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Learning About the Presidency in the 'Reel' World
A fall course will examine the history of politics through screenings of movies at The Loft Cinema. Members of the public are invited to join.
At the University of Arizona, a class on the pursuit of the presidency just got an infusion of movie fun.
As part of the fall course, "Struggle for the Presidency," students will watch election-related movies at The Loft Cinema. For a charge, community members also can attend the movies and join in the discussion.
The course, which will be taught by Kate Kenski, an associate professor in the department of communication and the School of Government and Public Policy, examines the campaign strategies and tactics of presidential hopefuls from 1960 to the present.
The course will shed light on how the U.S. makes political decisions and how candidates attempt to influence the vote. In an election year, the course promises to be filled with timely content.
"It will be interesting to see whether frequent explanations for wins and losses in previous campaigns hold true for the 2012 campaign," said Kenski. "Will the economy be the determining factor? Or will candidate personality or message strategy tip the campaign in one candidate's direction over the other's?"
"While campaign strategies have evolved over the course of the modern presidency, many concerns about today's campaigns are similar to concerns that the nation faced or felt in the past," Kenski added. "One goal of the course is to encourage people to think about the political process, to assess their satisfaction with it, and to identify what works well and what would make the process better for our society."
Kenski said she is excited by the addition of the movies to the class.
"Movies are an excellent way for people with different levels of political understanding to have a conversation with each other about the values, issues and problems facing the nation," said Kenski. "Fiction via films has the potential to stimulate engagement in the political process."
Kenski said that each film selected provides commentary about the political process that is relevant beyond the time period in which the film was produced.
The films will be followed by a discussion of the lessons from the movies that can be applied to campaigns today. Community members are invited to participate in these discussions.
The movies will be shown on Wednesdays from 3:30-6 p.m. at The Loft Cinema – a community partner of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences – located on 3233 E. Speedway Blvd.
Movies will include: "Wag the Dog" (Aug. 22); "Welcome to Mooseport" (Aug. 29); "The Best Man" (Sept. 5); "The Candidate" (Sept. 12); "All the President's Men" (Sept. 19); "Bob Roberts" (Sept. 26); "Primary Colors" (Oct. 3); "W." (Oct. 10); "Ides of March" (Oct. 17); and "The American President" (Oct. 24).
Kenski is an internationally known scholar and author of "The Obama Victory: How Media, Money and Message Shaped the 2008 Election," which has won several awards, including the International Communication Association's Outstanding Book Award for 2011.
Kenski's current research includes tracking the message consistency of the presidential candidates and examining how that consistency is related to the candidates' standings in the polls.
Kenki also is the faculty co-chair of the College of Social and Behavioral Science's month-long program of events surrounding democracy and the election scheduled for October.