Unique fantasy film class inspires appreciation

Movies for the ages: These five movies will be shown during this semester for students to dissect. Derrington helps students to engage with each other during in class discussions.  

Melissa Kern

Whether you need more general education or another upper division course, this class may be the right fit for you.

Meeting only once a week for two and a half hours in the evening, it allows you extra freedom in course scheduling. Additionally, the longer meeting time permits the movies to be shown during a single class session with room for discussion as well. Eleven films in total will be shown. Of the eleven, one will be picked by student vote.  

Professor Liz Derrington tries to guarantee the films she uses in her class are diverse; she does so by incorporating films from other countries, languages, and across broad elements of fantasy. Her method establishes a discussion surrounding what fantasy is and whether a film fits the criteria of this genre or not. She wants to ensure students can apply critical thinking to films instead of simply watching and letting it wash over them without considering the deeper meanings.  

This course has been offered since around 1974 and has been passed from professor to professor. Derrington took over about 5 years ago, and the film appreciation course has now branched into multiple classes that include horror, cult, black, and suspense films. While she does not teach all the different types, it is important to note that if students are not interested in fantasy films, they have other options and professors to experience film appreciation with. Derrington states the goals of the film appreciation courses are to make certain students “more thoughtful consumers of media and to continue to provide content that students are interested in while engaging their critical thinking skills.” 

Students appreciate professor Derrington and her teaching approach. She also teaches a fantasy literature class that has drawn students to then take her fantasy film class as well. 

Frankie Kelley, a senior mass media major, likes that Derrington gives students choices when taking the fantasy classes, either to take it as a 100 level and receive the general education credit or as a 300 level for the upper level credit. Kelley also likes the passion that Derrington demonstrates while teaching, which led her to take this class. 

“Probably my favorite thing about fantasy films is she made us look at movies in a different way.” said Kelley. “Movies I previously would not have thought twice about, I now had a new appreciation for. Liz Derrington is by far one of the best professors Washburn has; she cares deeply not only for the subject but for her students wanting everyone to succeed.” 

Another student, Cherie Smith, really likes the atmosphere that Derrington creates because it’s calm, and even the shyest students end up feeling comfortable and confident enough to participate in class discussions. Smith likes that when they have small group activities or discussions, everyone feels they can share ideas about a film. 

“As a class, we will spend a short time before or after a film discussing the historical context and sharing our opinions,” said Smith. “To conclude, I look forward to coming to class each week; the only disappointment is that class is once a week instead of every day!” 

Jessica Whitfill, a senior German and Anthropology major, chose to take the class because she took Fantasy Lit. with professor Derrington last fall and wanted to take another class with her. She also needed another upper level elective. 

“I’m excited to do my presentation for the class because I get to explain and discuss my favorite film with my fellow classmates. So far, the class has been fun and the films we’ve watched have been interesting,” said Whitfill. “Overall, I’m enjoying the class, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the semester has in store for the class.”

Derrington loves that the course structure enables films to be screened in class ensuring everyone has seen the material which allows for discussions to be robust and the information fresh in students’ minds. The best film Derrington believes she shows students is “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Guillermo Del Toro from 2006. She loves it, but it also wrecks her every time. She’s also fond of showing “Star Wars: A New Hope” from 1977.

“There are always at least a handful of students who have not seen the film, so she enjoys experiencing it again for the first time through their eyes and loves to see the different reactions students have,” said Derrington. 

Edited by Adam White, Hannah Alleyne, Jada Johnson