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Past IAH Film Festivals

2015 Film Festival: Truth & Reconciliation

Saturday-Sunday September 12-13 at the State Theatre

Racial tensions and structural inequalities between black and white Americans have recently– and repeatedly– been brought to the nation’s urgent attention. However, as Jelani Cobb wrote in the New Yorker in November 2014, these events have been “a punctuation to a long, profane sentence, one which has insulted a great many, and with damning frequency of late.” Over and again, these tragedies and outrages are demonstrations of a systemic, historical dismissal of the dignity of human life.


The Institute for the Arts and Humanities' Fall Film Festival, “Truth and Reconciliation,” aims to examine the historical and persistent realities of race in America. Films include Selma, A Raisin in the Sun, and Fruitvale Station. See below for full list of films and showtimes.


Banned Books, 2014

Film Fest Event Poster

What’s better than the American Library Association’s “Banned Books Week”?

A Banned Books Week that starts off with a Banned Books film festival, of course. On the weekend of September 20-21, we’ll show nine films at the State Theatre– Alexander Nevsky, To Kill A Mockingbird, Fahrenheit 451, The Kite Runner, 1984, Lolita, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Last Temptation of Christ, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. These films will be free and open to the public, so come see them before someone bans them!

Schedule of Events:

Saturday September 20, 2014
10 am - Alexander Nevsky
12:30 pm - To Kill a Mockingbird
3 pm - Fahrenheit 451
5:30 pm - Kite Runner
8 pm - 1984
10:15 pm - Lolita*

Sunday September 21, 2014
3 pm - The Handmaid’s Tale*
5:30 pm - The Last Temptation of Christ*
8:30 pm - Panel: The Last Temptation of Christ and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
9:15 pm - One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest*

*Under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Uncanny October, 2013

Film Fest Event Poster

Uncanny October offered a series of events on the theme of the uncanny, or the familiar made strange (and the strange made ... uncannily familiar). Uncanny October featured a live performance of Brent Green’s film (with live musical and spoken accompaniment), Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then (Schwab Auditorium, Thursday, October 17, 7:30), as well as a film series, a lecture, a symposium, and an exhibition curated by the Palmer Museum.

Uncanny performance:

Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then (2008), rated, runtime. Directed by Brent Green
Schwab Auditorium, Thursday, October 17, 7:30 pm
With live musical and spoken accompaniment by Brent Green and Gravity 7

A stunning film exploring poignantly beautiful themes of love and loss, Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then is based on the true story of Leonard Wood, a hardware store clerk who rebuilt his house as a “healing machine” for his dying wife, Mary, pursuing the project even years after her death. In making the film, Green painstakingly rebuilt Wood’s then-demolished house, based on the plans Wood had left behind after his own death.

Uncanny film series:

Spirited Away (2001). Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
State Theatre
Thursday, October 3, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm, 10:00 pm   

This beautiful Japanese anime film features a 10-year old girl whose parents take a few wrong turns one evening– whereupon she unexpectedly finds herself in a world of ancient ghosts, spirits, and witches. The film gets more beautiful and haunting the weirder it gets, and it gets very very weird indeed. A stunning, intensely imaginative exploration of what film can do. Not. To. Be. Missed. (35 mm, dubbed in English, no subtitles)

Alice or Neco z Alenky (1988). Dir. Jan Svankmajer
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium
Wednesday, October 9, 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 12, 2:00 pm

A film made for children ... perhaps? This dark, surrealist interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s already-pretty-surrealist Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland combines live action with stop-motion animation. Czech language with English subtitles.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010). Dir. Jalmari Helander
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium
Wednesday, October 16, 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 19, 2:00 pm

It's Christmas time, and Santa Claus is coming to town. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake.... But two Finnish boys learn that the true meaning of Christmas is best left buried. Let’s put it this way: you'll never look at Saint Nick the same way again.

