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Woman at War Poster

Monmouth’s World Cinema Series Concludes the 2020-2021 Season with “Woman at War”

By Emily O’Sullivan

Woman at War PosterOn Thursday, April 15, the World Cinema Series rounded out an enlightening year of film analysis with Benedikt Erlingsson’s Woman at War. The capstone of the 2020-2021 theme, “A Delicate Balance: Global Communities and the Natural Environment,” the 2018 release invites viewers to grapple with one of the most pressing issues of our time: human-induced climate change. Set as a battle between Halla, a middle-aged environmental activist devoted to ecological integrity, and the Icelandic government’s plans for a multinational corporation’s construction of an aluminum plant, the film communicates a poignant message: this generation is the last capable of coming to the Earth’s defense in the long-running war against it, and there is simply not any time left to waste.

World Cinema Series Director Dr. Thomas Pearson assembled a compelling panel of discussants, each with expertise that complemented the film’s distinct components. The audience first heard from Dr. Catherine N. Duckett, an entomologist by training and the Associate Dean of the School of Science. With a multitude of experiences relating to the science and politics oDr. Catherine Duckettf climate change, Dr. Duckett finds great reward in helping her students “find their activist voice.” She approached the film with an understanding that “climate change in the United States is often viewed from a lens clouded by misinformation… when climate scientists share their knowledge, they’re often labeled as an extremist or as an alarmist when, for the most part, they have been erring on the side of caution and sugarcoating results.” From this perspective, she launched a conversation surrounding a key question at the root of the story’s narrative: how can one distinguish between an activist and an extremist?

Dr. Nancy Mezey, a Professor of Sociology and the Dean of the Honors School, labeled this quest for classification as motivated by a “false dichotomy,” adding that one can absolutely “be angry without being violent.” Dr. Mezey teaches courses in race, class, and gender studies,Dr. Nancy Mezey and she spent two years serving in the Peace Corps before earning her Ph.D. at Michigan State University and arriving at Monmouth University in 2002. A specialist in family sociology, she pointed out another conflict at the heart of the film: can Halla identify as both a “good mother” and a fearless activist? To Dr. Mezey, this issue represents a similar false dichotomy, especially given that the definition of a “good mother” varies widely from culture to culture. In Woman at War, Halla’s bold stance against the climate injustice before her reflects her take on both motherhood and activism: “It is our inalienable right to protect future generations, and our children and our grandchildren will have no chance unless we act now.”

Professor Maiya FurgasonProfessor Maiya Furgason, an instructor in the Leon Hess Business School with over 35 years of wealth management experience and whose travels span 103 countries, offered critical insight about the Icelandic corporate setting. Mainly, she dissected the “major role of industrial sabotage” against ecological initiatives that has left world citizens without “much time to rescue our environment.” Though the aluminum plant only employed a few hundred of Iceland’s 343 million people, it accounted for roughly 23 percent of the country’s GDP, forcing the Icelandic government to juggle between environmental and fiscal interests. Unfortunately, the latter frequently prevail over the former, underscoring the significance of generating discussions like those that have transpired at the World Cinema Series events all year long.

In his closing remarks, Dr. Pearson noted, “Time pressure is very significant… for my part, I think of my granddaughter: what kind of world is she going to have 30, even 20 years from now?” With another successful year of the World Cinema Series on the books, Dr. Pearson is soliciting theme suggestions for the 2021-2022 academic year. Suggestions can be submitted to Dr. Pearson at pearson@monmouth.edu. The IGU has enjoyed engaging with this robust and engaging forum over the past year and looks forward to next year’s season with a new theme.