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U.S. films discussed at embassy

It’s summer and that means Hollywood blockbusters at every movie theater in the country, but if you are looking for something more cerebral then check out the U.S. embassy’s cinema evenings.

American Cinema Evenings hosted by the American Center of the U.S. Embassy provides young Koreans an opportunity to explore U.S. culture, history and society through the medium of film.

Hosted on the third Friday of each month, the event features a film screening and a discussion in English led by a U.S. embassy officer.

“Students found this interesting and keep coming,” said American Center director Kim Su-nam.

The series of events started in April and has been something the embassy’s Public Affairs section has been working on for sometime because of the strong demand they were getting from the public.

“People are interested in American cinema and they are interested to have English conversations about American cultural topics,” said Deputy Public Affairs Officer Lisa Heller.

Heller explained that each month’s film showing reflects a particular theme of American culture including American history, regional culture, literature, the environment, modern technology and lifestyles, contemporary performing arts, and more. 
U.S. Embassy deputy facility management officer Mark Dowd discusses environmental issues after watching the movie “The Age of Stupid” during the America Cinema Evening’s monthly gathering in April.   (U.S. Embassy)
U.S. Embassy deputy facility management officer Mark Dowd discusses environmental issues after watching the movie “The Age of Stupid” during the America Cinema Evening’s monthly gathering in April.   (U.S. Embassy)

In May, embassy spokesperson Aaron Tarver took the reins for that evening’s showing of “Good Night and Good Luck,” which portrays the conflict between veteran radio and television journalist Edward R. Murrow and U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy over the senator’s anti-Communist actions with the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

Tarver was surprised by the quality of questions coming from the mostly student audience.

“Someone asked me what was my feeling about the director’s intention in showing the movie in black and white” when it was originally filmed in color, said Tarver.

“This was someone who was paying attention to the details and a really good question,” he said. “It’s not about just talking about a movie, it’s tough questions as well. It was a good discussion, I was very impressed.”

On the embassy’s side, Heller noted that it gives embassy officers in every section a chance to talk about something they enjoy while taking part in the embassy’s outreach program.

“We have had a very strong and positive response from the embassy community,” Heller said.

Heller promised that no topic is off-limits, be it the Korean War, World War II or gang violence on the streets of Los Angeles.

“We lay the groundwork to explain to the audience what they are about to see and help Koreans understand how some of these movies are filmed and what’s the purpose,” Heller said.

For example, “Good Night and Good Luck” is not just an entertaining film, there are larger issues and lessons that reflect a certain aspect of society presented in a larger context.

The films are shown at the U.S. Embassy Library inside the Public Affairs Center next to the Korean War Museum on Hangang Street.

The embassy recently changed its library system. Now, members can take out materials using a library card.

The monthly movie events help to bring people into the center, something that they might have not tried in the past.

“People sometimes get a little intimidated about visiting the U.S. Embassy, we can help them see that it’s a very friendly, useful place and they can better see the services and things that are offered,” said Heller.

The films are free of charge but reservations are recommended. For reservations, email americancenterkorea@state.gov.

To find out about upcoming events, visit the embassy’s site at http://seoul.usembassy.gov.

By Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)
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