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FLEFF Intern Voices

The Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival from the interns' point of view

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Posted by Haley Stearns at 7:43PM
Dr. Christopher House

Blog post written by Haley Stearns, Film, Photography, and Visual Arts ’15, FLEFF Blogger, Buffalo, New York

An edited account of a personal interview with Dr. Christopher House, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, Ithaca College.

Q: How long have you been working at IC?

A: Oh, let’s see. It’ll be a total of three years. My first year I was a dissertation fellow and then I was hired at a tenured track position so this May will be a total of 3 years that I have been here.

Q: After looking at your faculty profile on the IC website, I noticed that your current research is focused on HIV/AIDS, specifically in relation to people of African descent. Could you elaborate on your research?

A: My current research is at the intersection of rhetoric, religion, and difference. The project that I’m working on examines black church responses to HIV/AIDS across African diaspora. I wanted to find out what are the strategies that black religious leaders, who are on the front lines of addressing HIV/AIDS, using to address the epidemic. I wanted to tie the global with the local so that other religious leaders and interested individuals can learn from those strategies that I identify in my research. I also am trying to help fill a gap within current discourses on HIV.

Q: When did you first become involved with FLEFF?

A: This is my first year, so I’m still green.

Q: What originally inspired you to get involved with FLEFF?

A: I had some interest last year, but as a new faculty member, I was trying just to get stable in my department. I wanted to get involved because of the environmental aspect of it and just to be able, as a rhetorician, to look at the way that film could broach certain conversations, topics, and ideas, and to place those ideas in these mediated spaces in ways that may be more palatable to students.

Q: Based on your background in communication how do you think FLEFF promotes conversations about various issues and topics?

A: You know, there are underlying messages in film. So I think that it will be a good way to have conversations and dialogue about ideas and concepts that individuals otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to. Today, very few people go to hear a speech given on a topic – we don’t predominantly receive information that way anymore, we just don’t. We watch movies, we read books, use the internet, and so it’s really a sight and sound generation and time period so I think that FLEFF is onto something when they’re showing these films.

Q: Would you encourage your students and students in general to attend FLEFF?
A: Absolutely. In a lot of my classes we try to deconstruct mediated messages to discover what are the underlying messages and what the implications of the messages are. To be able to do that and to say, why don’t you go look at this film during the festival, I think it’s incredibly valuable.

Q: How do you think this year's festival theme of dissonance will help to stimulate conversation?

A: That’s a good question. The class that I’m going to be teaching – the full title was called Rhetorical Bodies: Histories Preserved without Words, and I wrote down a little statement about the class because we’re talking about dissonance, you know things that clash and how they often can ignite something ingenious. So I’m going to be looking at black bodies across the diaspora at a time when on one hand it was a period marked by the denigration of black bodies, this less than human quality, but on the other hand you have blacks who only had their hands, bodies and voices as their source for determination. They had no land, but how they were able to stylize time and space and they were able to tell their stories through that. So on one hand it was oppression, and the other hand self-affirmation coming together to produce these beautiful styles of dance and stories that are being told along side the dance. So I think that students will be able to see that where there is dissonance there is always the potential for something beautiful to be created. And in terms of this class, where there is oppression, there is always resistance. Students will learn how to look those stories not written or preserved in word or written text. It’s there! One of the greatest ways that people give up their power is to think that they have none. The theme of dissonance says to me: look for those moments. Dig deep and refuse to walk way. Say no, there’s something there – a little deeper.

Q: I know that this will be your first experience at FLEFF. Is there anything you’re looking forward to?

A: I look forward to partaking in as much as I can this year. To be able to talk with the creators/producers of these mediated text and to ask “what were you thinking when you created this?” That kind of back-and-forth dialogue, you can’t get if you’re reading a book. You can’t engage in a dialogue with the text so, I like being able to dialogue with many of the key players of these films. It lends itself well with interviews, to find out more information, and in terms of the creation – what was in that persons mind when they created the film. FLEEF is going to be a phenomenal thing to experience.


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