FEATURE: From Baghdad to San Antonio, QARANTINA Comes to South Texas

UT San Antonio Professor Steven G. Kellman (and former HuffPo contributor) on fighting off the ‘the toxins of cultural provincialism’ with QARANTINA…

A scene from QARANTINA (dir. Oday Rasheed, Iraq)

Though it is the seventh largest city in the United States, San Antonio is, like all but a few other areas in the country, virtually quarantined against foreign cinema. When an imported film does get screened in a local commercial theater, it is almost always from Britain, since, according to the industry’s conventional wisdom, Americans are monolingual, and they do not go to the movies to read; box-office receipts for inferior remakes of The Vanishing, The Debt, and The Seven Samurai exceed those for the subtitled originals. Film is the most portable of the arts, but national aversion to foreign film reflects widespread indifference to anything beyond our borders but violence.

As an antidote to the toxins of cultural provincialism, the San Antonio Museum of Art has scheduled monthly public screenings of works – twice each – provided by the Global Film Initiative. I was invited by SAMA to introduce the films and lead post-screening discussions.

October’s offering, Qarantina, written and directed by Oday Rasheed, is an outstanding demonstration of foreign cinema’s power to bring fresh perspectives to worlds that many hardly knew existed. Set in contemporary Baghdad, Qarantina is a film by Iraqis, about

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Deep in the Heart of Texas: Global Lens at the San Antonio Museum of Art!

Okay, everyone, full disclosure here: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I know next to nothing about San Antonio. I know a little bit about the Alamo, sure, but not nearly as much as I should. I know that Carol Burnett and Joan Crawford are both from there, but I learned that just now from the Internets. What I do know quite well, however, is that if you happen to be in San Antonio and you’re looking for the best in world cinema, then you’re in luck. All you have to do is head over to the San Antonio Museum of Art and drop in on a Global Lens 2012 film!

This is the Museum’s first year hosting the series, and we couldn’t be happier to be working with them. Responsible for the collaboration are the delightful Katie Erickson (Director of Education) and the equally delightful Nicole McLeod (Assistant Director of Education) who’s mutual love of movies inspired them to explore different ways of offering film programming at their (beautiful) institution, tailoring the programming to SAMA’s permanent collection. When speaking to her over the phone recently, Katie noted that she and Nicole first became interested in GFI because their collection is encyclopedic in nature — spanning continents and many cultures — and so Global Lens seemed to be a

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