Trending at Westmont: Watch films for credit
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Forget about expensive textbooks and novels, and get the popcorn ready.
Within the last few years, Westmont has increased the number of film-based courses offered. This semester, there are three film classes offered for credit in three different departments: Film Studies, Focus on Film and Theology in Film.
Of the three courses, Film Studies is the pioneering class that started this trend over a decade ago.
Professor Rose Elfman, who took Film Studies eleven years ago and currently teaches the course, said, “With the growth of internet culture, people have more access to information about how films are made and analyzed. I think everyone knows that a movie has more to it than entertainment value, and most people have at least some basic vocabulary to talk about what a film is doing.”
Film studies as a discipline separates itself from the average moviegoer by providing film terminology and technique to enhance the viewing experience. Elfman hopes that her Film Studies students will go beyond basic value judgments, such as whether or not a movie was entertaining.
“Film studies is all about learning to notice things in great detail. It is my hope that students will develop habits of watching and listening—deeply, patiently, intently—that they can apply to understanding not only the complex messages of film, but also the people and the world around them,” said Elfman.
Theology in Film and Focus on Film are new additions to Westmont’s growing course catalog.
When asked how he structures Theology in Film, Professor Charles Farhadian said, “The course is organized where we watch three feature-length films over three weeks, and then spend the fourth week discussing theological themes that both overlap and juxtapose among the three films.”
Like Elfman, Farhadian expects his students to engage with films beyond aesthetic appreciation.
“We hope students will understand similarities and differences in cultures, societies, psychologies, religions and even humor worldwide,” said Farhadian.
Katie Fedor, a fourth-year religious studies major, is looking forward to experiencing how watching films can also lead to important insights in her religious studies discipline.
Fedor said, “Considering the ways religion and theology are presented and discussed in a popular medium like film can inform us about how the more general population views the world and God, as opposed to most religious studies classes that focus on experts in theology and biblical studies.”
If spending three weeks watching movies sounds too time consuming, Focus on Film, a two-day class offered by the communication studies department, may be a better option for the average student.
First taught by Professor Deborah Dunn last fall semester, Focus on Film was created to give students the option to receive one unit of credit for about 13 hours of watching films and creating discussion. Students may take the course multiple times, since each course is designed around a particular focus and theme.
Last fall semester’s theme was war and cinema. This semester, Dunn teamed up with Professor Wayne Iba of the computer science department to focus on science fiction films. Students watched Sci-fi classics including Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.”
When asked about whether or not Westmont was likely to offer a film studies minor in the future, Elfman chose not to comment.
Illustration by Jenna Haring