Independent foreign film festival: Northeastern Ohio’s hidden gem

Conner Howard

The third annual Global Lens Film Festival exposed northeast Ohio to a broad perspective of international and cultural experiences this month.

Sponsored by the Kent State Department of History, Global Lens presented a series of independent foreign films at Kent State’s Kent, Stark and Trumbull campuses, The Akron Art Museum and The Lemon Grove in downtown Youngstown. Beginning Nov. 10 and ending Saturday for Kent campuses and the art museum, the movies will continue showing once a week until Dec. 12 at The Lemon Grove.

Kenneth Bindas, chair of the Kent State Department of History, organized the presentation of the film series on campus by partnering with the Geography and International Relations departments. He said the idea behind the film series is to bring cultural enrichment to Kent State and the surrounding community.

“My goal and the department’s goal is basically to expose the students and the campus and university community in general to the community outside of Kent and see what the rest of the world is like,” Bindas said. “And in that, recognizing that the values that we have that we think are unique, are actually pretty well global.”

Bindas said the goal of the film festival is to allow students “to experience foreign language films, and to watch films outside the traditional venue of what not just students, but faculty, staff and the community at large normally watch.”

Some of the films in the series could be seen only in Chicago, New York City and Northeastern Ohio, making the film festival a rare opportunity for Kent State students and the surrounding community.

“These are films that are made usually by independent film producers in these countries that don’t really have large distribution power,” Bindas said. “So what global lens does is it serves as sort of a distributor to it. We pay a flat rate, and it’s a discounted rate because we’re not charging any money to see the films, and the idea is to expose these filmmakers to a broader audience.”

Student and staff reaction to the films have been mostly positive, despite low attendance. Many students, such as sophomore hospitality management major Samantha Alsep, went to see the films for extra credit in their classes, but received a more rewarding experience than expected.

“I thought it was cool. I liked how it wasn’t in our language, and I got a good aspect of other people’s languages and their heritages,” Alsep said. “You can get a lot out of it because there’s a lot of people that are that heritage that go to our school, and maybe we just don’t understand them as much and we should start going to stuff like this to understand their heritage and culture.”

Drew Teine, a professor of Instructional Technology in the School of Lifespan Development and Educational Sciences, was in the audience for the majority of the films shown at the Kent campus. As opposed to a student seeking extra credit or a grade, Teine attended the films out of genuine interest.

“One of the things I teach is television production,” Teine said. “I’ve done documentaries, so I’m interested in that aspect of it. I’ve been involved in international work, also.”

Teine emphasized the value of the Global Lens film series to students at Kent State in particular.

“I think it’s wonderful that the History Department is supporting this,” Teine said. “I think it really behooves Kent State students who often haven’t really seen very much of the world to be able to at least have an experience in a film where they’re exposed to a different lifestyle and a different culture.”

Teine feels issues present in the Global Lens film series are important for modern students to be educated about.

“These movies presented material about very important events that took place in countries around the world that were global news stories,” Teine said.

Two films centered around genocide, one African tribal genocide and the other in Eastern Europe.

“Those films are both very powerful to help one grasp what leads to that and how that sort of phenomenon ought to be understood and hopefully addressed so that it doesn’t tend to happen in the future,” Teine said.

He said he hopes the film festival will gain additional exposure in the future, so that more people can benefit from the films.

“I would hope that maybe with more publicity and more encouragement from faculty, the university administration itself, maybe attendance could be higher,” Teine said. “This series has played here for several years, and this is the first time I’ve heard of it.”

Contact Conner Howard at [email protected].