Mercy’s Film Festival Flocks Hundreds To Discuss Cinema, Culture

By Jessi Rucker

Mercy College’s 12th Annual International Film Festival was held the week of April 4 through 8 featuring films from seven countries, which were presented by guest speakers familiar with the films cultural heritage.

Three hundred people attended the weeklong festival showing films originating from Israel, Mexico, Norway/ Sweden, Spain/Germany and the United States.  The films were carefully selected by a group of faculty members from the Humanities Department who had spent the year prior looking out for thought provoking films to share with students and the community.

“As our collaborative selections were laid out, a theme began to emerge: cross- cultural encounters,” said Dr. Ellen Kreger, the program coordinator and lecturer in Media Studies.

After each film the presenter led a discussion about the film’s theme and perspective.  The audience consisted not only of Mercy students but students from other colleges, and residents of Dobbs Ferry and surrounding towns. Some families  brought their children for a night out.

“There were some really great discussions, not just because of the selected films but because we had such an eclectic crowd,” said Kreger.  “There were some older members of the community who got to discuss controversial social issues inspired by the films with someone college aged, something they would not normally be able to do.”

Tuesdays’ film, “Under the Same Moon,” which is a heart wrenching tale of a young Mexican boy hoping toget into America to find his immigrant mother, brought up some worthy discussions on immigration.  Although the film was a big hit, many viewers felt that the film depicted an unfair and stereotypical representation of Americans being cruel and nasty which led to a heated debate.  Under the Same Moon was moderated by Dr. Celia Reissig-Vasile, Associate Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature.

“Control Room,” a documentary from an Egyptian-American filmmaker, compares the news coverage of the Iraq War from Arabs most popular news outlet, Al-Jazeera’s perspective and that of the United States.  The film, which questions media ethics was presented by Dr. Hind Rassam Culhane, Director of the Center for Global Engagement at Mercy, Wednesday night.  Control Room won and was nominated for multiple awards, including a Critics Choice Award for its exposure of the way a governments and media can manipulate people’s perception of war.

Thursday and Friday nights films, Kitchen Stories and The Great Match, were humorous and more about the characters than the heavier subjects on the other nights, but still brought people to gather amidst the darkness for some entertainment in the Lecture Hall.

The most attended film was “The Great Match,”  a comedy from Spain/Germany, which tracks three separate far-flung groups in search of a town with a working television set in order to watch the 2002 World Cup between Brazil and Germany.  Over eighty people curled up in the darkness to watch the football flick, which was moderated by  Dr. David Kilpatrick.

Monday’s film, the Lemon Tree, originated from Israel and was moderated by Mercy’s Instructor of Arabic, Dr. Hariba Boumlik.   Lemon Tree is about a widow ordered to cut down her grove of lemon trees by the Israeli Secret Service who finds an unlikely alley in battling the courts.

“Some audience members have been coming for 12 years, which is the entire history of the Mercy Film Festival,” said Kreger, who has organized the festival the last two years and also presented the film Kitchen Stories, from Norway/Sweden.

The annual Film Festival, which is always open to the public and offering free admission and refreshments, will take place again in April of next year.