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New "Questioning Cinema" series invites viewers to explore films and facts

September 19, 2016
"Marat/Sebastiao-Pictures of Garbage," Photograph, Vik Muniz Studio

A new film screening and discussion series invites participants to view top films that explore realities from varied points of view and then explore truths and facts expressed in the medium.

Attendees will watch the film, discuss the themes underlying it and use library and online resources to investigate and explore what they've seen portrayed.


The Questioning Cinema series uses films held by the library to spark questions. During the discussion, librarians share ideas, resources or research approaches that can provide authoritative information to make sense of the evening’s screening.


“Many of us see a film and fail to think about it critically,” says Bettina Peacemaker, assistant head of the Academic Outreach Department for James Branch Cabell Library. “With this series, we use film as a starting point for discussion about fact-finding, truth telling and exploring nuances of understanding and perspective.” The film discussion provides a teaching opportunity for librarians and scholars in a conversational setting.


Screenings will be co-sponsored by varied disciplines and taps cross-disciplinary expertise. The first screening, Waste Land, is a partnership with the VCU School of the Arts Department of Photography and Film. Invited discussion leaders are:

  • World Studies Media Center Director Anton Brinckwith, Ph.D., whose research interests include international language education, Portuguese, media studies and Latin American studies;

  • Assistant Professor, Sociology, Jesse Goldstein, Ph.D., who specializes in environmental, cultural and economic sociology;

  • Institute for Contemporary Art Interrim Director of Facilities, Installation, and Exhibition Design,

    Michael Lease, a photographer, installation artist and educator working to engage various Richmond communities to reveal their complex stories, and

  • VCU Director of Sustainability Erin Stanforth, who holds a B.A. in sustainable development and an M.B.A. in sustainable business. 


Waste Land, Sept. 29, 5 p.m. screening and 7 p.m. discussion, The Depot, 814 W. Broad St.

Brooklyn-based photographer and mixed media artist Vik Muniz went to his native Brazil to transform the lives of the "trash pickers" at the world's largest landfill in Rio de Janeiro. These “catadores” pick through the refuse to harvest items to sell, reuse or recycle. Muniz selected several of them as subjects of his own art. Documentarian Lucy Walker captured the process and the people in the 2010 film that critics lauded and that garnered many film awards. The project was part of an international conversation about art and the human spirit at a time when Brazil was in the headlines for its have-and-have-not economy and environmental problems while serving as a site for two global sporting events, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games.

The Man Who Knew Infinity, Nov. 10,  5 p.m. screening and 7 p.m. discussion, Cabell Library Lecture Hall

Explore diversity in science, genius and the importance of mathematical proofs through Matt Brown's The Man Who Knew Infinity. This 2015 biopic tells the little-known story of the life and academic career of the pioneer mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, played by Dev Patel, and his friendship with his mentor, G. H. Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons. Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematical genius, leaves his native India just before World War I to study at Cambridge University. There, he struggled to adapt to Western academic practice in order to provehis theorems for the mathematical establishment.

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