STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY WEST GIVENS
The lights dim as the projector screen lowers, and a group of MSMS students relax as the movie’s titles begin to roll. However, they are not gathered together to watch purley for entertainment, but as members of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science’s Introduction to Film class.
The class is taught by Dr. Thomas Easterling. In this elective course, both juniors and seniors watch movies ranging from Charlie Chaplin's silent films to the romantic comedies of the early 1990s. The students learn to analyze films through the use of critical terminology.
Dr. Easterling also teaches several English classes, but he continues to teach the course because of his love for the medium.
“Without meaning any disrespect towards the discipline of English, it’s hard to avoid the fact that film is the most important medium of the 20th century,” he said. “In addition to giving students the language they need to express what they like about the films, I really, really love watching students watch great movies for the first time.”
The collection of great movies that students watch over the semester is extensive. Easterling plans screenings of City Lights, Chinatown, Citizen Kane, and many more. Some films, like The Graduate, Easterling shows every semester, but he always adds new films to each new class.
“Whether they are independent films made on a shoestring-budget, or blockbusters, I try to have a pretty omnivorous appetite when it comes to watching movies,” he said.
As the lights are raised and Dr. Easterling gives his final remarks at the podium,
the class’s students are already eager for the next class. They will be back, popcorn and notebook in hand. Not because they must, but because the magic of cinema is infectious.