IU Cinema celebrates IU Day 2019 by highlighting the transformative experiences of its patrons over the years, including Indiana University students who have helped make IU Cinema one of the best university cinemas in the country. Below is senior Olivia’s Seyerle’s essay on how IU Cinema has transformed her experience as an Indiana University student.
The Indiana University Cinema: A Place for Film. This is obvious once you walk through the doors into the lobby, with the poster vestibule shining at the entrance to the theatre. There the Cinema has film posters advertising individual films of all kinds, as well as house-made posters for the curated film series. There is always a new poster to see and gawk at. Film is definitely on our minds. But the IU Cinema is more than just a Place for Film. It is a place for friends; a place for learning; a place for exposure to new cultures, new people, and new ideas. It’s a place for art, a place for music, a place where you can have your beliefs challenged in ninety minutes. It is a place for community, both local and global. The IU Cinema is a place unlike any other.
Unlike many of the other volunteer ushers at the IU Cinema, I don’t have much of a background in film. When I was younger, I spent more time reading books than watching TV or movies. My strongest childhood connection to film would be the Harry Potter movies, which, even at four years old, I critiqued for not being the same as the books (read to me by my father). It wasn’t until late in high school, due to the influence of a few cinephile friends and teachers, that I developed an interest in more than just the storytelling ability of film.
My first encounter with the IU Cinema was at my Freshman Orientation in 2015, where the orientation group was shown a short film about the university. I honestly don’t remember the video, but I remember going into the space for the first time and being awestruck. It was beautiful. It was classic. And it made me excited. I had recently been to the Historic Artcraft Theatre in Franklin, and was thrilled to have a similar cinema that was conveniently close. I could actually get into film! Despite my initial excitement, I didn’t return to the Cinema until the next spring. A friend of mine was seeing The Russian Woodpecker for a class and asked me if I wanted to join. It was an experience like no other before. The film was part documentary, part art piece, and politically topical. Even so, the Cinema slipped to the back of my mind. Then the new school year began, and I returned at the end of August, with the same friend, to see Rivers and Tides. That same week, I attended my volunteer usher training.
The first semester I spent as a volunteer was my acclimation to the surrounding, to the culture of the Cinema. I remember being the only usher at Daughters of the Dust with visiting Julie Dash, and thinking how much other ushers missed out by not being there. I caught the movie bug, and as a result, spent twice as much time at the Cinema in the spring as I did in the fall. The films I watched that year were truly a transformative experience. Early on, I saw The Earrings of Madame de…, which was the first black-and-white film I fell in love with. Another film I will never forget was The Extravagant Shadows by David Gatten. It was the first experimental film I had ever seen, and it expanded what I thought the definition of cinema was. I never imagined one could enjoy watching paint dry so much, but it was captivating. I could spend all day writing about the films I have seen and loved at the IU Cinema. I never wanted to leave. Then, between 2017 and 2018, I spent ten months studying abroad.
While I was living in Canterbury, England, I missed a lot of things, but I really missed the Cinema. My British campus had a movie theatre, but it played mostly newer, box-office-type releases. I missed the curated films and the polite quiet of the Cinema, with international and experimental films. I kept the Cinema close to me, though. Not only did I have my IU Cinema hat that I wore pretty much everywhere, I also brought along my usher badge. It sat on my desk and reminded me of home. The first thing I thought about when I got back to IU in the fall was “I need to pick up a Cinema program!”
I distinctly remember the first film I saw last fall, when I got back. I was walking past the Cinema on my way back to my dorm, and I thought I would pop in and grab a program. I got a hug from Jessica and chatted a bit. She asked me if I came to see that evening’s show, Ava. I hadn’t, but after hearing what it was about (a young girl’s coming-of-age story in Tehran), I knew I had to see it, but I also had a form to drop off at my dorm. I said that I would be back, and raced off. Almost immediately after I stepped outside, it started pouring. By the time I got back to my room, I was soaked. Still, I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to settle down into a plush red seat, lean back, and take in the sights and sounds of a place I had missed so much. It was the best possible way to start my senior year.
These past two seasons, I have spent an enormous amount of time at the Cinema. I usually usher for the films I want to see, which sometimes leads to me doing five ushering shifts in a row. This spring, I have seen thirty-five films, and I have about ten more that I am planning to see. However, the films aren’t the only thing that draw me to the Cinema. I go for the people too. Over my time as an usher, I have seen countless faces stare up at the screen. I have seen regulars multiple times a week, and people who have never been to the Cinema before. I love the international films, because they often bring in members of the community they represent, people who want to see a little bit of home represented onscreen. There are people who are visiting the Cinema for the first time who fall in love with it and turn into regulars. Like I said at the beginning, the IU Cinema is more than just a place for film. It is a place for experiences. And my favorite place in Bloomington.
IU Cinema is more than an arthouse cinema. It is an energetic participant in the life of Indiana University. When you give to IU Cinema, you are supporting unique experiences, accessible programs, and student success. Please help us continue this commitment to transformative cinematic experiences by making a gift today.
Be sure to check out IU Cinema’s #IUDay social-media activities, including a look back at our student and part-time staff’s favorite exclusive filmmaker interviews.
Olivia Seyerle is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying English and Linguistics. She has been a Cinema volunteer for a total of two years. Her favorite film this season was The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover.