Film 50: Film for Non-Majors.
No, calm down, I am not telling you to take one of those dreary classes that sounds fun but where you actually have to write a lot and give a lot of exams. At least not yet. See Film 50 is a series of lectures offered at the Pacific Film Archive Theater that explore the world of cinema. You can either take it as a 4 unit class with discussions and exams, or leisurely attend one or all the lectures/screenings. It is usually a weekly 3 hour block where the Professor or guest lecturer introduces the film, followed by a screening of the film and finally a discussion. There is generally a theme for the series and it can be extremely interesting to follow the lecture/screening that is only once a week. Anyone can attend the Screening/Lecture regardless of whether they are enrolled at UC Berkeley or simply an intrigued member of the public. The class basically consists of watching a movie and then discussing the feelings you have (and trust me with the excellent film collection they have, there will be feelings) with some very stimulating people. Sometimes the 3 hour lecture/screenings would seem too short and I would return to my dorm, torturing any poor floor-mate who happened to be within earshot, by going on and on about how moved or distraught I was.
Berkeley might not be the film production haven that UCLA or USC is, but we have some excellent faculty in our Film department. All the Professors and GSIs know their film and are very approachable. They are interesting individuals to talk to, about movies, or anything else, if you want to stay back after lecture for a bit. The best thing about these lectures is that most of the time the professor only acts as a moderator for discussions after the screening, so anyone and everyone can have a say. Since the lectures are open to the public, the crowd is as diverse as possible, with all age-ranges and types of people represented. Hearing these different opinions and takes on the film can be refreshing as well as broaden one’s own reaction to the particular film. For those worried that the class will be too technical, the professor makes sure that the lecture/screening never is, and this is great for casual viewers, who might not be particularly engrossed in the intricacies of film production.
In general, I feel the BAM/PFA is not given due importance by the students at UC Berkeley. We are extremely lucky to not only have one of the most awesome Modern Art museums owned by any university, but also to have an extensive film archive that still shows historically significant films in their original formats (that means not streamed on Netflix or ripped from a DVD). The original formatting can be 16mm format or even having a live orchestra perform alongside a silent classic. The films are not (all) hipster films either, rather lots of Hollywood classics by auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and even some current blockbusters. Film 50 is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how interesting the different showcases and screenings can be. There are also a ton of fascinating documentaries offered for those who would prefer something a tad bit more realistic. Basically there is a wealth of filmic resources at the PFA and I feel students do not realize this. Yet, one cannot really blame the students, I mean being a student at Berkeley isn’t exactly easy and managing a social life/playing League of Legends and keeping up a strong academic performance does not exactly offer us a lot of time to unwind and catch movies. The best way to make sure you can keep up this juggling act is to attend at least one Film 50 lecture per semester. This will allow you to not only catch a nice movie but also be exposed to the intricacies of film in a mere 3 hours. The truth is, I might recommend just one screening per semester but I know a majority of you will return to continue the series and some of you might just take the class for credit next semester. I guess what I am saying, and I never promised you I wouldn’t, is that you should take this class.