Professor, Russian film director to host cinema class

Sept. 15, 2014

Ashley Thompson
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It may seem odd that a well published, award-winning mathematics professor would teach anything but algebra and theorems.

But Russian-born mathematics professor Alexander Soifer will be teaching a new cinema class, “Great European Film directors: A Historical View”, this Oct. 24 to Nov. 2.

Soifer will be co-teaching the class with world-renowned Russian film director Andrey Zvyagintsev.

Zvyagintsev is in the process of releasing his fourth full-length film, “Leviathan,” and has completed two short movies as well as several documentaries.

Soifer aims to illuminate the idea that there is an alternative cinema to Hollywood and help participants appreciate the profession of film directing. Soifer wants his students to “learn on their own with gentle guidance,” instead of regurgitating knowledge from a textbook.

Teaching his pupils “to think, to feel, to be [their] own human being, to argue logically” is a passion of his, and the most useful kind of artistic education.

Soifer wants his students to end the course knowing how to view film with not only their eyes, but also with their minds and other senses. He wants them to leave the course with new thoughts and feelings, and be able to expertly write subjective, opinionated film reviews that start with the word “I.”

Soifer wants to help students come to the realization that art itself is neither good nor bad – its morality depends on the foundation on which it is built.

His goals are much the same whether he is teaching math or cinema. He strives not to teach them skills that will quickly become obsolete, but to thoroughly teach them the topic of the class.

Soifer is a fan of Zvyagintsev’s as well. Zvyagintsev’s first full-length film is in Soifer’s list of the top 36 movies of all time.

Soifer’s received his cinematic education in Moscow from his mother who was an actress and father who was an artist. They would extensively talk over films they had viewed as a family.