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ISU Film Series Explores The Human Side Of Terrorism

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A 4-night film series at Illinois State University asks the question, “Who is a terrorist, and why?”  The series, "Terrorism on Screen," begins September 1 and will include the showing of five films over four nights.  Dr. Erin Ponnou-Delaffon is an Assistant Professor of French at ISU and the organizer of the series.  She said her interest in creating the series came from her personal and professional interest in contemporary France.

"I watch the news very closely and have friends over there" said Ponnou-Delaffon.  "And certainly France is a country that has been rocked by terrorist events as of late, and is still struggling to come to terms with what that means for them.  Particularly in the light of next year's Presidential election."

Ponnou-Delaffon said she reached out to colleagues across the ISU campus for film recommendations.  She also wanted regional specialists to be able participate in the introduction of the films and in discussion afterwards.

Ponnou-Delaffon said "I was looking for a variety of perspectives in what I might dare call the human face of terrorism. So for instance films that look at terrorists, or would be terrorists, the last 24 hours before crossing that line.  And I was looking at other films that deal with the victims of terror, not the perpetrators.  Those who have to live with the memory of loss and trauma."

Ponnou-Delaffon's areas of academic interest include continental philosophy, particularly existentialism and ethics.  She said those interests played into her choices of the five films for the series. 

"One of the key tenants of French existentialism is that, and we credit (Jean-Paul) Sartre for this, we're always living in situation" said Ponnou-Delaffon.  "We never exist outside of situations.  We create the essence of who we are through all these choice.  As I say that, it should be noted, and this is one of the difficult things about reading him, Sartre was a proponent of terrorism in the 50's and 60's as the tool of the oppressed essentially in the context of de-colonization.  Whether we're looking at the perpetrator side or at the victims, these are all individuals who are facing choices.  I think the more we can understand about the culture and the history and what has created some of these conflicts, the better our understanding can be."

The series, Terrorism on Screen, will include the showing of five films from September 1-4. All movies will begin at 7 p.m. in Capen Auditorium of Edwards Hall. Screenings include a brief introduction by a faculty member, and time allowed for discussion afterward to promote understanding and dialogue around one of the most troubling issues of our time. The films are free and open to the public.

The schedule includes:
September 1The Battle of Algiers (1966, 120 min.)
September 2The Terrorist (1998, 95 min.)
September 3Paradise Now (2005, 90 min.)
September 4Bear Story (2014, 11 min.) and I Wonder What You Will Remember of September (2004, 27 min.)

Jon Norton is the audio director at WGLT and WCBU. He also is host of All Things Considered every weekday.