By Tim Kotowski
When Isabelle Wheeler 16 decided to resurrect the defunct Kenyon Film Society, the initial response was disheartening.
I just got a lot of grief when we were starting, Wheeler, the clubs president, said. People kept saying, Weve already tried showing movies on campus and no one shows up. The Kenyon Film Society disbanded last year after average attendance at its screenings fell to the single digits.
Determined to revive the club, Wheeler recruited friends Laura Marques-Jackson 16 and Maria Sorkin 16, vice president and secretary, respectively.
[Wheelers] funding, shes the face of the club, she started the whole thing, shes the reason were here, Marqus-Jackson said.
But it was faculty advisor and Assistant Professor of French Pierre Dairon who Wheeler credited with the idea to make a French Film Festival the debut of the new Kenyon Film Society. Dairon also secured the grant that paid for the rights to the festivals five movies and the catered food.
Keenly aware of the Kenyon Film Societys past attendance issues, the club waged a vigorous publicity campaign. In addition to Marques-Jackson and Sorkin, Wheeler recruited fellow hallmates Linnea Bergman 16 and Hannah Sullivan 16 to design posters and leaflets. Rather than sit passively near the entrance of Peirce, the five fanned out across the dining hall and peddled leaflets from table to table. Along with their faculty advisor, they sent out emails and contacted the local media. Marques-Jackson even placed an ad in the Mount Vernon News. Finally, the club used word of mouth to spread news of the festival via friends, acquaintances and professors.
The clubs efforts culminated in the French Film Festival, which ran from Feb. 7-9 in the Kenyon Athletic Center and the Gund Gallery. It attracted over 120 people on Friday alone. In all, over 250 people attended the festival, which featured modern French films like the critically acclaimed Coco Before Chanel and Of Gods and Men.
But even with its recent success, the club is struggling to win approval from the Student Activities Office and the Student Life Committee, a step that would make it easier for the club to apply for funds. With each of its showings costing anywhere from $200 to $600, the club is more dependent than most on its ability to raise money.
Its hard to get [recognized] if you arent established, Sorkin said. Marques-Jackson added, Were not the only ones that feel that way. The process to gain official recognition is bureaucratic, according to Wheeler. [Weve] talked to a lot of people, and weve heard a lot of complaints, she said.
Regardless of the approval processs outcome, the club promised it will continue to screen films. Marqus-Jackson said the Kenyon Film Society would focus particularly on collaborating with other clubs and then show movies related to what their club is trying to promote. The club has a number of projects in this vein. One of these will be the screening of Girl Rising, an exploration of educations ability to empower women in developing countries. Working with Crozier and Greek Life, the Kenyon Film Society will present the documentary after spring break. Additionally, the Society will be one of many campus organizations hosting the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in April.
In addition to collaborating with other organizations, Wheeler said the club plans to independently screen fun movies for spring and summer, including an outdoor Summer Sendoff movie at the end of the semester.
Finally, the Kenyon Film Society made a promise. For the record, Marques-Jackson said, our movies will always be free.