Filmosophy is an ongoing series put together by the Department of Philosophy at Gonzaga University. At each event, organizers screen a popular film and then host a discussion. Typically, philosophy professors lead the discussions, but graduate students have also taken on this role a few times in the past.
The events are free and open to all students currently taking PHIL 101, 201, 301 and 400 level courses.
This semester marks Filmosophy’s return to campus since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Danielle Layne, associate professor of philosophy, director of the graduate program in philosophy and founder of Filmosophy at GU, said she did not want to continue Filmosophy via Zoom.
“One of the benefits of going to a public screening of a film is that at that event you get to talk about what just happened and have that face-to-face interaction that , in my opinion, is really important in recognizing your own insight,” Layne said.
Screenings from years past have included modern box office hits such as “Moana” and “Joker,” as well as classics such as “Wings of Desire.” Layne said that all of the past films tackled a range of philosophical themes.
As a rule, each screening is accompanied by a brochure with ideas that the professor leading the discussion wishes to highlight. The discussion portion addresses the issues mentioned in the brochure, but also takes place in an open format that allows students to point out other themes they have seen.
Layne said the culture of binge-watching causes people to watch movies passively, causing them to miss important ideas. Filmosophy attempts to combat this by using philosophical tools to understand the film’s most implicit message.
“The movie means a lot to us,” Layne said. “It shapes how we think about the world.”
Class of 2018 member and philosophy graduate student Tof Chapin said the screening of “Moana” was the most impactful filmosophy event he had attended. This screening viewed “Moana” through an intersectional feminist lens and addressed issues of sexual assault and colonization in the film. He said the controversial interpretation showed him that even in children’s films there are hidden messages that need to be explored.
“It shows even in our Disney films, in particular, that there are those kinds of meanings that are imbued in them on some level and it’s not just about entertainment,” Chapin said. “Any type of media is open to this kind of critical questioning.”
Both Layne and Chapin encourage students to attend upcoming Filmosophy events, regardless of major. From a practical perspective, Layne said filmosophy shows students that the philosophical concepts they discuss in class are applicable in everyday life.
Currently, there is no set schedule for Filmosophy events this semester. Layne said she plans to hold a screening around Halloween and another during the holiday season. She encourages students to email her movie suggestions at [email protected]
“Filmosophy is a place to practice critical reflection on the media we engage with,” Chapin said.