochure.

Twenty years on, the festival continues to increase its stature in the film community. It remains today as one of the “few such University-based endeavors” that has served as the inspiration for a number similar such undertakings.

Beginning with “Elza”, the MMFF kicks off tonight at 7:30 p.m. in room 137 in the Isenberg School of Management.

Jeffrey Okerman can be reached at jokerman@student.umass.edu.

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