Fall 2012: Elections and Presidents
When a prison doctor instructed women’s suffragist Alice Paul to talk about her cause, to “explain herself,” she wondered what needed to be explained. As a citizen she wanted and believed she was entitled to the same things her male interrogator did: self expression, the ability to act responsibly for her own needs, and representation of her voice in government. “What is there to explain?”
The desire for representation, to be seen and heard as one is, by an audience broader than our direct, personal relations, is fundamentally human. We crave seeing and sharing our stories, our perspectives and values—for our own good, sure, but also for the good of others whom we believe will benefit from the expression of our voices. To share in the responsibility of social decision-making is part of the fabric of modern cultures across the earth.
‘Tis the season for communicating about elections and their resultant leaders, especially presidents. We’re saturated with media coverage about the upcoming U.S. national elections. This semester’s Faculty Film Series shifts focus to other times and places and stories highlighting the universal compulsion to express our voices by participating in the crafting of power. As we’re steeped in assumptions that we’ll vote in November, we may have lost sight of some historical and cultural contexts of this opportunity.
Our film screenings and discussions probably won’t help you decide for whom to vote. They may not directly influence you at all in this season of electoral politics in the U.S. But, they will provide opportunities to learn, be entertained, and engage in conversation about how our own and other cultures experience and creatively represent democracy.
Each film we’ll watch considers the question of why bother being involved, why act to include our voices—the question Alice Paul wanted to reject but which reality requires we acknowledge.
Our first film is Iron Jawed Angels, a contemporary dramatization of the final years in the women’s suffrage movement in the U.S. Right now in 2012 we are two presidential election cycles shy of 100 years of women’s constitutional right to vote in every state. This 2004 HBO film reminds us of the physical and relational costs of this fact now taken for granted. Beginning with a meeting held in 1912, Iron Jawed Angels includes some provocative overlaps with today, including its aesthetic style (editing and music) and the controversy of protesting government and a sitting president while the nation is at war. Iron Jawed Angels screens Monday, September 10, at 7pm in the Barrington Cinema, followed by a panel discussion including Provost Janel Curry and a representative from the current semester’s Women and Politics course.
Next, on October 8, we’ll screen and discuss the 2001 Iranian comedy, Secret Ballot. Building from a Waiting for Godot-like opening, the film follows the non-adventures of an election official and her army-assigned security partner as they actively collect votes from eligible voters on a remote island. In scenes condensed from one day, we observe the absurdities of a culture living in tensions between democracy and authoritarianism, patriotism and apathy, and this community’s unique experience of such universal issues as gender limitations, language barriers, and frustration with the choices given – all while the right to vote is actively supported.
Following our own election in November, we take a break from adults voting for presidents to visit an elementary school in China holding its first election for class monitor. On November 12 we will screen Please Vote For Me, a 2007 documentary that runs the gamut of emotional triggers, from endearing to suspenseful, frustrating, and sad. Three very different children and their parents and teachers vie for success in a classic picture of some of the conflicts, stakes and consequences of electoral processes.
Finally, on December 3, our series culminates in the surreal, classic American film Being There. We’ll consider this comedic drama as an exploration of the making of a media age president. Iconic actor Peter Sellers portrays a social misfit who accidentally comes to influence the U.S. president and those who would manipulate the electoral and governing processes of a country addicted to a façade of televised talking points and platitudes.
Each film will be screened on a Monday evening at 7 p.m. in the Barrington Cinema, followed by a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Rini Cobbey. We’ll explore the individual films from aesthetic, sociological, and historical perspectives. Christian Life and Worship credit is available for students who stay for discussion.
FALL 2012 SERIES
All showings begin at 7 p.m. and offer Christian Life and Worship credit.
Iron Jawed Angels
Please Vote for Me