Foreign films run rampant in MC 296

First it was France, which brought us the annual Cannes Film Festival. Then Utah introduced America to Sundance. And three years ago, USF unveiled the next wonder in the world of visual art – the Centre Gallery foreign and independent film series.

Well, it may not be on quite that scale as of yet. But it will surely introduce USF students to an aspect of film that is usually devoid from mainstream Hollywood – creativity and artistry.

The Centre Gallery, located on the first floor of the Phyllis P. Marshall Center, is best known as an outlet for students to showcase their artistic styling with a paintbrush. Once a week, though, the employees of the gallery use it to showcase a batch of films they deem important for the USF student body to see.

“There are not a lot of places for students to go to watch these kinds of films,” said Sunni Barbera, artist relations director for the gallery.

“Especially if they are stuck on campus without transportation.”

The films, which are shown every Tuesday at 9 p.m. in MC 296, contain a broad range of storylines and messages. Students in attendance may be treated to a viewing experience with subject matter involving anything from a girl’s frantic search for an obese goldfish (The White Balloon, which showed Sept. 24) to hallucinatory cartoons waxing existential (Waking Life, Oct. 22).

“The workers here decide on a list of movies that we all bring to the table,” said Gina Benedetto, director of public relations for Centre Gallery.

“From there we try to balance the films so that we have a fair range of topics. The films cover a variety of people and cultures that speak for an array of backgrounds and fields of thought.”

The world of the independent and foreign film is far removed from the world of packed multiplexes, endless TV promotion and mammoth box office ticket sales that are today’s conventional Hollywood movie scene.

“The film festival is, obviously, marketed at a different crowd,” Benedetto said. “They are films that are considered visually stunning and conceptually great for a not-so-commercial audience.”

And as for Centre Gallery’s film series creating a competition with the long-running “Movies on the Lawn,” which mostly plays mainstream Hollywood films, Barbera says there isn’t one.

“We are actually working together,” she said. “They actually helped sponsor us, and our schedules allow students to attend both if they want to.”

The smaller venue and arguably deeper subject matter of the films make for a different entertainment experience.

“We just started advertising the festival, but we usually get 15-20 on a good night,” Benedetto said.

And some students keep coming back. Phil Chamberlin says he has been a regular since the induction.

“I think the gallery has done a great job,” said Chamberlin, a graduate student. “I have been coming here since the beginning and what I really love about it is that the films they show come from a variety of countries, third-world countries, instead of just those countries normally renowned in film.”

Benedetto said she hopes to provide an enjoyable experience for students.

“A lot of kids don’t go out and find these quality films,” she said. “So we are helping them out a little.”

Contact Nick Margiasso at