Through A Culture’s Eyes: Cedarville’s Foreign Film Series

Cedarville cultivates diverse minds by providing students with cultural artifacts through the showing of foreign films

by Benjamin Smid

The way that people entertain themselves teaches a lot about the culture they live in. According to a report done by IBISWorld, the global film industry is worth $136 billion as of 2018.

Most movies produced in the U.S. are a product of Hollywood and are very reflective of American culture.

But the U.S. is not the only country that makes movies, believe it or not, nor is it true that only its movies are telling about the culture that produced them.

In 2004, Cedarville’s Professor Daniel Clark and Dr. Andrew Wiseman had a conversation which led to the proposal of a foreign film series that would allow students to gain a greater sensitivity, appreciation, understanding and awareness of the world’s cultures, and prepare them for global, cross-cultural interaction.

The series’ purpose was consistent with Cedarville University’s mission statement at the time: “to increase each student’s awareness of the world of ideas and events which are influencing our contemporary culture and to prepare each student to participate knowledgeably in our society.”

In concordance with that mission statement, Clark said, “A lot of our students haven’t had much international experience, and Americans in general don’t always have a very broad view of the world that we live in… We were looking for movies that would show something about that culture’s life.”

Over the past 14 ½ years, the Foreign Film Series has shown 87 films, nearly all of which were foreign productions. These films have provided windows into many different cultures and have brought the world to the screen for Cedarville students.

Matthew Hunsberger, a freshman political science major who attended 5 of this year’s 6 featured motion pictures, said, “I think the Foreign Film Series’ biggest benefit comes in the form of teaching about foreign cultures and exposing students to other points of view… The foreign films have been thought provoking, particularly Under the Sun (a documentary on North Korea). The films have led me to think about how the United States compares to other countries, both culturally and, in some cases, politically.”

“I think it says something about Americans, that for our entertainment, we can turn our brains off,” Clark said. He and Dr. Wiseman work together in selecting movies that will give students small glimpses of other cultures, and expand their minds to ways of life that they may have been ignorant too. The movies in the series vary, with some containing heavy, meaningful narratives, and others being so symbolic of a culture as to justify their showing.

An aspect of the Foreign Film Series that is particularly special is the number of animated movies that are shown.  In America animated films are often stereotyped as being of little depth and meant for children’s entertainment. However, the ones that are chosen for the Foreign Film Series are serious in content, rich in meaning and deliberately thought-provoking, and will change your perspective on cartoons altogether.  An example that was shown last semester was The Breadwinner.  The story follows a girl growing up in Afghanistan under the Taliban who is forced to dress as a boy in order for her to go on supporting her family after her father is abducted.

As the Foreign Film Series continues throughout the coming years, Professor Clark and Dr. Wiseman will continue to search for quality motion pictures to show those at Cedarville University.  The Foreign Film Series is over for this semester, but if you attend any of the movies in the fall, prepare to be challenged and enlightened on the different cultures that God has brought about in the beautiful, diverse world he created.

Benjamin Smid is a sophomore Communication major and Campus News writer for Cedars. He enjoys singing tight harmonies, managing schedules, and having deep conversations of any kind.

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