By Daniel C. Houston
The inaugural Cold War Film Festival began Monday with “One, Two, Three,” a comedy set in the 1960s that pokes fun at tensions between two powerful nations during their struggle for global dominance.
The film festival is sponsored by the history department, the Baylor Institute for Oral History and the Armstrong Browning Library, and will continue through Thursday as the organizers showcase films from the perspectives of both the United States and the Soviet Union.
The event was organized with the intention of using popular culture to offer a window of insight into the mindsets of both sides of the ideological clash between two global superpowers, according to Dr. Julie deGraffenried, professor of history.
“Our hope was to be able to show to the students, in a way that is familiar and accessible to them — through film — the ways that the ideological conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States played out,” deGraffenried said. “You have these two opposing worldviews and they affect pop culture in both countries, and so film is a great way to see that.”
The film shown Monday night was a 1961 American comedy about a Coca-Cola employee in West Berlin whose job is at risk if he can’t prevent his boss’s daughter from marrying a communist.
One of the students in attendance Monday, Arlington senior Robert Lindsey, said the movie helped him tie together his Cold War studies with the cultural factors influencing the mutual distrust between citizens of the two states.
“It helps you visualize it, I think,” Lindsey said. “It’s definitely easier to tie in with what you learn in class when you can watch something that correlates to it on film.”
DeGraffenried said this festival is important because Baylor students are separated from the experience of growing up in the Cold War, and encouraged students from all fields of study to attend.
“We’re happy for anybody to come and watch the films at the film festival,” deGraffenried said. “As the faculty gets older we’re reminded that the students that we’re teaching now were mostly born after the Cold War ended, which is kind of an amazing fact. … For people who are, say, my age and older, we’re happy to introduce these films to students who were born after the Cold War.”
Lindsey said he believed the foreign films would offer a particularly insightful look into how citizens in the Soviet Union viewed the United States and American society in comparison with their own.
“I’m looking to see something that correlates with what we’ve been talking in class,” Lindsey said. “Specifically, during the Cold War, the Soviets were trying to portray their quality of life as equal to [that of] the United States. Movies that came out of east-bloc countries tried to show a very high standard of living for all people living inside the Soviet Union.”
Tonight’s viewing will feature another, darker comedy: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” Like the rest of the films in this series, tonight’s film will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Armstrong Browning Library Cox Lecture Hall.
The festival will continue Wednesday with the viewing of “Soy Cuba,” a 1964 joint project of the Soviet Union and Cuba that portrayed the United States in a negative light.
The festival will conclude Thursday with “Red Dawn,” which deGraffenried said takes a hard-line neoconservative stand against the threat of Soviet communism and served as equally powerful propaganda in the mid-1980s.