OCU film series helps viewers explore other cultures

<em>My Life as a Dog</em> screens Sunday at Oklahoma City University. (Svensk Filmindustri / provided)

My Life as a Dog screens Sunday at Oklahoma City University. (Svensk Filmindustri / provided)

When Oklahoma City University (OCU) established its annual film series 35 years ago, there were few places in the metro to see foreign films. It showcased some of the best films from around the world and brought them to metro residents for free, where they could talk about them and learn from people from those cultures.

The series is still going strong, attracting around 100 people to each screening, and its enduring popularity is a testament to Oklahomans’ interest in other cultures, said series director and OCU English professor Tracy Floreani.

“I certainly think it dispels the myths that Oklahomans aren’t interested in the rest of the world or that we’re not cultured,” Floreani said.

The series runs from September to March every year with a new theme each season. This season’s theme is On Being Mortal, inspired by the book Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. The selected films encourage viewers to reflect on the quality and meaning of their lives, giving the current season a spiritual component even though none of the selections are overtly religious.

Floreani said the series appeals to people who have lived and worked outside Oklahoma and want to continue being exposed to other cultures. Diverse metro expat groups comprise another audience segment, and the series gives them an opportunity to engage with their culture.

“To see yourself on the big screen and then to talk about your culture with people who aren’t from that culture and answer their questions, that’s what’s beautiful about the conversations afterwards,” Floreani said.

It also brings them contact with groups they might not normally interact with. During the discussion period after each movie, organizers frequently answer questions about what happened in the movie and how it relates to their own culture.

“In the city, we all have our own community and things we’re involved in on a day-to-day basis, so we’re mixing with people we don’t normally mix with, and we’re learning a lot from each other,” Floreani said. “When we’re all sitting in a room together, watching a film, we’re being entertained, but I think we’re all in this kind of group contemplation about our own lives.”

While the university has had a steady audience with many regular members over the years, it also hopes to expand its viewership to new residents in the area.

This season featured films from Asia, Europe and the Middle East and began with the 1952 film Ikiru from director Akira Kurosawa. It’s the eighth film the series has included from Kurosawa. It tells the story of a dying man in a mundane bureaucratic job who struggles to find meaning in his final days.

On Sunday, the series screens the 1985 Swedish film My Life as a Dog from director Lasse Halleström, who directed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? The film tells the story of a 12-year-old boy sent to live with relatives in the country after his mother becomes ill.

Iranian film Fireworks Wednesday from director Asghar Farhadi is scheduled for Feb. 19. The 2006 film centers on the troubled marriage of a wealthy couple and is set against the revelry of the Persian New Year. It also touches on themes of class and gender relations.

The series concludes March 5 with Embrace of the Serpent, a 2015 film from Colombia directed by Ciro Guerra. Shot in black-and-white, the film tells two stories set 30 years apart and tied together by a character named Karamakate, a shaman from the Amazon who is the last of his tribe.

All films start at 2 p.m. on Sundays in Kerr McGee Auditorium in Meinders School of Business at NW 27th Street and N. McKinley Avenue. Screenings are free, but donations are appreciated.

Learn more at okcufilmlit.org.

Print headline: Mortal moves, OCU’s film series encourages residents to explore other cultures.

Lea Terry

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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