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The German department pairs with the Theatre department to show foreign films to provoke dis­cussion. Pic­tured: German hon­orary, 2018. | Facebook

“Wait, what just hap­pened? Who’s that?” Any time you’ve heard someone say these words while watching a movie, you probably think, oh my gosh. Just watch the movie! Now imagine watching the movie in a foreign lan­guage. 

While you might think this would cause unbearable annoyance, Assistant Pro­fessor of German Stephen Naumann and Pro­fessor of Theatre James Brandon argue that viewing such movies leads to some­thing pos­itive. With their annual German and Slavic film series, Naumann and Brandon are exploring important themes in foreign films, such as con­sumerism. 

At 7 p.m. in Lane 123, the German film series will show four more movies over the course of Sep­tember to December, and the Slavic film series will show three more movies throughout Sep­tember and October.

The German film series is put on by the German hon­orary Delta Phi Alpha and overseen by Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of German Fred Yaniga. With Yaniga’s move to the head of the German department, Naumann now oversees the film series, though Yaniga is still involved. Naumann shares the respon­si­bility of the Slavic film series with Brandon.

These films are “a great way of com­mu­ni­cating human expe­rience,” like the other fine arts, Naumann said. He added that the series “gives stu­dents the oppor­tunity to learn about film a little more for­mally.”

Brandon said stu­dents should watch the movies to have “new expe­ri­ences as a college student, intel­lec­tually, artis­ti­cally, socially.” He added that watching a movie from a dif­ferent vantage point allows one to “learn that there are other per­spec­tives.”

Naumann likewise said that foreign films enlighten the audience by con­veying what other coun­tries think about various issues.

Naumann explained the dif­ference between German comedies and the kind of comedy he said most Amer­icans are used to.

“Unlike most American comedies, German comedies always have some under­lying question that they’re asking, some deeper theme that they want to sort of poke at.”

One of the films already shown this semester was “100 Dinge,” a comedy which encom­passed the idea of con­sumerism. Delta Phi Alpha’s pres­ident Emma Eisenman con­nected this movie to Hillsdale College in that its “under­lying message” encom­passes “what’s nec­essary for a good life.” 

Eisenman added that German films in general can illus­trate Germany’s mission to redefine itself after World War II, a mission which she observed during her time in Germany.

“Germany is turning itself around. I mean the borders have been opened and immi­grants have come in and so many people are inte­grating into German culture. So, I think it is so important to remember the German history, remember what hap­pened, and don’t forget about that, and it’s not a joke, it’s not some­thing to be taken lightly. The wall fell November 9th, 1989, and since then, Germany has tried. They are trying to bring a new name for them­selves. I think that’s reflected in films.”

For stu­dents who want a gentler intro­duction into foreign films, Brandon described the next Slavic film, “The Cuckoo,” as “a good intro­duction to watching foreign movies.” In “The Cuckoo,” one of this semester’s three remaining Slavic films, Brandon explained that even the char­acters are unfa­miliar with one another’s lan­guages. He added that this movie will dabble in the idea of audience empathy, in that viewers will not know which char­acter they should identify with.

Naumann described the Slavic “dark comedy” “The Big Animal” as one that deals with the issues of “oth­erness and dis­crim­i­nation.” The black-and-white film centers on a couple whose neighbors ostracize them for having a camel as a pet. Naumann said the film’s theme would ini­tiate “a great con­ver­sation.”

Naumann also pointed out a pos­sible dis­crepancy between American and German or Slavic films.

“In the U.S. par­tic­u­larly, maybe because of what Hol­lywood is, we tend to view it as a pastime and not so much as an art form,” Naumann said. 

He said he believes there may be a greater per­centage of foreign films than American films that lead to “rewarding analysis.”

“I think more foreign films, per­centage-wise, provide richer oppor­tu­nities for rewarding analysis. In addition to that, there are fas­ci­nating insights into the cul­tures, lan­guages, his­tories, and per­spec­tives of the coun­tries where the films are from,” he said.

Naumann said German films also serve to support “an active German program” that is not limited to in-class lec­tures. While he said he believes watching German films will benefit stu­dents studying German, he said any student, regardless of his or her back­ground, can watch them. Sub­titles allow for more people to join in the dis­cus­sions, he added.

Eisenman said past movies in the film series have hit home for her.

“I’ve watched some movies where it was lit­erally sup­posed to be just a chill night, and I walk out of it with some — wow — that really meant some­thing to me, some­thing pulled at me.”