Campus News

Film gallery for an ongoing pandemic

Movie projector.


Published June 10, 2020


Here are some suggestions for movies for the ongoing COVID-19 era and a country filled with civil unrest.

David Schmid, associate professor of English

“If you had asked me what films to recommend before George Floyd was murdered, I probably would have leaned more toward ‘escapist’ options, or films that addressed isolation.

Movie poster for "selma.".

“So for many people, I think traditional favorites like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ romances like ‘Moonstruck’ or ‘Love, Actually,’ or bingeable epics like ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Star Wars’ or ‘Harry Potter’’ would fit the bill. Alternatively, people might like disaster movies, especially virus-themed ones like ‘Outbreak’ or ‘Contagion’ in the spirit of confronting worst-case scenarios head-on, or invasion movies where the good guys eventually win, like ‘Alien’ or ‘Independence Day.’

“But given the past few days, I think there is a case to be made for using our film viewing as a ‘teachable moment,’ as the overused phrase goes, to either educate or remind ourselves about how we got here (‘Malcolm X,’ ‘Selma,’ ‘Do the Right Thing’), movies that remind us about the importance of community (‘Crip Camp,’ ‘The Florida ‘Project,’ ‘Moonlight’), or of the importance of doing the right thing, even when the costs are high (‘Serpico,’ ‘The Shawshank Redemption’).”

Movie poster for "Parasite.".

Amber Falcheck, UB senior and film devotee

“‘Parasite’ (winner of four 2020 Academy Awards, including best picture) shows how disasters destroy the lower class and many times benefit the upper class. There is a scene of a terrible flood. After the flood, the poor family’s apartment gets flooded, while the rich family talks about how the rain cleared up the air for their party. Watching this film during this crisis allows many viewers like myself to relate to the characters on film. It’s oddly comforting knowing I’m not the only one suffering, while at the same time being outraged at the society we live in.

“Films like ‘The Pirates of the Caribbean’ franchise give me an immersive experience into a time when life was simple. There is something so enjoyable about watching Jack Sparrow get into trouble over and over again, and somehow always being able to come out OK. For me right now, with so much going wrong at one time, it gives me assurance that it will all work out eventually ─ even if it’s from a character based off a Disney theme park ride.”

Movie poster for "Wings of Desire.".

Sarah JM Kolberg, adjunct faculty member, Media Study

“Wim Wenders’ ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987) offers a beautiful meditation on what it is to be human. Two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, watch over the residents of Berlin, comforting the lonely, the isolated and distressed. Damiel, tiring of merely observing the world and wishing to experience it, gives up his immortality and becomes human. By seducing us into an empathic connection with Damiel, the film provides l’education sentimentale, which generates radical compassion for our fellow human beings.

“‘City of God,’ directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund (2002), tracks the lives of violent rival gangs in the favelas of Rio, utilizing luminous cinematography as a counterpoint to the gritty reality of the slums. A story of perseverance and success against impossible odds, ‘City of God’ is the true story of Rocket, a youth growing up in the favelas who discovers photography, which becomes his ticket out. To me, it is little surprise that art is the life raft that lifts him out of the danger and filth of his world of origin.”

Kolberg’s other choice: Satyajit Ray’s “Pather Panchali” (1955). “It’s the first in a trilogy following the lives of a poverty-stricken Bengali family, specifically the son, Apu. Although the family suffers greatly, the deep humanism of the cinematography evokes the beauty in small wonders, in the waves of tall grasses, the delight in a purloined mango. It offers an important reminder to find the things we can be grateful for, despite hardship and deprivation; what the Buddhists call the “joyful participation in the sorrows of life.”

Movie poster for "Harold and Maude.".

Writer’s choices

“Harold and Maude” is a black comedy cult film that celebrates the simple pleasures of life and love that defies social conventions. The Cat Stevens soundtrack is as ageless as The Beatles.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” is not only the story of negotiating life through the racial injustice but the power of gracefully, but effectively, standing up for justice. Boo Radley’s methods of communicating with the Finch children are lessons in making meaningful connections amid social distancing.