Flaherty Film Seminar examines the Scent of Places

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Laura U. Marks with several participants of this year's Flaherty Film Seminar hosted by Colgate.

Laura U. Marks with several participants of this year’s Flaherty Film Seminar

The “scent” of a locality is an invisible, unquantifiable aura that can be difficult to capture on film. Yet, it was the course of study for the 61st Robert Flaherty Film Seminar, hosted by Colgate for the eighth year.

From June 13–19, the seminar brought more than 170 filmmakers, scholars, and programmers to explore documentary and independent films on campus. One reason that organizers keep bringing Flaherty back to Colgate is because of the university’s facilities and equipment, including its dual 35-millimeter projectors.

The Scent of Places theme played out in different films’ interpretations of humanity, place, and the invisible. It was chosen by programmer Laura Marks, the Dena Wosk University Professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Because of her specialization in the Middle East, it adapted a heavy focus on Arab cinema.

The Flaherty Seminar is unique in that the program is not announced prior to the onset of screenings. Participants are told the length of screenings and number of films that will be watched, but no other details.

Each year a handful of spots in the seminar are reserved for members of the Colgate community. This year, six faculty members and one student attended.

“We see films, meet filmmakers, and make connections to programmers, and that really enhances the way we teach,” said Mary Simonson, assistant professor of film and media studies and women’s studies, and director of the film and media studies program.

Matt LaPaglia ’17, a history major and film and media studies minor from Cicero, N.Y., was invited to participate by Simonson and Professor Penny Lane.

“As someone interested in pursuing a career related to film, rubbing shoulders with some of the most important filmmakers in the world has been phenomenal,” he said. “[This opportunity is] shaping my perspective on not only filmmaking and global cinema,” LaPaglia added, “but also how I look at the world as a place with vitality and experiences, laughter and sorrow, and history, all seeping from the people who carry stories begging to be told.”