Film festival promotes cultural awareness

This year marks the second annual Intercultural Film Festival, organized by Aminta Arrington, assistant professor of intercultural studies.

Two films will be shown: “Romero” on Thursday and “My Neighbor Totoro” on Friday. After Romero, El Salvadorian students will hold a small panel, where they will share their own experiences and answer any questions students may have.

Arrington is bringing more intercultural elements onto campus and said, “Stories are a great way to grasp the complexities of culture and to become more empathetic with that culture.”

In the same way that “Hotel Rwanda” had an impact on students last year, Arrington has higher expectations for the influence of “Romero” this year because of the larger Latin American community on campus.

“It’s going to resonate with a lot of our Waltons. I have talked with a lot of them and they’re all really excited and happy that we’re showing it,” Arrington said. “We’re honoring the Salvadorian culture and telling them that ‘yes you’re coming to JBU and are learning lots about American culture, but we value you and think that your culture is worth learning about as well.’”

“Romero” was produced in 1989 and tells the story of a bishop who stood up for the people of El Salvador in the middle of a 12-year civil war, before eventually being assassinated in March of 1980.

Juan Rodriguez and his wife will be on the panel after “Romero,” along with Marilyn Olla. Rodriguez said he expects the film festival to create greater awareness of the issues facing Latin American countries.

“Romero was an important figure in the civil war in El Salvador,” Rodriguez said. “That civil war lasted 12 years, from 1980-1992. It was 20 years ago and we still haven’t recuperated from all the issues of the war.”

“‘Romero’ will give a good background and explain why we deal with some of the highest murder rates and let people know why [immigrants] are coming and give students sympathy for them,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he is hoping ‘Romero’ will cause people to be more understanding of the immigration issue and to “not just deal with the issues, but to deal with the people behind the issues.”

“I hope that students, through being exposed to these things, can relate to their Hispanic friends on a deeper level and have conversations on these things,” Rodriguez said. “That’s the cool thing about the Kingdom of God, we can learn from each other. God’s truth is also there as we learn from our experiences.”

Marilyn Olla, a senior from El Salvador, is the one who introduced Arrington to the historical figure of Romero and is part of the reason this film is being shown.

“I hope [students] can have a better understanding of our cultures and how the people suffer,” Olla said. She explained how the movie and story of Romero shows her how the church is  always on the side of the oppressed and the importance of praising God through suffering.

Olla said she cried multiple times when she saw the movie. “I have a connection, a history with it,” Olla said. “These are my people, my church. During the hardest parts I felt angry. It depicted the reality of the situation.” Olla said it made many of the stories she had grown up hearing from her family real to her.

“People were not able to go out at night. The National Guard would kill for no reason. There were disappearances,” Olla said, relating a story her uncle told her of when he, en-route to a  worship night at a neighboring town, was almost killed by The National Guard.

“Our cultures are really different, and reactions are different depending on where people come from,” Olla said.

“We’ve had Waltons on this campus for more than 25 years,” said Arrington. “We should know. If you’re going to welcome people, part of that is learning about them.”

Arrington said these movies will help give students more understanding of culture, of the Walton scholar students and an awareness of events and people beyond the U.S. Besides, as Arrington said, “Everyone loves movies!”

The film festival will be today and tomorrow, at 7 p.m. in the Bynum Theater.