Bird Shows Sunday Flicks

On regular Sunday afternoons at 4:30p.m., John Bird, Instructor in English, combines homemade cookies with- film screenings, providing Phillips Academy students with a unique study break. Bird began screening movies when he was a house counselor in Flagg House. He showed movies to the boys in his dorm and often invited other interested students and faculty members. It was not until later that the idea of a “Movie Day” on Sundays took shape. Bird said, “It actually started when the Class of 2012 were Juniors. I had a couple sections of [English] 100, and I thought that I could maybe show some movies in there, and they were really quite interested in them. I thought I could show movies on campus. Every Friday in spring term, we watched an episode of ‘The Vampires,’ which is an old silent movie series by Louis Feuillade.” “After that, I showed them some strange short films, which they were perplexed by but interested in. Last year, I wasn’t in a dorm, which made it more difficult to have kids over, so I started showing movies in Kemper in the spring. Unfortunately, I decided to choose Tuesday night, which did not work because everybody had music,” continued Bird. This year, Bird began showing the movies on Sunday afternoons in Kemper Auditorium. The first movie shown this year was “The Bad News Bears.” The movie screening drew 13 students, Bird’s largest audience to date. To advertise the weekly screenings, Bird put up fliers in the entrance of Bulfinch and in his classroom and added an announcement on PAnet. He is also considering advertising his movie screenings in the Weekender. Bird said, “I wanted to do something that would contribute to the intellectual and cultural life of the campus. I also think we need to do things that are not just geared towards getting people into college, that are enjoyable and interesting, but not necessarily a class or just blowing off time.” Bird wanted to keep the movies unofficial. The screenings are not a part of any club, and are completely independent from the Student Activities Board or any other campus organization. Nalani Oines ’12, one student who attended Sunday’s movie, said that she started going to the movies because “[she] had a friend who went and then roped [her] in.” Some of the movies screened last year were horror movies and “avant-garde” or strange experimental films. The viewers would often discuss the movies afterwards, a trend that has not continued beyond Bird’s home screenings. Bird intentionally selects movies that most students have not heard of or know about. “It’s easy to see movies that you have already heard of,” said Bird. He said that due to technological advancements, “it is easier to find what you are looking for, but it is much harder to stumble on things. When I was in high school, it was harder to find things, but we found more things. I think that [the movies are] a way of sort of continuing that.” Bird currently teaches English 200 and Renaissance Poetry, a Senior elective. This spring, Bird will teach Avant-garde Poetry and Film as a Senior elective. Over the summer, Bird received a course development grant that enabled him to conduct research for his new class. Bird said the class in the spring will be “[looking] at different kinds of films and poets up until the 1930s.” During the second half of the term, the class will jump to the late 1940s, covering the films from post-war America. Bird will screen another film on Sunday, October 6th.