‘The Children’s Hour’ provokes critical thought

TEMP ORARY March 22, 2012 0

How would you feel if you were exiled from your community and shunned by almost everyone you know? On March 26 at 7 p.m. in Gibble Auditorium, there will be a showing of “The Children’s Hour,” a diversity film centered around lies, revenge, homosexuality and false accusations.

When a female student, who attends a school for girls, is punished for lying, she concocts a story in which she witnesses the founders of the school, Martha and Karen, kissing. The girl gets her grandmother involved and the news rapidly spreads throughout the community. Children are withdrawn left and right, and Martha and Karen are left confused and ostracized from the community.

Assistant director of Academic Advising Jean-Paul Benowitz, the man behind the selection of the diversity films, has high hopes for “The Children’s Hour.”

“We’re using this film, as we do with all of the films, to introduce an idea regarding inclusivity, tolerance and diversity, and then we have the students engage in a conversation with the faculty as to what that means to us now. We’re looking at films in the diversity film series that probably wouldn’t even be made today because of topics that people wouldn’t want to touch on. Or maybe we live in a society where people don’t want films that challenge us to think anymore,” Benowitz said.

After the movie there will be a discussion led by Dr. Sylvester Williams, associate professor of business law, about the legal ramifications of what Martha and Karen had to endure in a society that shunned homosexuals and what would happen when the student was found to be lying all along. This film should open the eyes of students and demonstrate just exactly what could happen to those caught in such a situation, inviting students to share their opinions and questions.

Benowitz chose this particular film because of the complex themes, such as the acceptance of homosexuality. “It’s a film that is very subtle, but also very thought provoking. In 1961, when the film hit theatres, if you were a critical thinker you would understand, and if you weren’t in tune that way you could watch it and come to your own conclusions about the film. It’s amazing if someone watched the film and did not find something wrong with the reaction of the community. Even now, with a greater acceptance of homosexuality culturally, it is a very thought-provoking concept. In fact, you wonder if they could even make a film like that today,” Benowitz said.

Benowitz also believes that the issues of lying and revenge provide some food for thought. “This film really demonstrates the challenges of [seeking revenge] because if you are hurt and you are trying to get back at someone, then you aren’t in the right state of mind to have a constructive resolution,” Benowitz said. Because students on campus live so close to one another and interact every day, Benowitz believes this issue is especially pertinent. “This film is a wonderful representation of the consequences of revenge and how hurtful lies can be,” Benowitz stated.

As with all the films, Benowitz hopes that students will get a lot out of “The Children’s Hour.” “If this film was made today there would have been a social media aspect. There would be text messages and emails and Facebook comments being sent around, not just simply a little girl going home and telling her grandmother,” Benowitz stated. “Even in 1961, where all those elements aren’t there, the students can still see how it doesn’t matter what the technology is that conveys the message. What does one do with that message? Do you get on the bandwagon?” Benowitz commented.

In addition to all of the relatable themes in the movie, the film is being shown at a fitting time slot. “Lately there’s been this big hoopla about the diversity plan, about the strategic plan and about different directions that the school is going in and students have caught on. It’s true in part, but it’s taken on a life of its own, and it hasn’t been fully informed. So actually this topic of community involvement and confusion is timely on this campus,” Benowitz said.

Attendance at the diversity films has been growing. While many people came during the first semester because it was a class requirement, more people have been showing up out of their own interest. Benowitz hopes to see the attendance continue to increase with the showing of this film.

If the enticing plot and complex themes aren’t enough to get you to come out and see the film, perhaps the well-known actors and actresses such as Audrey Hepburn and James Garner can grab your attention. Either way, “The Children’s Hour” should be a film that will suck you in, make you think, and leave you wanting to talk about it for the next hour.

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