Lecture series launches with film, discussion of propaganda

Students watch the German film "Nosferatu" during the last Philosophy and Film event in April. The series will start its new season with a showing of Fritz Lang's "M." (Lillian Reid/DD)

The Walter Cronkite School will play host to a showing of Fritz Lang’s film “M” to kick off the Philosophy and Film Series on Wednesday.

This semester’s series will focus on the theme of Nazism, as part of a broader exploration of philosophy in pop culture. English instructor James Wermers, who founded the program with philosophy instructor Christopher Burrell, said they were pushing boundaries by choosing this theme to coincide with the elections in November.

“(It’s) a weird electricity in the air when people get talking about it,” Wermers said.

The 1931 film noir classic will be shown at 7 p.m. in Room 128 of the Cronkite building, and English instructor Leslie Chilton will lead a discussion after the movie.

The discussion will center on the influence of Nazi propaganda during that time as well as the aesthetics of the movie, which was Lang’s first film with sound.

The series is funded entirely by the School of Letters and Sciences.

Barbara Lafford, a professor in the School of Letters and Science, gave final approval for the films.

“As long as they see it as a work of art, it’s OK,” Lafford said.

Each semester, the School of Letters and Sciences is granted a budget to cover one major film; last year’s film was “Precious.” The rest of the movies tend to be public-domain films. Wermers said the proposed topic for next semester’s series is foreign languages.

Throughout the Downtown campus, students and community members can find fliers, designed to look like they are from the Nazi era, that display the title and show date of each film.

This fall’s series is a continuation of similar lecture events that began in 2009. The lectures have involved a film and a featured speaker who talks for 10 to 20 minutes, followed by a 30- to 45-minute conversation with the audience, which generally includes about 100 people.

After Wednesday’s movie, this fall’s collection will include George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” with a discussion led by English lecturer Rosemarie Dombrowski on October 31, and Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” with a panel-led discussion on Dec. 5.

Lafford hinted that Dombrowski will wear a costume, and students are encouraged to dress up as well for the Halloween event.

The series is free and open to the public.

“The ‘philosophy’ word scares people,” Wermers said, but he added that his goal is to get a lot of people involved.

Contact the reporter at danika.worthington@asu.edu

Clarification: Sept. 12, 2012

An earlier version of this article said that according to Barbara Lafford, the proposed topic for next semester’s film series is foreign languages. James Wermers, not Lafford, said that was the proposed topic. The article also has been modified to clarify that the Walter Cronkite School is playing host to the event, not putting on the event. The article also has modified to clarify the broader theme of the lecture series.