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Gender and Sexuality Studies at Bard College Presents Film and Discussion Series through May 5

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Gender and Sexuality Studies (GSS) Concentration at Bard College presents the “Gender and Sexuality Studies Film and Discussion Series,” on Wednesdays beginning February 24th through May 5th in the Lásló Z. Bitó ’60 Auditorium (Room 103) of the Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation. GSS embraces the importance of gender as a fundamental category of analysis across disciplines. The Concentration seeks to explore how gender and sexuality are intertwined with structures of power and inequality in a multitude of disciplines. In this film series, an interesting variety of films will be shown that address gender and sexuality in some way, and several members of the GSS faculty will lead associated discussions.

Gender and Sexuality Studies Film and Discussion Series
Wednesdays, February 24–May 5
Gabrielle H. Reem and Herbert J. Kayden Center for Science and Computation
Room 103, Lásló Z. Bitó ’60 Auditorium

Wednesday, February 24th

The Wedding Banquet
Discussion led by Robert Culp (Associate Professor of History)

Wednesday, March 3rd     

Confusion of Genders        
Discussion led by Eric Trudel (Associate Professor of French)

Wednesday, March 17th
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown    
Discussion led by Nicole Caso (Assistant Professor of Spanish)

Wednesday, April 7th        
Billy Elliott            
Discussion led by Daniel Berthold (Professor of Philosophy)

Wednesday, April 14th        
Discussion led by Susan Aberth (Associate Professor of Art History)

Wednesday, April 21st          

North Country            
Discussion led by Deirdre D’Albertis (Professor of Literature)

Wednesday, May 5th        
Ma Vie En Rose            
Discussion led by Sarah Lopez-Duran (Assistant Professor of Psychology)


The Wedding Banquet (1993)
This 1993 international hit by Ang Lee is a funny and poignant story of a gay, Taiwanese-American man who goes to some lengths to fool his visiting family that he’s actually straight. The results are far more complicated and entertaining than anyone could have guessed. The film seems all the more rich now since Lee has become a major Hollywood director: that same sensitivity and mild bemusement he brought to such stories of manners as Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm in recent years are in full bloom in this earlier work. –Tom Keogh

Confusion of Genders (2000)
Based on a best-selling novel of the same name, Confusion of Genders is an uninhibited romantic satire that tells the story of Alain (Pascal Greggory) who is having an office romance with a female colleague Laurence (Nathalie Richard). Unfortunately, her younger brother, Christophe (Cyrille Thouvenin), likes him as well. Alain, however, doesn’t know what he wants. Men, women, commitment, and freedom are luring him in every direction, but he is incapable of choosing.  Or willing. When Alain encounters sexy, dangerous Marc (Vincent Martinez), the only way to get close to him is to become the messenger of Marc’s passion (Babette, played by Julie Gayet), an entrancing woman whose charms Alain cannot resist. Unfortunately, by this time, Christophe has moved into Alain’s flat and Laurence is expecting his child and his hand in marriage. Will Alain find a compromise that will be acceptable to all? –

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
This 1988 Spanish comedy film was written and directed by Pedro Almodóvar and stars Carmen Maura and Antonio Banderas. The film that brought Almodóvar to widespread international attention, it was nominated for the 1989 Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language film, and won five Goya Awards, including Best Film and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Maura, as well as the New York Film Critics Circle Award. Carmen Maura plays a popular Spanish actress driven to distraction when her lover leaves for another woman. She knows she can talk him out of leaving if only she can talk directly to him and not deal with the answering machine. A comedy of errors ensues that involves a drugged pitcher of gazpacho, Shiite terrorists, and a mental patient who left the asylum too soon. –World Festival of Foreign Films

