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Conable Film Festival — Rebecca Scales

Conable Film Series

When attempting to learn about different time periods and locations, it's good to have an innovative means of immersing your students. For Rebecca Scales, one way to accomplish this is through cinema.

"I use film to teach in a lot of my courses to get students to not only think about history in a different way," said Scales, a History professor, "but how films represent the past and potentially distort the past."

This unique approach led to the creation of the Conable Film Series, which brings a slate of six films to the RIT community throughout the academic year.

"I came up with the idea for the film series two years ago," said Scales. "I saw it as a way to take that [teaching style] to a broader audience but also to get a lot different faculty members involved from across the college."

Each film is connected with a different faculty member, who introduces the film and its cultural context. The faculty member than leads a more in-depth discussion following the film.

While the film festival has been very successful in meeting its goals, different films have seen different audience turnout depending on the content and time in the quarter. A showing of the original Swedish version of 'Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' had one of the larger audiences in the series' history.

"Sometimes we've had smaller numbers but this year in particular we've had about 60 people in each screening," said Scales.

Since she spearheaded efforts to create the Conable Film Series, Scales has evolved the formula for choosing the different films and faculty.

"The first year we did it my goal was to really aim for geographical diversity and cultural diversity," said Scales. "I also try to aim for diversity in terms of the faculty that I ask to be involved because I want to see how a historian might introduce a film in a way that is different from an anthropologist."

This year Scales reached out to faculty to bring forward movies that they found of particular interest or relevance. The films shown this year cover four continents and six countries and cover topics from the 1980s to the present day.

The next film in the series, which will be shown Feb. 7, is 'The Lives of Others', which tells the story of a member of the East German secret police tasked with spying on a playwright and his girlfriend in 1984. That film will be introduced by Corinna Schlombs, assistant professor of history. 'The Lives of Others' will be shown in room 2610 of the Campus Center.

Scales will introduce the next film in the series, 'Le Havre', along with associate dean of the college, Babak Elahi. It chronicles the story of a young African illegal immigrant in France who is protected from the authorities by a shoeshiner and his neighbors. 'Le Havre' will be shown on March 25 in the Campus Center, room 2650.

The other two films are 'The Mermaid' and 'Diaz', which will be shown on April 18 and May 7, respectively. 'The Mermaid' will be shown in conjunction with a Russian culture Symposium, "From Russia with Love: Literature, Music, Art, Film," organized by Elena Sommers, senior lecturer in global literature in the department of English.

For Scales, taking into account the different experiences and areas of knowledge in COLA has made the experience all the more worthwhile.

"I thought it would be fun to see what other faculty are doing with film in their classes," said Scales.

Through the Conable Film Series, everyone has the chance to know the answer to this question.

For more information about the Conable Film Series, contact Rebecca Scales at 475-4244 or