Editor’s note: Listen Up is a Q&A featuring locals in the arts and culture community.
This week: Kevin Anzzolin,assistant professor of Spanish at UW-Stout and Spanish Film Club adviser. He talks about the university’s Spanish Film Festival, which runs at 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Oct. 10 in UW-Stout’s Harvey Hall Theatre.
What is the UW-Stout Spanish Film Festival?
The festival came to UW-Stout in the fall of 2014 and 2015, but has been on hiatus since then. This will be the third time UW-Stout has worked in collaboration with Pragda Spanish Film Club. Hosting the festival was the brainchild of my predecessor, Ilse Hartung, senior lecturer of Spanish at UW-Stout who retired last winter, and the dean of UW-Stout’s College of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences, Maria Alm.
Pragda provides access to recently released and critically-acclaimed films to institutions that apply and are chosen for their scholarship.
How are the films chosen?
The films chosen this year speak to some of the most prominent student voices on campus — student interests, UW-Stout’s more popular majors and those cultural and political issues that are important to our students.
As is fitting for a polytechnic university, even while films aim to entertain, they also explore social problems. While “Sealed Cargo” dramatizes the specter of environment catastrophe, “Paradise” examines the difficulty remaining healthy in a society given to sedentariness and processed food. “Don’t Call me Son” looks at a young man’s attempt to discover his true sexual identity, while “Birdboy” highlights stellar animation techniques set in a post-apocalyptic world.
Why do you think it’s important to highlight Spanish films?
As Americans, it is only natural that we are most versed with films produced in Hollywood. Nevertheless, other countries and other cultures have enjoyed rich cinematic traditions.
Also, as a distinctly popular art form, film allows the public at large to see the world anew. This said, we hope that seeing some of the Spanish Film Festival movies will be like a crash course in another culture and a different language.
What other activities does the Spanish Film Club hold?
The Spanish Club at UW-Stout was formed just last winter, but has already held various — and well-attended — events around campus. Those have included playing lottery, cooking together and film screenings; our focus is always to emphasize the significance of Spanish, to create a comfortable an accepting environment to practice the language and to draw attention to the rich linguistic diversity among our student body.
New activities are already being planned for the coming school year.
Why is it important to have a club like this on campus?
It allows some of our students to express their linguistic heritage, while giving others an opportunity to perfect their use of a language that is not their own.
At latest count, there are around 43 million native speakers of Spanish in the United States, plus around 15 million who have some knowledge of Spanish. As a public university and as a polytechnic focusing on practical knowledge, UW-Stout needs to cultivate a strong Spanish language program.
What do you hope people who come to these films leave thinking about?
I hope people come away from the films with a better cultural awareness as to the specific traits of Spanish and Latin American society and culture, while being able to recognize that there are indeed issues that affect people globally.
Would you like to add anything else?
I hope that the public in Menomonie, Eau Claire and the surrounding areas take advantage of this free event. Western Wisconsin is home to various institutions of higher learning; we should be proud of living in an area that can offer so many culturally intriguing activities.
Spanish Film Festival Screenings:
Wednesday, Sept. 12
• “Carga Sellada” (Sealed Cargo), released in 2015 in Bolivia.
Wednesday, Sept. 19
• “Paraíso” (Paradise), released in 2013 in Mexico.
Wednesday, Sept. 26
• “Niñas Araña” (Spider Thieves), released in 2017 in Chile.
Wednesday, Oct. 3
• “Mãe Sâó Há Uma” (Don’t Call me Son), released in 2016 in Brazil.
Wednesday, Oct. 10
• “Birdboy,” released in 2015 in Spain.