This article was first published in the Hopkins Center Winter 2016 Membership Newsletter.
Every Monday, a couple dozen students and a few community members shuffle into Room 205 in Dartmouth’s Wilson Hall. Almost immediately the talk turns to movies: who saw what over the weekend and what they thought. For the next hour, fueled by local takeout and lukewarm soda, the Dartmouth Film Society (DFS) debates the merits of films from Die Hard to Dogtooth. Halfway through the term, series ideas are proposed, top-secret voting (and horse trading) occurs and a future DFS theme is chosen.
DFS members have been discussing and programming movies on campus for 66 years. A free screening of W.C. Fields’ Million Dollar Legs premiered on October 25, 1949, to a packed house in Silsby Hall. A month later, the first DFS series formally began with a sold-out show of All Quiet on the Western Front. In 1962, the Film Society found unqualified legitimacy when Spaulding Auditorium was designed with a projection booth. Students proposed series, ran the projectors, wrote film notes and did their best to promote film literacy on campus.
While the delivery system has undergone profound changes in the last two decades (VHS to Blu-Ray, 35mm to digital), thankfully some things remain the same. Meetings still occur once a week, and the themed series endures. But involvement in Film Society extends far beyond the weekly roundtable. Participants usher at marquee shows such as Telluride at Dartmouth, they become projectionists, and they make movies together, not just watch them. They also have priority access to all the film artists who come to campus for tributes. A long, successful collaboration with the Telluride Film Festival sends the DFS director to Colorado each year and 30+ alums continue to attend annually.
In this age of highly personal, portable movie viewing, a group of cinephiles regularly convening to see and discuss movies in person seems almost quaint. Critics bemoan that young people have no sense of cinema culture, and yet, at all hours of the day, in dorms, Greek houses and classrooms, students are watching movies together. Film lovers and filmmakers, students and civilians, young fans and old—all of us are enthralled by the stories on the big screen. The Dartmouth Film Society epitomizes this truth and knows that this luminous art form, this child of the 20th century, shows no sign of aging.
By Johanna Evans & Sydney Stowe
Johanna Evans is the director of the Dartmouth Film Society. When she’s not at the Hop reading reviews and puzzling out the film line-up, she’s playing Legos with her son Finn, writing detective stories or hitting the links.
Sydney Stowe is the Acting Director of Hop Film, overseeing 200+ movies and HD broadcasts of opera and theater each year. When she is not sitting in the dark with strangers, Sydney gets her butt kicked at DartFit, recovers with yoga and celebrates life with pals at Pine.