Over the past four weeks, through documentary and drama, the HWS Spanish Film Club Festival has taken audiences from Spain to Argentina, showcasing diverse cultures, subjects and styles.
Developed this fall in collaboration with Pragda, a new film distributor whose main goal is to distribute new Hispanic cinema in the U.S. through public screenings at colleges and universities, the film series has its roots in an experiment in an HWS Spanish class, “Advanced Grammar and Composition.”
“I am constantly looking to improve my teaching incorporating new activities and strategies to foster a rewarding learning environment,” says Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Fernando Rodriguez-Mansilla. “Last fall, I proposed that the students in ‘Advanced Grammar and Composition’ write their papers about five films seen outside class time, on Thursday evenings. I envisioned students would enjoy writing about contemporary Hispanic movies because they are a generation that is constantly bombarded with media.”
During that semester, Rodriguez-Mansilla read compositions with suggestive ideas and sharp cinema analysis and, with this assignment, saw one of his goals as a language and culture teacher fulfilled.
“While developing writing skills in the target language, the students should reflect on cultural issues of the Spanish speaking world as represented in contemporary media,” Rodriguez-Mansilla says.
This fall, with the help of Visiting Assistant Professor of Spanish and Hispanic Studies Álvaro Llosa, and supported by a Center for Teaching and Learning grant for innovative teaching, the film series expanded its scope beyond the “Advanced Grammar and Composition” class.
While the film series was still a component of the course, the screenings were open to the entire campus and featured student and faculty presenters from a wide range of disciplines, speaking to issues raised by the films.
“Our plan in the future will probably be to enhance this approach not only using films but other events and activities as well (exhibitions, special events, Google hangouts with special guests), and make the effort to connect with other institutions willing to participate in the same blogging platform,” says Llosa. “This would be great to strengthen ties among (inter)campus activities, students, classes, and topics, allowing a richer cross-cultural approach for them, and giving them an opportunity to develop a public role while learning about cultures and improving their digital skills.”
To follow the festival’s progress week after week, Rodriguez-Mansilla and Llosa incorporated a blog, “La otra mirada (cine y +)”, where students posted collective reviews, comments and maintained a discussion about the films after the screening.
“This means that their submissions in the target language are launched to the world wide web and potentially shared with a broad Spanish speaking audience,” says Rodriguez-Mansilla. “Other students, movie fans, media researchers, film critics. In that way, their contribution to the film reception and criticism may have a real impact and value out of the classroom. I think that this activity is a good example of how globalization, language learning and critical thinking can converge in a student-centered environment.”
Both Rodriguez-Mansilla and Llosa are participants in The Littera Project, a sharing space of collaboration focused on connecting digital tools to learning student communities of Spanish culture and literature in order to enhance interpersonal experiences of knowledge and global awareness in digital environments.
The Festival concluded with a screening of the Oscar®-nominated “Chico & Rita,” an animated love story starring the music, culture and people of Cuba, on Oct. 17. From Oscar®-winning director Fernando Trueba (“The Age of Beauty”) and famous artist Javier Mariscal, “Chico & Rita” is the story of a dashing piano player and an enchanting and beautiful Havana nightclub singer. When they meet, the sparks fly and they fall madly in love. An epic romance unfolds as the pair travels the glamorous stages of 1940s/1950s Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris.
The HWS Spanish Club Festival was made possible through a grant from Pragda as well as the Office of the Provost, the CTL, the Center for Global Education, Intercultural Affairs, the Environmental Studies program, and the Spanish & Hispanic Studies department.