Around the World: Language Houses Build Community with Film Fest


Justine Ballard, Associate Features Editor

Following in the footsteps of Venice and Cannes, Macalester has founded its own film festival this semester. This initiative, spear-headed by Language Houses Resident Assistant (RA) Bobbie Pennington ’24, aims to bring students from all over Macalester to the language houses on Vernon Street. 

“[Language houses are] viewed as residence halls by most, […] but there’s also this really cool side. They are a unique part about Macalester,” Pennington said. “I’m trying to […] bring people to the language houses that wouldn’t generally be there.”

When the idea was first presented to the program assistants (PAs) of the Language Houses, most viewed it as a chance to display the cultures of the languages that the houses represent. 

Ranging from Spanish to Japanese, there are eight houses, each with a variety of backgrounds which bring students together under a common goal: speaking more of the language they have been learning. New houses, like the Portuguese and Arabic Houses, have been added recently due to rising interest in the languages and cultures and the opportunities that living in such a space can offer.

“What’s special about the language houses too, is that [they bring] people together over a shared interest,” German House PA Tala Tabishat ’23 said. “This is a really good idea. We should definitely do this.”

Each house had a different process for choosing a film, and they range in content and age.

“They range from classics from before we were all born all the way to 2022 releases,” Pennington said. “That’s really cool.”

While Tabishat spoke with the language tutors in the German department, Portuguese House PA Alessandra Policarpo ’24 detailed how she selected the Brazilian film Cidade de Deus, shown Feb. 18, in an email to The Mac Weekly

I thought about movies that were very famous in Brazil but also had some recognition internationally,” Policarpo wrote. “I also wanted to choose a movie that could give some cultural insight to the audience about Brazilian culture.”

The film festival, which will show a movie nearly every weekend of the spring semester, is part of a larger push by Pennington and other students on campus to have more internationally-guided programming. 

Last semester, the Language Houses hosted viewings of the group stages of the FIFA World Cup for all the countries they represent. Additional projects are also in the works over on Vernon Street. 

“I hope to get more cultural and international programming at Macalester,” Pennington said. “It’s a big part of Macalester that I see […] lacking. […] I really do miss that culture. [I’m] trying to bring that part back [and] also just highlight the houses.”

Tabishat also praised the initiative as a way to build community as well as emphasize the unique position the Language Houses have on campus compared to other schools.

“After the pandemic, it’s so important to try to build community again and also make younger students aware of the houses on campus,” Tabishat said. “This is a great way to do it and bring students to the house so they know that they exist and the work that we do in the houses and the opportunities out there are here.”