Celebrating Diversity, Art Through Old Films

El Vaquero Staff Writer

The young blonde woman runs after the leaving train. Tears run down her cheek, yet she sings. In a melodramatic, sad voice, she reaches in the air, after the man she admires: “I love you, I love you.” He stands, half out of the moving train, gazing at her; he repeats the melody, “My love, my love.”

This could be the scene of a romantic old French movie. And actually, it is.

On April 6, as part of GCC’s Association of Latin American Students’ (ALAS) film festival, ALAS presented the 1964 French film “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg) by Jacques Demy.
The romantic film, with dialogue that is entirely sung, evolves around Geneviéve (Catherine Deneuve), 17, who lives with her widow mother and works in their umbrella shop in Cherbourg, France.

She is in love with Guy (Nino Castelnuovo), a young auto mechanic she plans to marry. All of a sudden, Guy receives a draft letter and has to leave for two years to fight in the Algerian war. “I’d never be able to live without him,” said Geneviéve and stays behind, heartbroken and pregnant. Her mother replies “Don’t be silly. People die out of love only in movies.”

Though still in love with Guy, she hears little news from him. “Absence is a funny thing,” said Geneviéve. “Looking at the picture I feel like he’d be gone for two years already. I forgot what he really looks like.”
Because the baby needs a father, she finally marries Roland Cassard, a charming and rich gem dealer who fell in love with her at first sight and promised to bring up the child as if it was his own.

When Guy returns with a limp, he finds the umbrella shop sold and his old life scattered. Yet, he gets back up again and starts a loving family with the woman Madeleine, who used to take care of his sick aunt.

The rather plain plot presents only the backdrop for a more in-depth meaning that the film intends to convey.

With motives of gray rain splashing on cobblestone streets contrasting colorful umbrellas and walls, the movie seems to shine with color. This shows ALAS’ intention of presenting “films as art” to the students.

“The festival attempts to share the wealth of the poetic expression of humanity,” said Carlos Ugalde, organizer of the Film Festival and advisor of ALAS. He describes the film makers as “poets behind the camera.”

“As students and now professors, we were moved and highly influenced by classical films. We recall the faculty members that introduced us to [this] wonder,” he said. Ugalde differentiates “films” from “movies.”
While films have a profound depth and character, most contemporary films lack just this even though millions are spent on them, he said.
Therefore, he said, every university should offer a film series. “Since I did not see a whole lot of activity from so many other departments that should be offering a festival, we took it upon ourselves to present films that are unique, historical, intellectual and profoundly humanistic,” he said.

The artistic aspect, however, is not all that historic films shown at the ALAS film festival try to convey.

The political side is important to the association as well. “Our goal is to have people to be aware of the injustice that goes on all over the world,” said student Freddy Moncada, who helped in organizing the event.

The film was shot with the French occupation in mind and Guy left with the French armies trying to fight the independence fighters in Algeria. During this time the issue of young men leaving for war, waving good-bye to beloved ones and returning destroyed and disillusioned was an important topic.

Also, looking critical at the issue of drafting and going to war for imperialistic reasons was something that was addressed.

“After 9/11, we decided to continue with our plan [to show] films extremely critical to U.S. foreign policy and its imperialistic conduct,” said Ugalde.

ALAS continued with their festival and presented six documentaries that “exposed the U.S. foreign policy to have participated in international terrorism and in fact was found guilty in the World Court on June 26, 1986 in regards to its dirty, immoral and criminal war against Nicaragua,” said Ugalde.

ALAS and Latin American Studies are determined not to be silent.
“We are a university and we will continue to [be] critical. I can assure you no other university in the southland responded with such critical analysis at the time when it was understood to be silent,” said Ugalde.

So far, ALAS also showed other films with profound anti-war sentiment like “La Grand Illusion” as well as “All Quiet on the Western Front” (made in the ’30s). The world of real cinema can enhance the university experience, said Ugalde.

“We must do everything possible to expose the students to the past expression of humanity so as to counter the inhumanity that they are presently encountering such as the Iraq invasion and occupation and all the war mongering coming out the White House,” said Ugalde.

Lastly, it is the Latin American Studies and ALAS’s concern to show issues from a non-American side and offer diversity to students. The film festival presents films on Latin American issues as well as universal issues. The college should develop an “international continuousness” so as to develop more internationalist sentiment and “get away from the silly, deadly and fanatical nationalism that brings about the stupidity of war,” said Ugalde.

The first film festival was one event in the 1991 celebration of ALAS 10th year of student activism. Having a second one in 2001, ALAS continued with film festivals, with a fifth one this year.
The film festival is offered to the general campus and Glendale community and will continue Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. through May 11.