Amanda Bartlett is a senior at the University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communication. Amanda is also the marketing director for Bijou Film Board, the student-run film organization here on campus. The film board, comprised of about 25 students, is dedicated to entertaining and engaging the campus and community through film.
Tell me about the Bijou Film Board.
The Bijou Film Board was established in 1972 and has since built a reputation as one of the renowned student-run cinema organizations in the nation. Our mission is to expose and enlighten UI students to American independent, foreign and classic cinema. Five years ago, we partnered up with FilmScene downtown to assist with the programming and operation of its downtown cinema.
How are you making a difference on campus?
Two words: FREE MOVIES! Just this past academic year, we screened over 100 films at FilmScene downtown at no cost to students—including international cinema, late night alternative programming and new releases.
Aside from the movies themselves, we give students the chance to engage in community discussion when they otherwise may not have through our Bijou Film Forum documentary film series. We host fun prize giveaways and give out free popcorn during the late night Bijou After Hours series, which also offers students an alternative to going to bars on the weekends. In my opinion, one of the coolest things we do is offer students the chance to win a $1,500 study abroad scholarship and flight package from International Programs through attending our Bijou Horizons international film series. At the end of each semester, we also offer student and community filmmakers with the chance to share their own work on the big screen through Bijou Open Screen.
That’s not to mention the benefits our board members gain from being involved with the Bijou. Our partnership with FilmScene offers a one-of-a-kind collaboration that provides our members with real-world experience for students in arts management and nonprofit leadership experience.
What is something that most people don’t know about Bijou?
You don’t have to know EVERYTHING there is to know about movies to join our Board. I know that was something that personally intimidated me when I was initially thinking about applying, because by no means did I consider myself an expert. Our group consists of animators, writers, podcast enthusiasts (if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our weekly radio show, Bijou Banter, every Thursday at 5 p.m. on KRUI.fm) filmmakers, movie lovers—if you have a passion, there’s a place for you with us.
What challenges has your organization faced?
Our events used to be held in the IMU, so I’ve noticed that sometimes people get confused about where our screenings happen—ALL of them are located at FilmScene downtown, at 118 E. College Street in the ped mall. I also occasionally get asked by people about how much our tickets are, and I’m pleased to remind them that we’re the only student organization you’ll find on campus that ensures all movies are free of charge for students ($5.50 for the public.)
What's something you're proud of in relation to the Bijou?
For our first film of the semester, we screened a documentary called 13th (directed by Ava DuVernay) which offers an in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation’s history of racial inequality. I was blown away by the response. The theatre was packed—we even had to turn some people away—and I was so inspired by how engaged every single person was in the post-screening discussion. That’s truly what we hope to see at every film we show, and I feel that especially with the current political climate we are in, it’s crucial for conversations like that to be happening.
How has this experience changed you?
One of the biggest takeaways of being a part of the Bijou that I always try to remind other people is that you have more potential than you think. Being the marketing director for the Board was my very first experience in a leadership role, which has helped me build confidence in myself and also gaining insight on delegating responsibility with other people. I’m constantly learning and growing from passionate individuals I work with each day and it’s been nothing but a positive experience.
What do you hope your organization will accomplish in the future?
My goal is for every student at the University of Iowa to experience one of our events before they graduate, and for as many people as possible to feel inspired by the stories told within arthouse cinema.
How does the Bijou Film Board collaborate with other organizations?
I think our organization has a crucial collaborator role unlike what most other student orgs offer. Through the power of art and the meaningful conversations it can help facilitate, we help build community among other departments and organizations on campus through active streetscapes, vibrant intellectual endeavors and shared experiences.
Any shameless plugs? Social media accounts, upcoming events, etc.
Like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram @BijouFilm! We also have a weekly e-newsletter, the Bijou Film Goers Guide, which you can subscribe to and be in the know before everyone else on what we’re screening!