The Utica College Film Series runs the first eight weeks of each semester and is free to everyone on campus and in the community. Dr. Jeff Miller, President and Associate Professor of Communication and Media, refers to it as a hidden gem on the UC campus.
The origins of a film series on the Utica campus date back to 1963, when a group of undergraduate students led by Utica’s class of 1965 alumni, Dr. Jurij Savyckyj, decided to show films on campus. Savyckyi would spend weekends in New York watching and trying to rent movies he thought students would find interesting, according to Miller.
The next big series of Utica College films began in the mid-1970s when it was taken over by former Utica College professor Scott McDonald. McDonald ran the series for about 25 years, not stopping until he graduated from college in 1999.
When McDonald left college, Miller, along with three other faculty members, wanted to keep the series alive, as they believed it was a valuable asset to students on campus. The band had to find a way to keep the series going, which meant they did everything from renting a space to finding technical support.
According to Miller, keeping the series alive and keeping it, as well as finding movies, isn’t a one-person job.
“Fortunately, after doing this for 20 years and having a lot of help, finding movies has become more of a science than an art,” Miller said. “A lot of great people help make the show work, including Erin McCarthy who helps with the budget and Chris Specht who is invaluable in giving technical help putting together movies.”
Miller said he is constantly on the lookout for films to premiere over the next few semesters and uses several film festivals, such as Vancouver International Film Festival and the International Asian American Film Festival to find his films.
Most of the films screened during the semester are foreign films and throughout Miller’s run he has shown works from more than 60 countries.
“Yes, they have subtitles and I know that discourages students from reading subtitles,” Miller said. “I promise viewers that if they try, they won’t even realize they’re watching a movie with subtitles.”
This semester, four of the chosen films had a deep theme that intertwined them. The goal of all four films is to help viewers understand how animals and humanity meet, mingle, mingle and conflict according to Miller. “Velvet Queen”, “Becoming Animal”, “Lamb” and “Wolf Walkers” give different examples of how humans clash with nature.
“We’re slowly starting to realize that if we don’t stop soon, it won’t be good,” Miller said, referring to humans’ treatment of nature. “All four films say something about us, the animals and our relationships.”
Leola Beck, a freshman taking Miller’s class this semester, has enjoyed the films that have been shown so far.
“The movies I’ve seen so far are really interesting,” Beck said. “The movie ‘Hive’ that we recently watched was very inspiring and it’s something I would never have seen if not for the class.”
Overall, students have positive experiences with the film series.
“As an exchange student and a film student, I was looking for film courses to enroll in,” said international student Milena Ucedo. “I had high expectations in this category and it doesn’t disappoint me at all. At my home university we don’t have a course specifically dedicated to watching movies and I can now see how necessary it is and how much you can learn from other people’s point of view.
The film series is open to anyone on or off the college campus and there is no charge for anyone wishing to attend. As COVID-19 has dented attendance over the past few semesters, the film series is once again open to the public.
There are four films left for the semester that can be viewed Thursday nights at 7 p.m. at Macfarlane Auditorium, located in DePerno Hall.
More information about the film series, including dates and film schedules, can be found on the Utica College website.
“I can watch movies that aren’t readily available on the big screen,” Miller said. “I showed eight (different) movies (each semester) for 44 semesters, it was a wonderful experience not available anywhere else.”