My upper-level “Literature and Human Rights” class, which I have mentioned here before, meets for one hour three times per week, which makes screening films difficult, especially if they are longer than two hours. Plus the technology on campus is not yet fully functional. So I decided to have this group of students over to my flat on Saturday to share a meal and watch the film. I don’t normally do this, but I actually really like all six of the students—three are graduating this semester, one is an exchange student from Norway, one is a graduate student, and the final one is a junior literature major. I canceled a couple of our regular class meetings and set this up. Plus there is an office on campus that provides some reimbursement for student entertainment.
Everyone came and it was lovely. Jenna and I prepared some food. Jenna made delicious chili and the moistest spicy cornbread in the history of the world. I produced some rice pudding (with coconut, pistachios, and raisins). It was all a huge hit, especially Jenna’s contributions. Everyone took seconds of chill and emptied the pot. Even the Egyptian-American student who grew up in the chili capital of the world, Ohio, was loving it! They are clamoring for the recipe (Jenna?), which I said I would send by email. The students were appreciative and gracious. They brought a card, some chocolates, and a huge flower arrangement. (I didn't have the forethought to take a picture while they were here).
As nice of an event as it was, there was one damper to the festivities—my choice of film. We were watching Raoul Peck’s brilliant Sometimes in April, which stars Stringer Bell (shout out to all my Wire peoples) aka Idris Elba. The film is about the Rwandan genocide and is quite disturbing, not only in its subject but in its graphic portrayals. Through the lens of an international criminal tribunal held 10 years after the genocide, it recounts the experiences of two brothers. The film connects to a novel we are reading about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Gillian Slovo’s Red Dust. We also saw the recent film Rendition and are doing Abderrahmane Sissako’s Bamako next week.
This was an element of extremely poor planning on my part. Sometimes in April is not much of a party film. Fortunately we ate before the movie. I am not sure if the leftover popcorn was a result of the subject matter or if everyone was full on Jenna’s chili and cornbread. Last year at Gettysburg, I made a similar gaffe when I, inattentive to content, ordered pizza for my students to correspond with another film screening—the second half of Apocalypse Now. That may have been worse since we ate while watching the film.