OPEN MIC: The Educated Eye

Jim Canacci, Lecturer at Kent State University at Trumbull, on using Global Lens films to inform, expand and appreciate the world around us

“Every story reveals a world.” -Global Lens Trailer

Jim Canacci

Jim Canacci, Lecturer at Kent State University at Trumbull

I truly believe that Global Lens changes “the way you see the world.” I know this from personal experience and through sharing these films with the students and campus community at Kent State University at Trumbull.

My first year with Global Lens was in cooperation with my good friend, Dr. Ken Bindas, who is now the Chair of the History Department at Kent State University. He asked if I would partner with him to show the films on my campus in Warren, OH, as well as at the Lemon Grove in downtown Youngstown. He provided me with the materials, and asked if I could do “the rest.” With the help of many generous people on my campus, we had a plan to show three of the films on campus during International Education Week. Jacob Roope, who organizes most of the events, helped choose which films fit best with the guest speakers and our potential audience members. Jacob Harver, who is co-owner of the Lemon Grove, was kind enough to show all the films the first year and did most of the organizing and marketing in Youngstown that first year.

I previewed Ordinary People by myself in our auditorium before showing it to students. I was completely blown away, and hooked on these films from that moment. I called Ken immediately after the screening. I could only think to say, “What just happened? What did I just see?” Ken just answered, “I told you.” And, I think, that’s what Global Lens offers. It gives us the stories we wouldn’t hear, couldn’t hear from the people in places we wouldn’t know about were it not for the films. It makes us think about others differently, challenges our perceptions of the world, and reminds us how fortunate we truly are.

Ordinary People

A scene from ORDINARY PEOPLE (dir. Vladimir Perisic, Serbia)

GFI Board Member Igor Kirman writes inThe Not-So-Ordinary Acts of ORDINARY PEOPLE, “Ordinary People gives us a couch-front opportunity to think about controversial topics. But the film is also a reminder that moral judgments are hard work.” The characters Vladimir Perisic gives us in Ordinary People elicit sympathy despite the horror they engage in throughout the film. Strangely, it is the media as heard on the radio that plays a more disconcerting part in the story. Uprising violence is given as the reason for military action, but it is in direct contrast with what we as the audience have just seen. You have to read the subtitles and make the connection quickly as the troops move from one village to the next. The conversation about fishing with their fathers after they just killed a village of young men and boys is particularly eerie.

The response from the students to Ordinary People was overwhelmingly positive, and it garnered the largest audience at the Lemon Grove that year as well. After the screening, the audience asked when we were offering more films, and I told them I hoped my campus would support showing all the films in 2011. Contact information was exchanged and people looked to the holidays, but I really think every person who viewed the film, to a greater or lesser degree, realized how truly fortunate we all are to live where we do, to have all we have, and to have time to watch films we enjoy. I think this is the legacy of these films and this effort to share “stories from around the world.”

This second year was a complete campus effort. Rob King planned an entire marketing strategy for the festival including articles to appear in our Quarterly magazine, information in the local newspapers of record, as well as live spots on the radio. I designed the posters for the campus and community, created the e-mail and Facebook reminders, and worked with Bobbi Bain, our resident web guru, on posting the film information on the campus homepage and the electronic sign in front of the campus. Jacob Roope had also planned all the events with International Education Week to cooperate with the films. All this and more were in store, but Ken called and said his innumerable duties as chair prevented him from participating. I feared we would be cancelled, but he put me in contact with Jeremy Quist, the Global Lens Series Manager at the Global Film Initiative. Jeremy and our generous Dean saved the films coming to our campus, and I will always be grateful for being included and trusted with this work.

Belvedere

A scene from BELVEDERE (dir. Ahmed Imamovic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)

The first film I previewed was Belvedere. I immediately saw the connections to the themes from the previous year. I didn’t think it could be a coincidence since the two stories were so closely intertwined. Belvedere and Ordinary People work to make us understand two distinct stories centering around conflict—the victims and the cost of war. The films use violence and silence to put us into the minds of the protagonists. What act is more forgivable? A soldier following orders, or a mother seeking vengeance for her murdered family?

The students in my evening class who watched most of the films wrote an essay for class about how one of the films changed his/her worldview related to the issues addressed in the film. Each student picked a different film, but we discussed the themes in class. I think the lesson my students (as well as the campus community) learned most keenly was how lucky we are to live in a country free from domestic wars and crushing poverty.

My hope is that showing these films will change the way our students view others, appreciate diversity, and learn to appreciate fine films while enjoying the process of writing essays for class. It is much easier to write when you’re invested in your subject and you feel you’ve actually learned something through the process. That’s what Global Lens offers. That’s what it means to me, at least.

Jim CanacciJim Canacci is a proud member of the English faculty at Kent State University at Trumbull. Jim lives in Boardman, Ohio with his wife, Kris, and his two talented daughters, Miranda and Gillian. Jim has coordinated Global Lens showings on his campus and at the Lemon Grove Cafe in Downtown Youngstown for the last two years and looks forward to many more.

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