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Social Cinema: WUD Film and Havens Wright Center for Social Justice Join Forces

Many know the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a major research institution, boasting countless labs and lecture halls from the biological sciences to the liberal arts. But UW also provides social and cultural learning opportunities beyond the classroom that partnerships across campus help make possible.

The Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Film Committee and the Havens Wright Center for Social Justice’s partnership has flourished since 2012, resulting in the production of the Social Cinema film series. The series began this year on Feb. 13 and runs until March 13 at the Marquee in Union South, with films screening each Wednesday at 6 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. The series is open to the public and free of charge, so that all have the chance to experience Social Cinema.

While the premise of Social Cinema is educational, its main goal is to help viewers think about social issues that surround them. It is also a chance to watch a compelling documentary film and learn about the perspectives of others in the community and beyond. After the screening, a facilitator well-versed in the topic covered by the film leads a guided conversation regarding the issues within the film.

“[The films] try to be something that’s relevant nationally but also something that has a tie to Madison, which is where bringing in people to facilitate the conversation afterward comes in,” said Barb Rasmussen, WUD Film’s engagement and special programming associate director.

For example, Tiffany Ike from the First Wave program at UW-Madison served as the facilitator for the film “Invisible Lines,” which, Rasmussen said, focuses on activism in the arts. The film highlights various elements of race, identity and intersectionality, as told by numerous Milwaukeeans. Rasmussen added that the Film Committee strives to make the films as culturally relevant and timely as possible — every film shown at Social Cinema this year was released in 2018.

The collaboration between the Wisconsin Union and the Havens Wright Center allows for a partnership between a campus student leader, like Rasmussen, and Patrick Barrett, the administrative director of the Havens-Wright Center, to be possible. We, at the Wisconsin Union, are dedicated to creating engaging opportunities for students, community members and everyone in between.

WUD Film Committee members at the Student Organization Fair.

“What makes Social Cinema unique is that it really is me, as a student on the Film Committee, working directly on equal grounds with Patrick Barrett from the Havens Wright Center. We’re working together to plan this whole series,” Rasmussen said.

The selection process for Social Cinema films involved both Rasmussen and Barrett working together to compile a list of potential films, screen them, choose their favorites and then find people to facilitate the conversation following the showing.

“We have stringent criteria for choosing the films,” Barrett said. “They have to address significant current social, political or economic issues. They have to examine these issues from a critical perspective and thus lend themselves to a discussion about how best to address the problems raised by the films.”

Barrett also highlighted that while the films have strong educational content, they are also high quality films with high production values. He said it is important is appeal to “lovers of film” as well as to other community members. He sees film as an important medium for bringing people together and generating discussion.

The partnership between the Wisconsin Union and the Havens Wright Center allows for these educational relationships to positively influence the UW community and reach the hearts of people far beyond our campus.

“People recognize the series as something they look forward to every spring,” Barrett said. “And the collaboration [between WUD and the Havens Wright Center] is among the best collaborations that both WUD and the Havens Wright Center have had. It’s a true collaboration — we do everything jointly. And it’s been a very mutually rewarding experience.”

While the Social Cinema series lasts for only a month leading up to the Wisconsin Film Festival, WUD Film has film showings nearly every day of the week at The Marquee and, during the summer, on the Memorial Union Terrace. Be sure to check out all of WUD Film’s upcoming movie showings at their website, and click here to find out more about the WUD Film Committee and the people who make it all possible!

Author: Katherine Kermgard

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