“Extra Credit” connects MU faculty, movie fans

“Extra Credit” brings elaborate panels to the community after screening acclaimed movies at the Ragtag Cinema.

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A new MU program is creating conversations and sparking rich discussions every month at the Ragtag Cinema. Since September, a partnership between the venue and MU’s The Connector put together “Extra Credit”: a series of monthly screenings of handpicked movies, followed by a Q&A with a diverse set of university faculty focusing on different angles of the piece.

The series is an illustration of the work that The Connector has been doing at MU, being a bridge between the community and faculty. “Extra Credit” was created with the purpose to connect people and ideas and start dialogue.

“The Connector is an office that sits between the office of research and MU extension and engagement,” Rachel Bauer, a postdoctoral fellow with The Connector, said. ”We are working on some initiatives to help researchers and scientists communicate with the public, and the collaboration with Ragtag is one of them.”

The first movie screened by the program was Marvel’s “Black Panther.” The panel approached a variety of themes from virtual reality technology to costuming choices. There were three researchers in the field of architectural studies, engineering and theater. One of the researchers was bioengineering professor Heather Hunt, who works in materials engineering research.

“I was most interested in talking about the materials that [“Black Panther”] used,” Hunt said. “So the vibranium suits: I was thinking from my perspective of how close we are to this in terms of what we can do right now. The textile materials that currently exist, whether it’s in lab or commercially available, what are the things that are close to it and what are the things we can do with it. We have all of these materials that have some of the vibranium properties, but none that has all of them.”

The diversity of themes being talked about at the panels makes the program fitting to students with all kinds of majors, different interests and opinions. According to Hunt, “Extra Credit” tries to find a balance of different things in the film that could speak to all aspects of our community that would be interesting for a large audience.

“We thought, ‘How can we bring the work of the MU researchers to the public?’” Bauer said. “Well, people love movies, and what better way to enhance that movie experience than to have a panel afterwards to talk about it? And that’s why we called it ‘Extra Credit,’ because you’re getting the film but you’re also getting that extra piece.”

The second screening of the series was “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,” a film about three friends where one of them has leukemia. For the following Q&A, they had faculty from the psychology and digital storytelling departments and also a nurse clinician who all brought their own topics and questions to the conversation.

“We’re asked to speak in an area of expertise to us,” Hunt said. “It’s natural for us to think about these angles because it’s part of our job. But other people don’t, and that’s what’s so interesting about bringing panelists with different experiences. The audience can see things from all of these angles that they hadn’t thought of before.”

“Extra Credit” will be screening the movie “Tootsie” next on Nov. 26. According to Bauer, the program will live on for as long as Ragtag will keep their partnership, and movies for December and January are already being planned.

More information on “Extra Credit,” days and times of the screenings can be found on (The Connector’s webpage)[http://theconnector.missouri.edu/] and also on (Ragtag’s website)[https://ragtag.org/].

Edited by Alexandra Sharp | asharp@themaneater.com

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