Film and Media Studies majors showcase senior theses

On Monday evening, students from this year’s Film and Media Studies Capstone course unreeled their semester’s work to an eager audience. This year’s films and research projects demonstrate a wide array of talents and interests across the board.

“Educated,” a short film by Jay Stephens ’14, is a satirical yet eerie portrait of a graduating woman of color searching for a job. The short’s main character is played by Reem Abdou ’14 who, as Stephens’ puts it, “is so engaging and real as an actress, but not overly emotional.” Stephens approached this project as an experimental critique of receiving higher education from an elite liberal arts institution. The film confronts the conflict between how we are taught to think and how we truly engage with our environment.

Senior Anna Russell’s short film “Extracted Enemies” follows the story of a kidnapping and the relationship that develops between kidnapper and kidnappee. The film stars Anita Castillo-Halvorssen ’15 and Aaron Matis ’16. The project touches on traditional gender roles in how we understand crime. “In a genre that usually depicts men as perpetrators and women as victims, I’ve chosen to turn these tropes on their heads,” explains Russell.

In senior Anjali Cadambi’s “Signs,” we witness the myth of the takeover of urban spaces by homeless people. Following the death of a homeless man on a street corner, a friend uses orange spray paint to outline the spot at which the man perished. The spray paint becomes a national indicator of safe shelter.

Sasha Rojavin ’14 explored how we signify meaning in his presentation “Digital Theatre: The Internet Meme as Psychological Gesture.” Rojavin marked the similarities between the internet meme and the classic anecdote. His overall thesis is that memes, rather than a thing, are a performance, an action. They allow us to play out fragments of our identity that are representative of the entire culture.

Three students focused on the implementation of gender roles in media for their final projects. Leah Foster ’14 presented a paper that examines how treatment of gender roles in fan pornography has changed across fifty years. Her presentation focused on the main “Star Trek” characters Captain Kirk and Spock. She explained how feminine descriptions of male characters can be viewed as a response to patriarchal objectification of the female body. However, she believes that these projects are destructive because of their consistent objectification of the gay male body.

Cristina Matamoros ’14 gave a presentation about gender roles in Spanish national cinema. Using the example of Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar, Matamoros demonstrated how patriarchy in Spanish society was depicted through film. In her paper, Matamoros argues that cinema has been the primary medium for illustrating in detail changes in Spanish society. “Almodovar’s work is both a reflection and subversion of the mechanisms that hold women in subordinate positions to men,” she said. Matamoros’ research goes on to demonstrate that Almodovar’s films are a direct response to General Francisco Franco’s sexist policies.

In his presentation “Continuity with the Past: Holly Golightly and the Endless Pursuit of Self-Actualization,” Zac Wunrow ’14 examines how a classic American romantic-comedy conveys a young woman’s inability to escape the confines of a male-dominated society and achieve her own independence. He asks if when Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) and Paul Varjak (George Peppard) share a rain-drenched kiss in the final scene of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961), we are really supposed to be filled with the wonderfully-romantic sense that “love conquers all.”

Students would like to thank Professors Bob Rehak and Erica Cho, Mike Jones, ITS staff and library staff for their help and support.

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