On Friday evening, a large lecture hall in BU’s College of Communication got much smaller. While no actual construction or re-arrangement of furniture occurred, the room went from being a lecture hall, to a movie theater, to a living-room get together–-all in the span of two hours. Students had the chance to watch a film directed by one the biggest names in the world of documentary film-making Ross McElwee and even to chat with the man himself.
The event was part of a series sponsored by the College of Communication called Cinematheque. The evening started with a quick introduction to personal documentary (McElwee’s specialty) by Cinematheque curator, Dr. Gerald Peary. McElwee then said a few words before his film Photographic Memory was shown. After the film, students were free to ask McElwee questions.
More surprising than the amount of students at a Friday night event was the intimacy present in the large hall. While most in the audience were required to attend for class credit, a non-film major would not have felt out of place or confused. Questions in the Q&A segment ranged from curiosity about the documentary subjects to McElwee’s opinion of the younger generation’s take on romance. McElwee’s humble honesty made the conversation more accessible. Not every Sundance award-winning filmmaker will say something as self-critical as, “Even now when I hear [the narration], I think, ‘Oh, you’re droning on and on.’ … I think the film is flawed, but I can accept it for what it is.” At one point, curator Peary directed a question at the audience, genuinely curious about the students’ opinions of McElwee’s film.
McElwee brought some of his friends to the screening, whom he told to leave if they got bored. This opportunity never presented itself, of course, but his treatment of the audience seemed as if everyone was in that group of his close friends. Peary stated near the end of the event that the objective of Cinematheque is to allow for lengthy discussions with visiting filmmakers, as opposed to the atmosphere of film festivals in which a short allotment of time makes discussion a race against the clock. Cinematheque allows for honest, personal conversations with world-famous filmmakers.
If you missed this event, there are plenty more Cinematheque screenings this semester. They are held in COM 101 at 7 PM on select Fridays. See the program’s website for event schedules.