Billy Elliott (2000)
The life of 11-year-old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), a coal-miner’s son, is forever changed one day when he stumbles upon a ballet class during his weekly boxing lesson. Before long, he finds himself demonstrating the kind of raw talent seldom seen by the class’s exacting instructor (Julie Walters). Foursquare in the gritty-but-heartwarming tradition of Brassed Off and The Full Monty comes Billy Elliot, [the] first film from noted British theatrical director Stephen Daldry. The setting is County Durham in 1984, and things “up north” are even grimmer than usual: the miners’ strike is in full rancorous swing, and 11-year-old Billy’s dad and older brother, miners both, are on the picket lines. Billy’s got problems of his own. His dad has scraped together the fees to send him to boxing lessons, but Billy has discovered a different aptitude: a genius for ballet dancing. His teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson, thinks he should audition for ballet school in London. Family ructions are inevitable. Jamie Bell’s powerhouse dance routines, more Gene Kelly than Nureyev, carry an irresistible sense of exhilaration and self-discovery. Among a flawless supporting cast, Stuart Wells stands out as Billy’s sweet, gay friend Michael. And if the miners’ strike serves largely as background color, the brief episode when truncheon-wielding cops rampage through neat little terraced houses captures one of the most spiteful episodes in recent British history. –Philip Kemp

Rebecca (1940)
Rebecca is an ageless, timeless adult movie about a woman who marries a widower but fears she lives in the shadow of her predecessor. This was Hitchcock’s first American feature, and it garnered the Best Picture statue at the 1941 Academy Awards. [It’s] sobering to look back on this film where every revelation not only shocks, but makes organic sense with the story line. Laurence Olivier is dashing and weak, fierce and cowed. Joan Fontaine is strong yet submissive, defiant yet accommodating. There isn’t a false moment or misstep. Brilliant stuff. –Keith Simanton

North Country (2005)
A sterling case and vivid direction give North Country an emotional heft to match its political convictions. Charlize Theron plays Josey Aimes, who goes to work at a Minnesota steel mine after splitting with her violent husband. But the job proves to be almost as harrowing as her marriage; the male miners, resentful of women taking jobs, verbally abuse and play humiliating pranks on the female miners. After being physically assaulted by a coworker, Josey tries to fight against the harassment, but none of the other women will join her case for fear that things will only get worse. North Country, directed by Niki Caro (Whale Rider), makes the women’s experience palpable for the audience without overdoing it. But the lawsuit is only part of the movie; the gut impact of North Country comes from the devastating effect the lawsuit has on Josey’s family, friends, and coworkers–thanks to an incredible ensemble case that includes Sissy Spacek, Sean Bean, Richard Jenkins, Woody Harrelson, and Frances McDormand. The family conflict is riveting and deeply moving. –Bret Fetzer

Ma Vie En Rose (1997)
One of the sweetest films to emerge from Europe in the 1990s, Alain Berliner’s Ma Vie en Rose is the story of an innocent little boy, Ludovic (played with noncloying directness by Georges Du Fresne), who wants to be a girl. Convinced that he’s the product of misplaced chromosomes (he imagines the mix-up in one of many delightful daydream sequences), he sets about righting the mistake by wearing dresses and high heels and experimenting with lipstick and makeup. The otherwise friendly suburban neighborhood becomes horrified by the gender confusion, though tellingly the cruelest blows come not from the teasing classmates but intolerant adults. Ludo tries hard to be butch, but he can’t deny his nature, especially when he meets a kindred spirit: a little girl who gladly trades her dress for his pants and shirt. This bittersweet mix of innocent fantasy and childhood cruelty has its moments of sadness and crushing misunderstandings, but the overall tone is loving, filled with tenderness, and culminating in acceptance and togetherness. As the family stumbles and struggles to come to terms with Ludo, they find something special within him, an innocent conviction so powerful and pure that it’s infectious. Ludo may not grow up to become a girl as he hopes, but his belief is so strong it's hard to deny him the possibility. This film reminds us that, to a child, anything is possible. –Sean Axmaker


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This event was last updated on 05-03-2010