Grab your popcorn and a cup of joe for Coffee and Cinema, a free event featuring food, coffee, and of course, movies, here on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus. Alison Wielgus, associate professor of media studies in the Communicating Arts Department, created the event in hopes of connecting the UWS community through conversations around film.

“Each event is going to feature a movie that will be presented in collaboration between the Communicating Arts department and a different department or office on campus. We’re trying to schedule them around special events, during the school year or other calendar events,” Wielgus said.

Each film will be introduced by Wielgus and a faculty member on campus who has completed research relating to the film or is interested in topics and themes the film proposes. Upon viewing, audience members can then join in on an informal discussion around the movie.

“The goal of Coffee and Cinema is to create an event that is welcoming to students and faculty on campus that has a lower barrier of entry than a formal lecture. We want to allow people to have slightly deeper conversations about film attached to other issues, but also to bring together different groups on campus as we have a tendency to be siloed in our own buildings and groups,” said Wielgus.

Students snacked out and conversed about “Candyman” (1992) at the last Coffee and Cinema in HFAC. | Photo by Adam DeMuth

“I think it’s a really fun event for all people whether you’re a communicating arts major or not. It’s a great way to not only see films you may not have watched on your own and learn about specific aspects and themes of the film,” said Bria Skow, a student and frequent attendee of Coffee and Cinema.

The event is modeled after the cine-clubs and cinematheques that began in the early 20th century, where viewer discussion was often encouraged upon viewing a film. Coffee and Cinema continues this practice of shared viewer experience, and it encourages participants to watch films more closely to how they were intended to be seen, especially after the pandemic limited viewers to watching movies in their homes.

“I feel like during COVID we got used to watching films on our phones or on our laptops in our homes, and it is so nice to enjoy films together with other people,” said Wielgus. “One of the things I heard from so many different groups on campus was how frustrating it was that the university felt really disconnected, and that is something that was especially exasperated by COVID because it was hard to actually see people in public.”

Several films have already been screened as part of the program, including “The Prince and the Pauper” in conjunction with the music department and “Candyman” with the Jim Dan Hill Library. The next film in the program’s series is “Arsenic and Old Lace” which will be screened on Monday, Nov. 14 to coincide with the opening of the campus play of the same name. Wielgus will be joined by communicating arts professor Brent Notbohm to introduce the film and discuss the process of film adaptation as it relates to the play.

“Film is nothing if not a medium that brings in a lot of different fields and approaches and disciplines. I think a lot of times when we’re in film classes, a lot of people are looking at cinema from the filmmaker’s mind, and it’s interesting to view it from the mind of someone who has been researching the topics discussed in the film,” said Wielgus.