CineCulture promotes cultural awareness through virtual screenings

While previous films screened in the Peters Education Center Auditorium, COVID-19 has moved the screenings online. (Julia Espinoza/The Collegian)

Fresno State’s CineCulture continues to promote cultural awareness through March’s virtual screening of the French film “Tazzeka.”

“Tazzeka,” released in 2018 and directed by Jean-Philippe Gaud, follows Elias, a young boy from the Moroccan village, Tazzeka, who develops a passion for cooking. As he grows older, he moves out of his home village to pursue his culinary endeavors which are conveyed through its cinematography and a talented performance by Mahdi Belemlih as Elias. 

Fresno State’s French program and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures sponsored the screenings of “Tazzeka,” a film in French and Arabic with English subtitles. The movie allowed viewers to become immersed in Moroccan and Parisian culture through traditional cuisines. 

CineCulture is both an academic course offered through the Media, Communications and Journalism department at Fresno State and a campus club.

Though CineCulture once screened films in the Peters Education Center Auditorium, it began virtually screening its films in October 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“I’ve never been involved in virtual cinema before,” CineCulture instructor Mary Husain said. “When we first made the transition to virtual, the first time trying to have everyone watch it together did not work out. There have been tremendous bandwidth problems.”

The video-sharing website Vimeo is now utilized to stream its movies to audiences at home, and Zoom is used to host post-screening discussions with guest speakers.

The CineCulture team, along with Husain, have managed to maintain a weekly schedule for the virtual movie screenings since the fall 2020 semester. One day of the week was dedicated to post-film virtual discussion, hosting an array of speakers including directors, editors and Fresno State staff. 

“I really love the auditorium [and] having that shared experience viewing together, but it wasn’t possible with virtual cinemas,” Husain said. “I was able to have a window of viewing and then have a discussion with the guest speaker, but it’s been presented with a lot of challenges. 

Despite virtual challenges, the Fresno State film community from all cultural backgrounds continued to watch movies together.. 

“The fact that there were other people from the community, and they like to hear what the community had to say about the film, that was really amazing,” Fresno State professor and representative for the French Program Rose Marie Kuhn said. 

According to its website, CineCulture’s primary goal is to, “promote cultural awareness through its film screenings and post-screening discussions,” which continues to be implemented even if the platform is different. 

“There is a whole world of cinema out there. It’s really [about] expanded horizons and perspective. You could also see the similarities with people and the issues all over the world,” Husain said. 

Along with promoting cultural awareness, CineCulture aims to bring togetherness behind the scenes. 

“We learned friendship, most importantly,” Kuhn said. “When you work with somebody, you can make the impossible happen.”

CineCulture hopes to return to in-person screening in the fall. 
CineCulture will be presenting its next film “Where There Once Was Water” March 13 through 18. A Vimeo link will be available on the CineCulture website along with Husain’s email to request access to a Zoom link for the post-screening discussion.

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