Recently, word has spread around campus that Professor Bob Smith’s Introduction to Film class has been cancelled for future semesters. Due to budget cuts for the Film Department, it seems that Smith’s class will be no more. This is a very unfortunate loss for UConn; in these times when all of the focus is on STEM education, it is easy to forget that classes like Introduction to Film provide a much needed artistic element that seems to get pushed more and more under the rug as the years go by.
I went into the class last year during the spring semester knowing nothing about the specifics of how films work, but I came out of the class more appreciative of the hard work that goes into the entertainment we so commonly take for granted. Some of the questions on the exams were frustratingly exact; oftentimes, a position of a character or even the color of a curtain in the background of a scene provided a specific double meaning that was hard to pinpoint. The difficulty of these exams, however, forced the mind to expand to places where it usually would not go, which of course is a necessity for any kind of art. The red curtains in the background of a scene represented a character’s sense of being trapped. The positioning of the camera so that one character appeared taller than the other represented the director signaling the moral virtue of the taller character. All of these specific details added to my appreciation of the medium of film. It is not such a paint-by-numbers art form, but rather one that lets directors and writers combine visuals with a story. In essence, it is a combination of all art forms, synthesized into a piece where every cog and every gear has a purpose. Professor Smith helped me realize this, and it was quite a realization from a class that I expected to simply be another gen.e.d credit that I would forget about. The fact that I still remember so much from the class is a testament to Professor Smith’s impact.
Perhaps the most striking moment from the class came when Smith showed us a movie directed by Frank Borzage called Lucky Star, which was about a disabled WW1 veteran falling in love with a girl who is about to be married to a cowardly soldier. The end of the movie (spoiler alert, sorry) depicts the veteran rising from his wheelchair so that he can walk to the train station and stop the girl from leaving. Unrealistic, yes, but moving? Very much so. It showed the power film can have over us, even a silent one from 1929.
It is my hope that the decision to cancel this class is reversed; many more students should be able to be introduced to how interesting film can be. It is such a great opportunity for a general education class because everyone loves movies, and learning more about them can certainly be much more interesting than most other general education classes offered by UConn. It is a decently sized class; shouldn’t some budget be allocated to it based on the demand that students have for it?
On r/UConn, there is a post where many students have mourned the future loss of this class. One alumnus wrote, “Bob was one of the most influential professors I had in my time there.” There is even an online petition to save Smith’s classes. UConn should not cancel a class with this much enthusiasm expressed for it. Hopefully, this can reversed, as classes like Intro to Film achieve something many classes fail to do; they touch the soul.
Ben Crnic is a contributor for the The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.