Friday Nights are Still Perfect for Movies


Fairuz Ishraque, Contributing Writer

The Friday Night Film Series has been a consistent addition to the Colgate calendar for two decades now. Coordinated by the Film & Media Studies Department, this series, often featuring 35 mm film screenings, started off as something to do on Friday evenings for students who weren’t too eager to join in on the campus-consuming party scene. However, in the last 20 years, that intention has grown into something more.

“Now we understand the series as a way to bring films to campus that students and the community as a whole would not have access to otherwise,” Director of Colgate’s Film & Media Studies Program Mary Simonson said. She has been active in organizing the Friday Night Film Series for a big chunk of her time at Colgate.

The decision about which films to feature is usually made by the Film & Media Studies Department.

“From our end, we think about relatively recent films or historically significant films that people don’t otherwise have access to or wouldn’t otherwise see,” Simonson said. 

While the movie theatre downtown is a great resource for students and community members alike to enjoy films, its selections are driven by the requirement of generating revenue. Free from similar restrictions, the film series can be much more creative with its selections, frequently leaning towards more independent films and documentaries. Every screening is followed by a discussion and Q&A session featuring the filmmaker and moderated by faculty and students from Film & Media Studies.

The Film & Media Studies Department also collaborates with different offices and departments on campus. In fact, the first film featured in the series this spring semester — “John Lewis: Good Trouble” — was in collaboration with the ALANA Cultural Center as part of Colgate’s Martin Luther King celebration week. 

Director of the ALANA Cultural Center Esther Rosbrook said she especially enjoyed the discussion session led by Professor Ani Maitra and students following the film screening.

“It was very effective to have a faculty and students as panelists and in conversation, allowing multiple lenses of insights,” Rosbrook said. 

Future cosponsored events include the screenings of “Boys State” (March 5 with Women’s Studies) and “Landfall” (March 19 with CORE Communities and Identities and African and Latin American Studies). These collaborations serve to expand the range of topics highlighted by the film series and regularly supplement coursework across campus. 

Running the concluding lap of her college career, senior Lily Kuentz considers the film series to be a memorable aspect of being a Film & Media Studies minor. Her most impactful experience was of the discussion session hosted by the Friday Night Film Series during the Sixth Global Flaherty Filmmaker Residency program. The discussion featured artist-filmmaker Maryam Tafakory and her work. 

“It definitely widened my understanding of global filmmaking and the challenges that one might encounter when entering sacred or exclusive spaces especially given one’s gender,” Kuents remarked. “Hearing from Maryam Tafakory about her filmmaking in addition to watching her films told me her story of growing up in Iran as well as her present story of being an Iranian filmmaker.”

The Friday Night Film Series is meant to be just as much of a resource for the Hamilton locals as it is for Colgate students, open to anyone in the community who wants to attend. 

Simonson believes it is important for Colgate students to interact with members of the greater Hamilton community beyond the usual contact downtown. 

“We do have a number of community members who come to the screenings. I think it’s a nice thing for students to be able to be in the same room (in normal times) as people in the community, and for people in the community to be at an event at Colgate and have students around them,” Simonson said. 

Unfortunately, like every other campus event, the Friday Night Film Series has undergone significant changes to accommodate the limitations of a pandemic-ridden academic year.  

“We thought a lot about this,” Simonson admitted. “We wanted to make sure that we didn’t have to turn people away ever, and we also realized that people get Zoom fatigue, so the idea of doing something every single week, maybe was not the best route.”

Instead, the department decided to hold screenings every other week, followed by a discussion session. The week of the screening, the film is available for streaming Monday through Friday, and then on Friday at 5 p.m. a Q&A session is hosted virtually. This Spring, as a part of the senior capstone seminar, each Friday Night Film screening is co-moderated by a senior Film & Media Studies major. 

The Friday Night Film Series has constantly evolved as an event, and today, in the face of a crippling global pandemic, it continues to do so. Whether one is in search of a new interesting watch, or wants to get a closer look into the filmmaking process, the Friday Night Film Series has something in store for everyone.