'Au revoir les enfants' latest European Film Series, Fall 2012 Colloquium installment at Hood College

Hood adds French film as academic event for students, staff, Frederick community


Students and faculty members of Hood College, as well as members of the Frederick community, attended the European Film Series’ screening of “Au revoir les enfants” last Monday in the Hodson Auditorium.

The event, co-sponsored by the History Department and the Center for Humanities’ Fall 2012 Colloquium, featured the French film “Au revoir les enfants” (“Goodbye, Children”). The film is the second installment of the History Department’s six-film European Film Series.

“Au revoir les enfants” (1987), set during World War II in Nazi-occupied France, follows a group of boys from a French boarding school who are thrust into their country’s controversy when their instructors harbor a group of Jewish boys among them.

The film is an autobiographical account of the childhood experiences of Louis Malle, its director and writer, according to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Sophomore Min Ju Dutczak, a student who attended the event, said, “I never really thought of it from a child’s perspective.”

“I was expecting a bigger ending,” Maeve Goldstein, a student who attended the event, said.  “Au revoir les enfants” won 26 awards, including the French Syndicate of Cinema Critics’ award for Best Film, according to IMDb.

Goldstein said, “You can have a subtle film and still have it affect you just as much.”

The film, according to IMDb, was also nominated for two Oscar awards: Best Foreign Language Film and Best Writing and Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen. “It’s very interesting to see how [World War II] was affecting France,” freshman Tamara Schlossenberg said.

Schlossenberg said, the film is “a good supplement for what we’re learning in class.” Schlossenberg had five years of studies in French and saw the film in her third year of studies. She said that she came to the event to “see if I could understand it a little better.”

“Monday’s attendance was solid,” history professor Corey Campion said. Campion, with assistance from staff of the Center for Humanities, organized the event by choosing the film, securing the Hodson Auditorium for Monday and collaborating with the Marketing Office to publicize the film event.

“I attended similar events as an undergraduate and always enjoyed the kind of academic community that they offered,” Campion said. As part of the event, Campion briefly introduced the film concepts before the screening and conducted a discussion afterward.

During the discussion, a French woman attending the film event discussed her childhood experiences regarding Nazi occupation in France. Also, an American woman at the event spoke during the discussion on her memories of that time. Campion said, “A firsthand perspective is always a great addition to a historical discussion.”

The European Film Series that the “Au revoir les enfants” event pertains to connects to a course taught by Campion this fall that deals with 20th century European history. “In light of the current ‘Eurocrisis,’ the film and the course look at past European crises and the responses that they engendered,” Campion said.

In addition, “the film series aims to create a college-wide forum for interdisciplinary discussions about politics, film, history, economics, etc.,” Campion said. The series is broken into three components: crises of conscience, crises of ethnicity and crises of identity.

The next event in the European Film Series, featuring the film “Indigènes” (Days of Glory) on October 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Hodson Auditorium, will be the first in the series focusing on crises of ethnicity. “Going forward, I hope that the film series continues to draw students, faculty, staff and members of the Frederick community,” Campion said.

This fall’s Colloquium theme deals with time and memory, “so all our events bear some sort of relationship to our understanding of time and issues of historical memory,” Rebecca Prime, libman professor of the Humanities, said. The film “really was a nice fit with our own events,” Prime said.

The film is “dealing with probably one of the most controversial issues in recent French history that concerns the country’s collective memory of itself,” Prime said, “and namely, what happened during the German occupation and the degree to which the country was divided.”

Prime said, “The subject of the film is a great example of historical memory and how a nation chooses to remember” its past.

The event is important so students can have their “horizons broadened and… be exposed to media or subject matter that [they] might not be exposed to otherwise,” Prime said. The Colloquium, though it cannot dedicate an entire series to films, can include films along with its speaker events, according to Prime.

The next fall Colloquium event will feature speaker Dan Cohen, founder of non-profit organization Music and Memory, on October 31 at 12:45 p.m. in Whitaker Commons. These events “are really geared towards enriching the intellectual life of the college,” Prime said.

Still of actors Raphael Fejtö and Gaspard Manesse in "Au revoir les enfants" (1987).