“National Gallery” will be shown this weekend

by Haley Gordon | 2/25/15 6:04pm

On Friday evening, Dartmouth students will have the opportunity to travel to London’s Trafalgar Square and see paintings by artists ranging from Da Vinci to Vermeer. No plane ticket is required — students only have to walk to the Black Family Visual Arts Center.

Hop Film — the film exhibition division of the Hopkins Center that presents movies to community and campus — will show a special screening of “National Gallery” (2014). Directed by Dartmouth Film Award-winning Frederick Wiseman, the three-hour documentary is centered on the famous museum of the same name, which is owned by the British government and requires over 600 people working 361 days a year to operate smoothly. Hood Museum of Art director Michael Taylor will give a talk before the film screening.

Dartmouth film society director Johanna Evans said that while “National Gallery” is long, its length will give the audience a deeper look at the museum.

“The film is rather long compared to other films,” she said. “It might be a barrier to some...but the nice thing about a documentary of this length [is it] gives you access to things you wouldn’t find on the internet.”

The film is a careful study of the intricacies in the inner workings of that landmark that humanizes the workers who skillfully handle day-to-day operations and draws attention to the amount of dedication and care put into maintaining precious pieces of art, Hop Film manager Sydney Stowe said.

“It’s the beating heart,” Stowe said. “[Wiseman] finds the beating heart of an institution... that’s what makes his work so good.”

Evans said that Wiseman explores aspects of the museum that many people might overlook.

“I really like the behind-the-scenes approach,” Evans said. “You don’t think a lot about all the operations and personalities behind the scenes who are determining which paintings go up and how to restore them.”

Wiseman has focused on providing an intimate look at inside operations of large scale in his previous films like “La Danse” (2009), which centered on the Paris Opera Ballet Company.

“This is a chance to see a movie by a guy who takes his time and makes something you never give a second thought about much more interesting” Stowe said.

Wiseman visited Dartmouth in 2010 when he was won the Dartmouth Film Award.

Stowe said that they often try to include Wiseman’s works in Dartmouth programming, as his comprehensive and considerate style is unique in documentaries. While other documentarians try to shine a light on a particular idea or topic for 90 minutes, Wiseman is unafraid to take his time with a project to explore a fuller story, Evans said.

Stowe said that, like many of the films the center chooses to screen, “National Gallery” is a smaller and lesser-known film that might be otherwise passed over.

“‘National Gallery’ is a perfect example of a movie that’s not going to play at a local theater,” Stowe said. “We’re too small a town.”

Stowe compared the center’s programming choices to the shelf at a local bookstore with staff-recommended picks.

“We like to say, ‘You know what, we’re going to put it on our calendar,’” Stowe said. “Trust us. We love this. We do some of the work so you don’t have to.”

“National Gallery” was also chosen with a nod to the Hood Museum, Stowe said, adding that they are interested in the new trend of exposition series.

“Are audiences going to turn out for that?” Stowe said. “If you heard that there was this famous impressionist museum in Paris that you knew you were never going to get to, but you could pay 10 dollars and spend an hour and a half touring the museum and listening to people talk about it, and seeing this work up close, would you do it? We don’t know.”

The majority of the programming takes place in Loew Auditorium, although some larger events are held in Spaulding Auditorium.

The Center screens four to five films per weekend, Stowe said. The programming runs from Thursday to Sunday, with Sunday shows following a theme determined by the Dartmouth Film Society. Stowe and Evans choose the rest of the movies shown throughout the week.

“We show everything from films about Africa and Muslim fundamentalism to ‘American Sniper’ [(2014)],” he said. “We try and provide the most comprehensive program.”

Both Stowe and Evan place an emphasis on variety of genre as well as topic, which they say is important to students seeking wider exposure to the world of film.

Javier Garcia ’18 said that he appreciates the variety offered by the Center.

“I would normally only watch a documentary if the topic is of interest to me,” he said. “I think it’s good that the Hop offers a variety of options.”

In addition to variety, Stowe and Evans must consider the potential audience appeal and quality of each film.

“A lot of times when we’re deciding… it comes down to do we think people will want to see this in a movie theater, with a community around them,” Evans said.

“National Gallery” will be shown at Loew Auditorium on Friday at 7 p.m., at five dollars for students and eight dollars for community members.