Here are some reflections from the first of what we hope will be many more Fordham Law Film Festivals:
When I was a graduate student a number of years ago, New York City movie theaters, in the days before multiplexes, routinely featured film festivals built around either a particular director, film genre, or cinematic theme. Aside from other diminished experiences that movie lovers have been forced to endure–from bad films to high prices to cardboard pop corn to the utter failure of the major Hollywood studios to produce smart, serious films–the loss of the film festival is a particularly troubling tiny tragedy.
The Fordham Law Film Festival reminded me what it’s like to showcase a number of films, over a number of days, centered around a particular theme, with an audience interested in a certain subject matter, followed by post-screening discussions led by an eclectic group of speakers in an orchestrated setting where the film transcends the pure visual experience and instead becomes a communal, cerebral form of entertainment.
On each night I stood in the back of the theater and watched the audience respond to these films in ways that I’m sure could not have happened had each film been rented on DVD and viewed in the privacy of one’s home entertainment center. There is something about watching a film together, in the dark, popcorn in hand, with a proclaimed purpose not just to get out of the house, but also to learn something, to deploy the medium of cinema to enlarge the mind, to engage the senses, to remind us that ideas still matter and that we have much to learn from each other in discussing something of interest that we have all witnessed together. The film festival is the modern day equivalent of the camp fire tale.
In this way, the Forum on Law, Culture, and Society, with its avowed purpose of stimulating and provoking conversations about the legal system’s influence on the popular and broader culture, serves a true civic function where the life of the mind still matters and the possibility for true spiritual engagement is, indeed, possible, and desired by a public hungry for tastes that surpass the dumb-downed middle brow that passes for cultural consumption in the modern world.