Offering Film Studies in a Major Way

By Allison Mulvey

Maria Uminski/Collegian

Western Massachusetts prides itself on its support of the arts whether it be through independent cinema theaters in Northampton and Amherst, or documentary film companies, such as the non-profit organization the Media Education Foundation, spearheaded by Sut Jhally. While it is clear that the community bestows importance upon the art culture, it is not fully reflected in all of the surrounding higher education institutions.

Mount Holyoke and Hampshire College have some of the best film production courses in the area, not to mention some of the best equipment. These programs are fully developed and do not solely focus on film theory but stretch further into the actual filmmaking process. Why, then, does the University of Massachusetts not exhibit a film program like its five college affiliates?

Currently, there is only a Film Studies Certificate program here at UMass. While it does include courses covering theory, history, and production, it is not extremely vast. There are around 250 undergraduates in the program which seems low for a university with over 20,000 undergraduate students. Most of the students interested in film do not even know the certificate exists. The Film Studies Department does a wonderful job with the resources they have, but it has the potential to be something so much greater: a successful and strong major if given the chance.

Approximately 80 film courses are offered each year at UMass. The other four colleges within the system offer about 70-80 courses as part of their programs. It seems ridiculous that the UMass program is not give the same amount of attention or support as the other campuses when it offers just as many, if not more, film courses. It is understandable that the other four colleges are greater endowed and can afford the top of the line equipment that might not be as accessible for UMass courses. However, with this equipment, more students would come to UMass as a result of the implementation of a Film Studies major especially with the increasing number of feature film productions in the state. Students would be eager to learn not just theory but also production as part of a program that offers a wide array of courses.

I believe that a Film Studies major could thrive on this campus and deserves a shot. There are so many film resources in the area, such as the Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival and the Pioneer Valley Jewish Film Festival, that it seems a shame that this discipline is not given a full program of study like the other colleges in Western Massachusetts.

Allison Mulvey is a Collegian contributor. She can be reached at [email protected]