Trouble Every Day (2001). Dir. Claire Denis
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium
Wednesday, October 23, 7:00 pm
Saturday, October 26, 2:00 pm

Sex and death have never been so intimately entwined. Starring Vincent Gallo and Béatrice Dalle, this French horror film offers a terrifying spin on the vampire genre, exploring themes of existentialism, eroticism, and gender through the story of an American couple honeymooning in Paris. It’s like Midnight in Paris, only completely not.

The Shining (1980). Dir. Stanley Kubrick
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium
Wednesday, October 30, 7:00 pm

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Also featuring redrum, Lloyd, eerie chanting twins, and a guy in a bear suit. You have been warned.

Uncanny lecture:

“Renfield's Syndrome – Or How I (Unintentionally) Created a Monster”
Richard Noll
DeSales University
Palmer Lipcon Auditorium 
Monday, October 7, 2013, 4:00 pm

Any vampire knows that Renfield's Syndrome is a real psychiatric condition ... or is it? For the first time ever, the creator of Renfield's Syndrome emerges from his crypt to tell the story of how a fang-in-cheek parody of a DSM mental disorder became a cultural phenomenon.

Uncanny symposium:

The War of the Worlds Broadcast of 1938: A Performance and Roundtable Discussion 
112 Borland Building
Thursday, October 24, 2013, 7:00 pm

To mark the 75th anniversary of the original radio performance of The War of the Worlds by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater, we listened to the broadcast and discussed its impact on American society, UFO belief, the media, and social science. Panelists included Mary Beth Oliver (Co-Director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory and Distinguished Professor of Media Studies, Penn State College of Communications), Matthew McAllister (Professor of Media Studies, Penn State College of Communications), and Greg Eghigian (Associate Professor of Modern History, Penn State Department of History).

Uncanny Congruencies:

September 10 - December 15th, 2013
Palmer Museum of Art

The power of art is often found in those uncanny spaces between formal abstraction and the narratives of representation. Inseparable parts of a more complex whole, the form of abstraction and the content of representation are the collaborative conditions that have created the most compelling works of art since antiquity. Uncanny Congruencies investigates these elliptical crisscrossings, and offers a nuanced dialogue with its audiences through the seemingly dissimilar work of eighteen alumni of the Penn State School of Visual Arts– all of which intersects and dialogues with one another in surprising ways.

College, 2012

Film Fest Event Poster

Saturday, September 29
Sunday, September 30
The State Theatre

On September 29-30, the Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities hosted its third annual film festival. This year’s theme was “College.” Penn State is now in a process of reevaluating its educational mission, public face, institutional commitments, and defenses. This year’s film festival invites you on a filmic tour of various cinematic campuses in order to meditate on the meaning of higher education in America in our time. The IAH Film Festival featured a number of films which offer a capacious understanding of the nature of College in all its promise, challenges, playfulness, sprawl, messiness, violence, ambition, pain, and spirit.

Festival Schedule

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Workers of the World, 2011

Workers Logo
September 30, 2011—October 2, 2011 
State Theatre


Film Festival Program

Work has structured human societies from the beginnings of organized food production to the era of the cubicle and the webinar.  Work is central to our place in nature and in culture:  our relations to each other, and to the biosphere at large, determine and are determined by the kind of work we do.  The nature and cultures of work have been transformed by successive phases of capitalism—mercantile, industrial, welfare-state, post-industrial; but the idea of work also informs the spiritual teachings of Buddhism, and underlies the precise, exacting disciplines of the performing arts.

Work can be mere drudgery: “shift work,” as Kenny Chesney puts it (7 to 3, 3 to 11, 11 to 7), or, if you prefer the more traditional 9 to 5, Dolly Parton is on the job.  Work can be the soul-crushing routine of Dilbert or Office Space, or it can involve the kind of invention, craft, and dedication that engages all our energies and produces not only a living wage but a meaningful life, as in Dancemaker.  Work defines play, and not only by negation: our work determines how much, or when, or even whether we can engage in play– and some of us find to our dismay or delight that playing, or playing at playing, or putting on plays, is really hard work.

