“Jules and Jim” and “Dr. Strangelove” are not films that take up the big screens in local theaters, especially in Knoxville, Tenn. Labeled obscure or art films, movies like these are hidden from the public and left for interested students to seek out — the UT Cinema Club looks to do just that. Handing students a French film or a little known American director is something that drives the organization and is a mantra that they won’t be ditching anytime soon.
Started by University of Tennessee students Dimi Venkov, Caitlin McFall and Ashton Hickey who had an interest in sharing their passion for cinema. The UT Cinema Club was born as an avenue for students who had never heard of names like Francois Truffaut and Stanley Kubrick.
“Part of the reason (in starting the club) was counter programming, or doing something extra or building off of the UT Film Committee,” Dylan Moore, a senior psychology major said. “They weren’t particularly happy with all of the things that they were showing so he kind of wanted to specifically show movies that they found interesting.”
Moore, who runs the club with Andrew Swafford, says the emphasis is on old movies that people normally wouldn’t see. Moore said that the first film the club ever showed was Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.” Moore attended this first meeting and was immediately hooked.
Moore was already a Cinema Studies minor at the time, having taken two introduction film courses. “I got sucked in by the ‘Dr. Strangelove’ because I had just recently discovered Kubrick and had watched ‘The Shining’,” Swafford said. “That just kind of hooked me, I really liked the discussion.”
“You’ve got George C. Scott acting like a weirdo, slapping his belly, and is somehow intimidated by Peter Sellers’ president,” Moore said.
“No fighting in the war room!” Swafford adds.
Swafford was enamored with one of the later additions to the club — letting students present their own films.
“One of the things we do that hooks people, or a certain type of person, is to offer to let people show their own movies because I came into Strangelove, filled out one of those forms that asked if I wanted to host a movie and I replied, yes,” Swafford said. “I don’t think I came to many (meetings) until I hosted my own.”
Swafford said the format for user nights is the same as the regular showings but the host is in the front of the crowd presenting the film.
“They will ask questions and lead to some sort of analysis of the film,” Swafford said. “That’s basically what it is (both series), it is all about trying to pick apart the movie, not just to talk about what we liked or didn’t like about it, but what makes it have the effect it has on us.”
The club works in a very democratic fashion and allows frequent viewers the opportunity to vote on what they will show each week. This semester, they are focusing on showing an older film and a modern film from countries around the world. In a weekly email blast, Moore sends four choices to the blast members and sorts through what they want to see.
But, sometimes, even the guy in charge has to watch the film first.
“As a prep (for French week), I watched like five films where only three ended up on the ballot,” Moore said. “I had to watch ‘Rules of the Game’ and ‘The Grand Illusion’ for the first time to feel comfortable putting them on the ballot.”
While both Moore and Swafford are seniors and will be moving on after this semester, they hope that the next class of cinema lovers will take the club to new heights but also keep it within its roots, opening up new worlds for people in cinema.
“It’s kind of like a book club,” Swafford said. “We can’t just watch the movie and go home, we have to have some sort of discussion.”
The UT Cinema Club has a Facebook group where interested members can subscribe to their mailing list and vote on films.
Edited by Nichole Stevens