Windows to culture

The Allan Hancock College International Film Series features films from across the globe

Culture, at any one moment or place, is like a chrysalis of the predominating ideas, actions, and feelings of the collective group. Filmmaking is an art form especially adept at capturing the visual and aural nuances that portray a time and a place accurately. The Allan Hancock College International Film Series is a prime example of how filmmaking can provide an open window into a culture that is foreign.

click to enlarge Windows to culture
LIFE ON THE PORT: The second film of the Allan Hancock College International Film Series is “Le Havre,” a political fairytale that takes place on the coast of France.
“Film can show the progression of time,” AHC assistant film and video professor Chris Hite said. “A painting can only show you what is inside the four corners of the frame; a motion picture can show how things change and morph.”

While two of the four films being screened at the college are set in the contemporary era, two are set in the past, and chronicle how a culture and paradigm was changing.

Hite, who teaches film and video at the college, will be delivering a pre-screening lecture and running the post-screening discussion for the two films of the series that he chose. The other half of the films was selected by, and will be led by, AHC instructor Cheryl Weiss.

“I select films that will provide different experiences during the series,” she said, “and that is one of the things that’s special about our film series and the presenters; every week there’s something entertaining and thought provoking.”

The first film of the series is “Okuribito (Departures),” which is set in Japan and chronicles a classical cellist’s failure and finding his path afterwards.

“It is by turns funny, mysterious, and deeply poignant,” Weiss said. “The moment I saw it, it was on my ‘must present at AHC film series’ list.”

The second film, selected by Hite, is “Le Havre,” a French political fairytale comedy. The film itself is an irreverent, deadpan satire of contemporary French society and culture, while using techniques to provide homage to classic French cinema, an intercultural amalgamation of past and present.

click to enlarge Windows to culture
STORY OF THE SKINHEAD: The last film of the series is “This is England,” which takes an honest look at the genesis of the skinhead movement in 1980s England.
“Hollywood film is so pervasive and influential that we tend to forget that film always has been an international phenomenon with a long history around the world,” Weiss said. “Films from other countries reflect that country’s culture; its own unique cinema history, the culture’s sense of time, space, and what issues and ideas are significant.”

The next film in the series, oddly enough, is about the Golden Age of Hollywood, as told by the French director Michel Hazanavicius. “The Artist” is about the shift from silent movies to the first “talkies,” and an artist who must risk falling into obscurity or adapt to the new art form.

“The way it tells a compelling, easy, engaging story is surprising, and in itself, ‘foreign’ to today’s audience,” Weiss said, “and that surprise tells us a lot about film, how it transcends nationalities.”

The last film of the series, “This is England,” is a portrayal of how the British skinhead culture, which had its roots in Indian and Jamaican reggae, became co-opted by white nationalists and became a White Power movement in the 1980s. Hite’s pre-screening lecture will provide valuable insight into this moment of a culture in transition.

“I think it sheds light on the word skinhead, which in our country signifies neo Nazis,” said Hite, “but back in the ’60s in England, when it first started, it was white youth and black youth who enjoyed the reggae and Ska music, the original skinhead music.”

Being a Community Education event, the International Film Series requires registration in the class. This is to ensure those who attend are 18 years old. Registration itself is free. The registration number for the class is 41842, and can be used to sign up online at Those interested can also register in person at the Community

Education Building (S) on the Santa Maria campus or at the door, if space permits.

More than anything, the series is a chance for film students and film lovers alike to enjoy a screening and discussion—something not usually afforded at movie theaters.

“Americans in particular don’t like foreign films, and they should challenge themselves to try it, because there is no risk here, it’s free,” Hite said. “The film experience, which is something that I like about it, is we are getting together and having a communal experience.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne likes to enjoy a full film experience. Contact him at [email protected].


Cultural education

Allan Hancock College Community Education presents its free International Film Series, featuring screenings of “Okuribito (Departures)” on March 1, “Le Havre” on March 8, “The Artist” on March 15, and “This is England” on March 29. The program starts at 6:30 p.m. with a preceding lecture and is followed by a group discussion at the Allan Hancock College Forum (C-40), 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria. The series is free, but attendants must register in a community education class. More info: or 922-6966, Ext. 3209.

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