Varsity film forum shines a light

Varsity - DTH

The Ackland Art Museum and the Global Cinema Studies program are co-hosting the "Radiant Cinema: Light, Life and Luminescence" film series this fall at the Varsity Theater. 

Art continually illuminates other art, and nowhere is this more present than at the Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street — where the Radiant Cinema: Light, Life and Luminescence fall film series kicked off on Tuesday. 

The series, which runs through November 28, will show ”Moonlight,” “Kagemusha,” “The Lure,” “The Salt of the Earth” and “Eyes Wide Shut.” Screenings are in connection with the current exhibition at the Ackland Art Museum, “Flash of Light, Fog of War.”

Allison Portnow Lathrop, public programs manager at the Ackland, said the films were chosen by her and Rick Warner, a UNC professor of comparative literature and global cinema studies, in order to reflect the lighting effects in the museum's current exhibit.

"These different light effects like moonlight, pyrotechnic light and all these different things," Lathrop said. "Rick and I came up with this film series where filmmakers would play with the same sorts of effects.”

Lathrop and Warner were concerned, first and foremost, with the effect of these films on the audience. 

“Seeing (the films) with an eye on the way the colors and light can tell a story is something that will add to the experience of seeing the film, and then to the experience of seeing the exhibition at the Ackland,” Lathrop said.

Warner said beyond the theme of light in connection to the Ackland exhibit, the movies were selected for being multifaceted and deeply thoughtful. 

“Because it’s kind of political and deals with race and sexuality, people might think, ‘Well, it’s an important film, but it’s not a good film, necessarily.’ The truth is it’s an awesome film,” Warner said in regard to "Moonlight," the first in the series. “This is a film that expresses its humanism and political consciousness not through verbal content so much as through an intensely cinematic orchestration of atmosphere. The result is a pensive, radiant, quietly militant affirmation of black queer masculinity... a film that’s stunningly beautiful and harrowing in equal measure.”

This type of profound, physical connection to a piece of cinema, where the viewer can truly feel “the pulse and vibe of an atmosphere,” as Warner described it.

Film as an almost physical, visceral experience, is something of clear importance to Professor Warner, and it speaks to the power of art in general, as well as the real value events that those at the Varsity and Ackland can provide. 

“If these are all films that showcase cinema as this medium of light that offers spectators this radiant experience that we become immersed in, that happens most strongly in a theatrical viewing situation. Nobody feels that kind of enveloping atmospheric radiance watching a film on their laptop,” Warner said.

Warner’s colleague, Gregory Flaxman, also a professor in the Global Cinema Studies program, agrees wholeheartedly. 

“The number of people going to the movies in the U.S. has steadily decreased over the past seventy years, and in in the age of streaming video, the experience of cinema is an increasingly private one. In part, that's why the Ackland's film series is so vital," Flaxman said.

The Ackland series  provides this crucial, communal viewing experience, Flaxman said. 

"Not only is the experience shared: for the roughly two hours we spend in the theater, the film has the effect of synchronizing the perceptions and emotions of the collective audience,” he said. 

The current film forum series at the Varsity certainly aims for this very immersive, communal experience. There, for only a few hours in a the mad rush of the day-to-day, people can forget about their problems and lose themselves in film, in art. 


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