For the past 25 years, Paul Porterfield, director of the Media Resource Center, has worked closely with Uliana Gabara, former dean of international education, in planning the University of Richmond’s annual International Film Series. Since Gabara retired this spring, this fall’s series will probably be the last in which she is heavily involved.
Porterfield and Gabara, along with former professor Bert Cardullo, started the series in 1989 because they saw a need for international film in the Richmond community, and they “wanted to offer something that was a little bit different,”
Porterfield said. “And even though there’s more international film here now than there was then, we still offer something different, because we have a lot of films that don’t come to Richmond any other way.”
Since 1989, the series has changed locations twice, attendance has increased and the number of films shown has increased as a result of two themed weekends: African Film Weekend in the fall and ChinaFest in the spring.
The films were originally shown in Adams Auditorium, which has only 95 seats, and people were occasionally turned away because the auditorium had filled, Porterfield said. The series then moved to a room in Jepson Hall, which could seat 125, and people were rarely turned away, he said. When Ukrop Auditorium, part of the 2011 Queally Hall addition to the E. Claiborne Robins School of Business, was built, the series moved there, which can accommodate 225 people.
Each film, shown three times during the weekend, draws about 300 people, said Sara Jaax, manager of communications and events for the Office of International Education. An average of about 5,000 people come to the series throughout the year, said Jaax, who is in charge of promoting the series.
Friday, Sept. 13 marked the beginning of the 25th anniversary year of the film series with a kickoff party before the 3 p.m. screening of “Lore,” an Australian-German collaborative film set in post-World War II Germany.
Before the screening, Porterfield and interim Dean of International Education Joe Hoff both spoke about the series and its anniversary to a nearly full Ukrop Auditorium.
Hoff said the series is important because it provides the university and the greater Richmond community a window to the world, which correlates with the university’s larger internationalization efforts.
In the series’ entirety, more than 100,000 people have attended the film screenings and more than 500 films have been shown, representing about 100 countries, Porterfield said. When he asked who in the audience had been attending the series since its inception, four people raised their hands.
Porterfield and Gabara have been the two people most involved in the film selection process over the years. Porterfield said he typically chose about 20 films that he had seen, heard or read about that were fairly contemporary and came from a variety of countries. He and Gabara would then go through the reviews for those films and narrow it down to about a dozen films and then negotiate contracts with vendors.
This fall, the films chosen are from Germany, Denmark, Lebanon, Romania, Brazil, Spain, France and Italy.
The series has rarely included films that were controversial enough to cause someone to stomp out, Porterfield said, “but we don’t shy away from films that challenge people, that are provocative… We have a mature audience who like film and expect something different when they come here.”
Jaax said the film series allows the audience to “see how the world is perceived through the eyes of people from other countries.”
“This has proven to be an excellent way to provide the community with a cultural event that they can’t really find in other places in Richmond,” she said.
The films, which are free to attend, will be shown in Ukrop Auditorium at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Fridays and 7:30 p.m. Sundays.
The eight films included in the series this year are:
“Lore,” which was shown Sept. 13 and 15; “A Hijacking,” which will be shown Sept. 27 and 29; “Where Do We Go Now?” which will be show Oct. 4 and 6; “Beyond the Hills,” which will be shown Oct. 18 and 20; “Found Memories,” which will be shown Oct. 25 and 27; “Blancanieves,” which will be shown in Jepson Hall Nov. 1 and 3; “Korkoro,” which will be shown Nov. 8 and 10 and “Shun Li and the Poet,” which will be shown Nov. 15 and 17.
Contact Collegian Reporter Maggie Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org