Stanford Film Society is back — and has big plans

Feb. 12, 2023, 10:49 p.m.

It’s 7 p.m. on a Sunday night. You’re tired of doing homework and desperately wish for an escape for the next two hours. You have an “a-ha” moment and remember that the Stanford Film Society hosts biweekly movie screenings on Sunday nights. 

Stanford Film Society (SFS) was recently revitalized after a dormant period during the pandemic. The group’s newly expanded executive team utilized this time to plan screenings on campus, in Palo Alto and even at out-of-state film festivals. 

The club displays a diverse array of international films from all genres, ranging from comedies to horrors. After the screenings, students engage in casual discussion debating the films’ deeper meaning and personal effects on them.

“The goal of the Stanford Film Society is to bridge the gap between film studies and casual viewing by presenting the student body with meaningful, accessible cinema,” the group’s Instagram proclaims. The screenings are intended to be an introductory viewing experience that can appeal to anyone, regardless of previous film knowledge. 

“One of the guiding principles of our club is to break down a sense of elitism or feelings of unwelcomeness that can stop many of us from entering film spaces,” Isabelle Cashe ’24, the SFS president, told the Daily.

“This is the perfect opportunity for those who want to consume, appreciate and dissect media rather than create it,” said Cameron Lange ’24, former co-president of SFS. She explained that SFS was unique compared to other film clubs at Stanford such as Flying Horse Films and Restorative Film Collective, which cater to filmmakers, rather than movie-goers. 

When Cashe and Lange were sophomores, they attended Stanford’s club fair eager to sign up for the Stanford Film Society, but it was nowhere to be found. They took matters into their own hands and brought the club back to life.

“Film is a way to understand people and it creates a shared experience,” Cashe said. She hopes that more students view film as a window into philosophical arguments.

This quarter, SFS is planning to host a screening at the Stanford Theatre in downtown Palo Alto. The club wants to support local theaters and maintain Stanford students’ historic relationship with this Palo Alto landmark. 

One of SFS’s long term goals is to invite high-profile filmmakers to campus to speak to club members. In the upcoming quarters, the club plans to invite Alice Wu ’90 M.S. ’92, the director of “Saving Face” and “The Half of It,” to share her experience with being queer in Chinese-American cinema. The Film Society also has an ambitious goal of flying students to the Cannes Film Festival in France. 

However, the club’s first priority is organizing campus events to ensure the club’s accessibility and longevity.

“The Stanford Film Society is a breath of fresh air among hierarchical, pre-professional, resume-building clubs at Stanford,” Lange told the Daily. She shared that the audience of film screenings is diverse, ranging from creative writing majors to physics majors. Students are able to meet those from all walks of life.

“Stanford students have really stressful lives and it’s nice to take a break from everything and have a chill movie night with friends,” Cashe added.

SFS’s financial officer, Adrian Feinberg ’25, took a gap year during the pandemic and watched one movie a day. Feinberg mused that “movies helped me find structure in a structureless year,” and he hoped SFS screenings have the same enlightening effect on Stanford students.

During fall and winter quarter, The Stanford Film Society has hosted five screenings: “The Graduate,” “Train to Busan,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,” and “Wild Tales.” An ongoing survey is available to all students to submit film suggestions. 

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