UC film series keeps rolling, spring semester into full swing

Photo of “Lamb,” which will be shown Feb. 17.

Jeff Miller

Photo of “Lamb,” which will be shown Feb. 17.

Hollie David, Features Editor

The Utica College film series runs the first eight weeks of every semester and is free to all on campus and in the community. Dr. Jeff Miller, Chair and Associate Professor of Communication and Media, refers to it as a hidden gem on the UC campus.

Origins of a film series on the Utica campus date back to 1963, when a group of undergraduate students led by Utica’s class of ‘65 alumni Dr. Jurij Savyckyj decided to show films on campus. Savyckyi would take weekend trips to New York City to watch and attempt to rent movies that he thought students would find interesting, according to Miller. 

The next big run of the Utica College film series started in the mid-1970s when it was picked up by past Utica College professor Scott McDonald. McDonald ran the series for around 25 years, only stopping when he left the college in 1999.

When McDonald left the college, Miller, along with three other faculty members, wanted to keep the series alive, as they believed it was a valuable asset for students on campus. The group had to figure out how to keep the series running, meaning they did everything from renting a space to finding tech support. 

According to Miller, keeping the series alive and maintained, along with finding films, is not a one-person job. 

“Luckily, after doing it for 20 years and having lots of help, finding movies has become more of a science than an art,” Miller said. “A lot of great people help keep the series running, including Erin McCarthy, who helps with the budget and Chris Specht who is irreplaceable in giving the tech help to get movies set up.”

Miller said he is constantly on the hunt for movies to premiere during future semesters and uses several film festivals, such as Vancouver International Film Festival and the Asian American International Film Festival to find his films.

Most of the films shown during the semester are foreign films and throughout the course of Miller’s series, he has shown works from more than 60 countries. 

“Yes, they have subtitles and I know it puts students off by reading subtitles,” Miller said. “I promise the viewers that if they give it a try they won’t even realize that they are watching a film with subtitles.”

This semester, four of the movies chosen had a deep theme that interlocked them. The goal of the four movies is to help viewers understand the ways in which animals and humanity meet, mingle, blend and conflict with each other according to Miller. “Velvet Queen,” “Becoming Animal,” “Lamb” and “Wolf Walkers” give different examples of how humans are clashing with nature.

“We are slowly coming to understand that if we don’t stop soon, it will not be good,” Miller said, in reference to humans’ treatment of nature. “All four films say something about us and animals and our relationships.”

Leola Beck, a freshman taking Miller’s class this semester, has enjoyed the movies that have been shown up to this point. 

“The movies that I’ve seen so far I think are really interesting,” Beck said. “The movie ‘Hive’ that we recently watched was very inspiring and it’s something I would have never seen if it wasn’t for the class.”

Overall, students have positive experiences in regards to the film series.

“As an exchange student and film major, I was looking for film courses to enroll in,” international student Milena Ucedo said. “I had a lot of expectations in this class and it is not disappointing me at all. At my home university, we don’t have a class specifically dedicated to watch films and I can notice now how necessary it is and how much you can learn from others’ perspectives.”

The film series is open to anyone on or off the college campus and there is no cost to anyone who wants to attend. While COVID-19 decreased the attendance rate the past few semesters, the film series is open to the public once again.

There are four movies left for the semester which can be seen Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. in Macfarlane Auditorium, located in DePerno Hall.

More information about the film series including dates and movie lineups can be found on the Utica College website

“I get to watch movies that are not readily available on the big screen,” Miller said. “I’ve shown eight (different) movies (every semester) for 44 semesters, it’s been a wonderful experience that isn’t available anywhere else.”