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Monday, February 4, 2013

History Department held first of four movie nights

By Kean Spivey

UNC Pembroke’s History Department launched its first movie night on Jan. 22 with the film “Sahara.”

Ryan Anderson

Ryan Anderson

Black Line

Movie night was hosted by Dr. Ryan Anderson, assistant professor of history. The goal, according to Dr. Anderson, is “to have one historical movie night each month during the 2013 spring semester.

“Our idea is that different members of the department will pick out a favorite film, introduce the film, and then moderate a viewing and discussion,” Anderson said. “The film series gives people a chance to think like historians.

“We thought a film series where students, faculty and staff could come together and enjoy discussing popular historical topics would be appealing. It’s something we've discussed in the past and students expressed an interest in the event,” Anderson said.

“Sahara” is a 1943 film staring Humphrey Bogart and is set in North Africa just after the United States entered WWII. Bogart, playing Sgt. Joe Gunn is a tank commander who picks up four British soldiers, a South African, a Frenchman and a Sudanese man with an Italian prisoner crossing the Libyan Desert to rejoin their command after the fall of Tobruk. With Germans on the prowl and an urgent need for water, the plot unfolds.

“It’s a classic example of World War II propaganda,” Dr. Anderson said. “The film does a great job of illustrating the relationship between Hollywood and the federal government's Office of War Information (OWI) during the war.”

Humphrey Bogart

Humphrey Bogart

Black Line

“Through the OWI, the Bureau of Motion Pictures published the “Manual for the Motion-Picture Industry,” which asked one important question of every movie Hollywood proffered up for inspection: ‘Will this movie help win the war?’” Dr. Andseron said. “‘Sahara’achieved this end by depicting how an international and interracial group of men worked together under American leadership to defeat the Nazis. Importantly, the film—released as the Allied leaders planned the invasion of Italy, which followed in the fall of 1943—suggested that Italian people were more like Americans and redeemable than their Axis partners the Nazis.”

Dr. Anderson gave a PowerPoint presentation before and during the movie with trivia and analysis, and afterward, an audience of approximately 20 discussed the movie and its historical context. He was pleased with the evening.

“The event and discussion went well,” Dr. Anderson said. “It was attended by a cross-section of the university community - students, faculty and staff. I’m excited about the people who came because I think it bodes well for the remaining three films. 

“The people who joined in our conversation had great questions and comments that contributed to the larger experience,” he continued. “I think people like to know the story behind the story, and this event does a good job demonstrating that everything - even movies that were mainstream and made for entertainment - have a history.  They reflect and engage the times they were made in, and sometimes shape what we think about history.  I hope that we’ll attract people from the surrounding towns in the future.      

The Department of History will host a three additional History Movie Nights this spring. 

The event will be held in Room 225 of the Dial Building and is free and open to the public. The department plans for the program to become an ongoing event. 

Here are the scheduled events:

  • February 7: “The Help” (2011), 5-7 p.m., Dr. Jeff Frederick; a contemporary film about race relations in the American South and nation at large
  • March 12: “300” (2006), 6-8 p.m., Dr. Weston Cook; a contemporary film, that will prompt a discussion on its role in creating myths about Middle-Eastern cultures
  • April 11: “One, Two, Three” (1961), 6-8 p.m., Dr. Charles Beem; a Billy Wilder farcical comedy set in Cold War era West Berlin

For more information about Movie Nights and other History Department news, join them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UNCPHistoryDepartment.

Kean Spivey is a senior mass communication major.

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