We’ve assembled sixteen terrific films about the world of work, ranging from the coal mines of West Virginia and the textile mills of Alabama (no surprise there) to the wrestling rings of New Jersey and the noodle shops of Tokyo (OK, we hope those will surprise you).   And as we slogged through the hard, hard work of watching dozens of movies about work, we were struck by two things.

One: every one of these films features stunning, virtuoso acting.  Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, Jack Lemmon inGlengarry Glen Ross, Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler, Catalina Sandino Moreno in Maria Full of Grace– each of these performances testifies eloquently to the craft, to the work, of acting.  Many critics have remarked thatTampopo is implicitly a film about the work of filmmaking, even though it’s explicitly a film about food; we might add that all the films we’re screening this weekend are implicitly films about the meticulous labor that goes into making a work of art.

Two: it’s remarkable how funny many of these films are.  Repo Man and Office Space are cult classics precisely for their wry, offbeat humor (a plate of shrimp!  fifteen pieces of flair!), and of course Modern Times consists of one brilliant comedy routine after another.  9 to 5 is still fresh and hilarious, 30 years later, and Antz is a classic in its genre– or it would be, if anyone could figure out what genre it inhabits.  But we did not expect to laugh out loud at Up in the Air. We won’t tell you why– we think you need to see the film, and all these films, for yourself.

After all, it’s the weekend: decades ago, workers organized and fought for your right to take some time off between Friday and Monday.  Celebrate their historic victory: join us for a wonderful weekend– and join the workers of the world!

Schedule of Films:

Friday, September 30
3:00 p.m. Dancemaker (1998)
5:00 p.m. 9 to 5 (1980)
7:30 p.m. Nalini By Day, Nancy by Night (2005)
9:00 p.m. Up in the Air (2010)
12:00 a.m. Office Space (1999)

Saturday, October 1
12:00 p.m. Antz (1998)
2:00 p.m. Norma Rae (1979)
4:30 p.m. Matewan (1987)
7:15 p.m. Tampopo (1985)
9:45 p.m. The Wrestler (2008)
12:00 a.m. Repo Man (1984)

Sunday, October 2
12:00 p.m. Modern Times (1936)
2:00 p.m. Maria Full of Grace (2004)
4:30 p.m. Hollywood Shuffle (1987)
6:30 p.m. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
9:00 p.m. On The Waterfront (1954)

Bad Futures, 2010

Bad Futures

The future just isn’t what it used to be. Not long after the financial collapse of 2008, blogger Dan McEnroe wrote, “in every movie I've seen about the end of the world, civilization collapses because of something wicked cool happening– an asteroid hits, nuclear war, a supervirus, an ape revolution, whatever. If civilization collapses over credit default swaps I am going to be pissed.”

It looks for now as if the world will survive the fall of Lehman Brothers– as well as the devastation of the Gulf of Mexico and the debacle in Japan. And yet the question remains: why are so many of our futures so bad? For most of the past century, it has seemed as if we’re unable to imagine a future that is not dystopian in some way. If it’s not ecological devastation, it’s the rise of artificial intelligence; if it’s not a biodisaster or a nuclear holocaust, it’s a descent into a totalitarian nightmare. As Woody Allen put it over thirty years ago, “Today we are at a crossroads. One road leads to hopelessness and despair; the other, to total extinction. Let us pray we choose wisely.” And yet that was what the future looked like then; now, perhaps, we fear that we have already made our choice.

Star Trek is the exception that proves the rule: a vision of a future in which humanity has approached the abyss ... but managed to pull back at the last moment. In Star Trek our descendants create a peaceful, egalitarian society, and build huge starships to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go, etc. Perhaps that determined optimism helps to account for Star Trek’s uncanny staying power in American popular culture. But Star Trek solicits that optimism by way of an ellipsis: we will have outlived our unfortunate tendencies to murder each other and despoil the planet. Just take that future-perfect tense on faith. The films in Bad Futures, by contrast, try to fill in that ellipsis, to imagine futures near enough to compel us to reflect on the present. There are no transporters here.

