This year’s Culture Film series at the Penn Museum begins on October 11th, and will continue the second Sunday of the month between October 2015 and March 2016. The theme for the series is Gender Across Cultures, and in addition to the films themselves, each screening features cultural insiders and other experts who offer a deeper level of understanding on the topics discussed in the films. Audience curiosity and participation is encouraged! To find out a little more about the series genesis, Cinedelphia was able to speak with Kate Pourshariati, the Penn Museum’s Film Archivist, on the selections for this most challenging of themes.
Cinedelphia: How long has the Penn Museum had this film program? What instigated the use of film screenings to further the mission of the museum?
Kate Pourshariati: The film series began in the 2011-12 academic year. I got together with the Penn Humanities Forum [PHF] director James English to suggest a way to tie the cultural themes of the Museum with the humanities outreach mission of the PHF to create this series.
C: What inspired this season’s theme of “Gender Across Cultures?”
KP: Each year we work under the annual theme of the PHF, which this year is Sex. I felt this was a challenging subject to curate for, in terms of cross-cultural communication, but the first thing that occurred to me was to think of Gender–I knew a little bit about two spirits, which as I understand it is a person between two genders, in Plains Indian cultures. There was not a great film about two spirits, but there was a terrific film from Hawaii on this general theme, called Kuma Hina. This kind of got the ball rolling.
[For a Kuma Hina offshoot film and another great film about a terrific traditional female Hawai’an surfer, please come to the premier screening on Sunday October 11.]
C: There seem to be quite a number of films that address some aspect of gender in different cultures. What criteria did you use to select this season’s films?
KP: The films in this series all consider how gender difference is understood in different places. It may be surprising that certain gender differences have been more widely accepted in traditionally indigenous places than they have been recently here. In other cases, we visit places which are currently tougher for women and LGBT people, but even these films are character driven, highly viewable, not terribly dark, and ultimately hopeful. I think it is very important to care about the characters in the film, and come away with something you can use.
C: What overarching message or “takeaway” do you hope audiences will have after viewing the selected films?
KP: For one thing, I select films that are respectful of the people in them, often made by people from the location the film takes place. There are so many opportunities to view films in the city (thankfully!) but our little niche is for people who are fascinated by what culture is. For example, someone having a different accent, is a difference in culture. You notice it when you come up next to it and you feel a little different from the other person. And yet, there is so much more in common between us than there is different! Often there is great beauty in the discussions afterward where audience members express appreciation for people in the films. I always hope that we will come away with a little more love for a stranger, let us say, and mutual respect.
The Culture Film series at the Penn Museum is free with museum admission donation. All screenings begin at 2:00pm. For more information on the films and guests speakers click here.
Sunday, October 11th: A Place in the Middle (2014), Heart of the Sea (2002)
Sunday, November 8th: A Quiet Inquisition (2013)
Sunday, December 13th: Mardistan (2014)
Sunday, February 14th: Muxes (2013)
Sunday, March 13th: Soul Food Stories (2013)
[Feature image: Muxes (2013)]
Author: Jill Malcolm
Jill is happiest attending midnight screenings with other crazy film fans at her local theater. Her other passions include reading, traveling to faraway places, cat videos, pugs, and jalapeño peppers. She is co-founder of the blog Filmhash.