During the 2015-16 academic year, the student-run Bijou Film Board introduced the Horizons Series - a cinema series focused on raising student awareness of diverse cultures. The Bijou has been showing classic, foreign, and art house films since 1972, so Horizons was a logical step for the group. Students who attended all the semester's screenings were given a chance to receive a UI International Programs $1,500 study abroad scholarship.
While planning Horizons, a committee scoured dozens of film festival queues and reviews, with the goal of identifying unique, hard-to-find films to inform the audience about cultures outside the local community.
All films chosen for the series included a social element such as activism, cultural understanding, issues of race and gender, and political issues of domestic or international importance. A film piece was chosen based on its ability to explain or address these social issues, in addition to the more aesthetic qualities of the production.
Each screening was a near sellout. Several of the films were not available via streaming other media, which made the screenings even more appealing to students and community members alike.
At the end of last semester, there were about 30 students eligible for the scholarship drawing, which included both $1,500 and a travel voucher. Previous winners had chosen to study in the Netherlands and France, among other places.
"With the help of international programming and foreign language programming, this is just one opportunity we can offer to students. It gives people the ability to see what they might not have normally seen before," said Michael Davis, 2015-2016 executive director of the Bijou Film Board.
Two years ago, the Bijou Film Board decided to partner with a local nonprofit theater, FilmScene. This partnership has resulted in larger audiences and new opportunities in leadership, programming, and community outreach roles for students. With their relationship with FilmScene firmly established, the Bijou is looking to start new collaborative projects with student organizations and academic departments.
In the future, the Bijou Film Board hopes to make a larger impact throughout campus and the community, especially with increasing first-year classes coming to the University. These record breaking student numbers signal an important time for Bijou to expand its base of followers and continue spreading its cinematic mission throughout the local Hawkeye community.
"One film, one great film, can impact an individual's life pretty incredibly. Something they weren't expecting, is also a huge benefit," says Davis.
By incentivizing international film screenings with scholarships, Bijou gained recognition from both students and the community at large. Its mission, above all, is to give students the ability to see different ways of life, communities, and value sets come alive through film.