At the same time, we deliberately avoided the explicitly finger-wagging films– from Soylent Green to The Day After Tomorrow– that tell us to change our way of living or reap the whirlwind. We also avoided the totally-devastated-landscape films– like The Road and The Book of Eli– that leave us with no social fabric whatsoever. It’s not that we have anything against finger-wagging or devastated landscapes: we think it’s entirely possible that visions of ecosystem devastation like that of Silent Running (1972) helped to spread awareness of the environmentalist movement. What if they took all the trees, put ‘em in a tree museum, and placed the tree museum in orbit around Saturn? That would be a bad future indeed– and we think the wonderful Pixar film Wall-E (the rights to which we could not obtain, alas) was savvy to cite Silent Running throughout, right down to the orbiting-Saturn bit. But some of the great finger-wagging films of the 70s are just ... well, cheesy. Rollerball: see what happens when you rotten kids and your violent sports take over the world! Logan’s Run: see what happens when you rotten kids and your “don’t trust anyone over 30" philosophy take over the world! And as for 2004's The Day After Tomorrow, can it really be the case that global climate change will produce arctic winds that chase Jake Gyllenhaal through the New York Public Library? And where did those wolves come from?

We thought long and hard about this film festival– and we had some fun putting it together, too, talking about it with dozens of people along the way (many of whom, surprisingly, had fond memories of Soylent Green). We considered showing some Cheesy Bad Futures, just for campy kicks. We thought of compiling a Charlton Heston montage ofPlanet of the ApesThe Omega Man, and Soylent Green, just to make the point that Charlton Heston should be central to any theory of cheesy bad futures. We also considered THX-1138Alphaville, and a whole host of 60s-70s dystopias in which Love is Illegal and People are All The Same. We thought of doing a Zardoz/ Westworld double feature, because we’re fond of films in which talented actors (Sean Connery, Yul Brenner) are made to do silly things. We contemplated the lyrics of what may be the single worst pop song ever to reach number one, Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus).” We watched (with varying degrees of interest) Vanilla Sky and Dark City,Strange Days and A Scanner DarklyPaycheck and Minority ReportThe Island and A.I.Moon and Total Recall. We wondered aloud why so many of these films are about white guys: is it that for people who aren’t white guys, the bad pasts and presents are more pressing than the bad futures? We held playoffs in various divisions: we clearly needed a zombie movie, we needed some aliens, we needed some comic relief, we needed something about genetics, and of course the festival would be incomplete without a Cold War nuclear-holocaust classic. Because one nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.

In the end, we chose fifteen films that ask us– in variously subtle, elusive. and visually arresting ways– how we might imagine the world we will have made. Some of them are beautiful, some are deeply disturbing, and some are just wicked cool. The futures might be bad, but the films are really quite good.

The festival was followed by a panel Monday night, October 18, at 7 pm in the Alumni Lounge of the Nittany Lion Inn, featuring Kevin Hagopian (Film), Matt Kenyon (Visual Arts/ New Media), Donald Kunze (Architecture, Integrative Arts) Sarah Rich (Art History), Chloe Silverman (Science, Technology, and Society). Fifty people joined us for a fascinating, wide-ranging discussion that raised questions such as: why do so many of these inventive, visually innovative films fall back on the same old heterosexual romance plot? If Gattaca is the finest film ever made about science-fictional employment discrimination, is Code 46 the finest film ever made about science-fictional insurance fraud? Why do so many of these movies seem so suffused with retro aesthetics, with sepia tones, with a paradoxical form of nostalgia? And when one of us becomes a human-insect hybrid, as in District 9, why do we assume that this a bad thing? (The as-yet-unfilmed novels of Octavia Butler offer a very different take on such transformations.) In the end, and even after the end, we had a great time.

Schedule of Films:

October 15

Blade Runner
La Jetée
Fahrenheit 451
Children of Men
A Clockwork Orange

October 16
District 9
Code 46
The Matrix

October 17
28 Days Later
2001: A Space Odyssey