Amid the ongoing fallout from sexual assault allegations in the film industry, many Penn students taking cinema studies courses are reconsidering how certain films should be addressed in the classroom.
Engineering sophomore Curie Shim watched the film "Annie Hall" in her class, CIMS 180: "Cinema that changes cinema." The film was directed by Woody Allen, who has been accused of molesting his adopted daughter.
Shim said the movie was shown as a part of a student’s presentation on the film. She added that Allen’s past was not openly discussed, though she wished it had been.
Moving forward, Shim added that she thinks it is important that classroom discussions and syllabi shed light on “not just sexual violence, but all systems of oppression."
“I think something that should be avoided is showing films by people who have clearly committed sexual violence,” Shim said. “If it’s deemed necessary to show, it should be accompanied by the discussion about how their character influences their work and how the film should be interpreted.”
President of the Abuse and Sexual Assault Prevention group and College senior Caroline Ohlson agreed, adding that failing to acknowledge these behaviors would be a “disservice to our generation as we’re learning.”
Ohlson mentioned that she has noticed some incorporation of the topic within cinema studies and in her course CIMS 285: “The Art and Business of Film.” She said when the allegations surrounding film producer Harvey Weinstein emerged in October, her professor spent the first hour of one of their classes talking about power imbalances within the industry.
When approached for comment, Director of Cinema and Media Studies Peter Decherney directed The Daily Pennsylvanian to Associate Director Nicola M. Gentili. Gentili reached out to cinema studies faculty and graduate students, who did not respond to requests for comment.
College senior Barry Oshiba said in his course this semester, CIMS 370: “Blacks in American Film and Television,” the professor showed the class works of Bill Cosby, another actor infamous for multiple sexual assault allegations.
“In terms of the curriculum itself,” Oshiba said, “I’m not sure if anything should be modified or changed at all in terms of learning the content.”
Ohlson somewhat disagreed, arguing that movies featuring people accused of sexual assault should be contextualized with a discussion.
“I think you can’t separate art from the people who make it,” Ohlson said. “While these films will have a lasting impact, and a lot of them are really important in the history of film, you can’t divorce [the person from their actions] — you still have to hold people accountable.”
Oshiba, who serves as president of the Kinoki Senior Society, an organization for students who want to pursue work in entertainment, noted that there is rising concern among members of the group about possibly facing these issues once in the industry.
“It’s something that we really are weary about as we go into the industry,” Oshiba said. “All 30 of us in the society are pretty set on going into the film industry, so it’s very important we take this into concern, because we never want to find ourselves in that position.”
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