Ecological Films Without the Hype Screened in Conjunction With Hamilton College

Audrey Melick

This weekend, in collaboration with Hamilton College, Colgate will continue the Nature/Place/Cinema series that that began place last weekend. Funded by various departments and faculty, this series focuses upon the representation of nature in film outside of mainstream cinema. The symposium hones in on two often-overlooked aspects of the history of cinema: the emergence within the past twenty-five years of a modern school of landscape film and video-making, and the origins of the nature, or “wildlife,” film. The films shown are mostly experimental works shared by visiting filmmakers, accompanied by lectures given by cinema scholars.

So what sets aside these nature films from those shown on, say, Discovery or Animal Planet?

“Most popular nature films are an attempt to anthropomorphize nature, especially animals,” Assistant Professor of Italian Luca Caminati, one of the faculty members organizing the event, said. “They often represent a clear capitalist ideology in trying to represent animals in a human manner, and then it’s almost as if they place moral judgment on those that don’t conform to these standards . . . These films [shown this weekend] take viewers to a place they’ve never been before by offering a different perspective in rejecting the forcing of human ideals onto animals.”

This is not to say, however, that the films shown are objective, nor are they meant to be didactic pieces.

“As soon as the voiceover begins,” Caminati, said, “all objectivity disappears. But it’s not like [the film] is necessarily trying to preach anything to the audience either. It’s not just about content. It’s about form.”

The films vary in topic from insects to lakes to sheep, each sharing a different perspective on nature. Last Saturday, for example, Catherine Chalmer’s WE RULE related life from the point of view of cockroaches, while James Benning’s 13 Lakes presented thirteen lakes, each for thirteen minutes without any movement of the camera. This wide range of subject matter is an attempt to create a new understanding of nature films among viewers.

“Hollywood only exposes us to a small portion of cinema,” Caminati said. “These films are different. They’re almost a process of meditation of nature. These paintings of motion become incredible portions of reality.”

Colgate will be hosting two films in 105 Little Hall this weekend: At Sea at 7:00 p.m. Friday and The Eye of the Day at 10:00 a.m. Saturday. The remainder of the films will be screened at Hamilton College on Saturday and Sunday.