One of the great things about the University of Chicago is the amount of time you have to find your niche and take all kinds of classes before declaring a major. When you’re admitted to UChicago, you’re admitted to the College, not a specific major program, allowing you to leisurely explore different interests. My personal journey involved detours in Statistics, Religious Studies, and Comparative Literature before I finally settled into my one true calling—Cinema and Media Studies (CMS)—near the end of last year (my third year!).
Believe it or not, there are draws to CMS besides getting to “just watch movies all day” (what I’m often accused of). We have some of the best faculty, including film studies legends like Tom Gunning and Yuri Tsivian. Classes cover a massive spectrum of subjects, from wonky theory seminars, to crash courses on basic film history, to in-depth (but accessible) studies of genres like the Western and filmmakers like Walt Disney. But what I find almost endlessly absorbing is the massive resources on campus for students who both want to study film academically and those simply interested in film as a recreational passion.
Most of the film programs on campus are managed by the Film Studies Center (FSC). The center is headquartered in Cobb Hall on campus, in a room set up with two private screening rooms and ten moving bookshelves crammed with DVDs, Blu-rays, VHS tapes, and— believe it or not— laserdiscs. All of these resources can be checked out and viewed in one of the on-site screening rooms. You can check out their awesome collection here.
The FSC also has two larger screening rooms for classes and lectures. One of these rooms is located in the Logan Center for the Arts, notable for being designed by the famous and un-Google-able architect James Bond (seriously, that’s his name). The room’s all-black interior and perfect acoustics make it one of the best places to watch a movie. The FSC hosts events in this screening area throughout the quarter that are free and open to the public. Later this quarter we're hosting a conversation with Phillip Glass after an exhibition of a movie he scored!
Moreover, we have Doc Films, the student-run film society, on campus. Doc is the oldest student film society in the country, operating continuously since the 1930s. The society originally focused on documentaries (hence the name) before expanding to exhibit all types of films. Doc screens most of their movies in the original 35 mm format on actual film prints, making it one of the few venues in all of Chicago to do so. Tickets to individual showings cost only five dollars, and a $30 dollar investment gets you a pass to every screening of the quarter—more than 70 movies!
While I would personally advocate for everyone to complete a rigorous study of the 115-year history of film, I will admit to being a little biased. Nevertheless, UChicago is one of the best places watch a movie, whether you’re looking to analyze it through a French Impressionism and Soviet Montage lens, or just want to catch the latest indie release at Doc.