By Ashley R. MarieThe Film and Speaker Series opened its fall series Aug. 24 with a showing of the 2006 Academy Award winning German film "The Lives of Others" followed by speaker, Oktavia Carstarphen.
Set in the 1980s in East Berlin, the film features a high-profile couple who are being bugged by the Stasi's state police. Not only are the lives of the couple changed, police's lives are changed as well.
Carstarphen, who was born in Berlin, was a prisoner of the Stasi after her whole family was arrested Jan. 15, 1953. She spent her 14th and 15th birthday, and a total of 18 months, in prison.
"I did not handle being in prison very well," Carstarphen told the audience. "It took me a long time to get over it, and I don't think I ever quite did. I am now a criminal defense attorney and the first time I visited one of my clients in jail, the door slammed shut and I almost freaked out."
Carstarphen was separated from her family, often not knowing where they were kept. She was placed near an interrogation room where she could hear other people being interrogated.
"At first, I knew where my older brother was, and they would let us be together during the day, and then later on they would separate us," Carstarphen said. "I didn't know how long I would be there, and I eventually started having nightmares."
Carstarphen explained that the movie closely resembled what truly happened between West and East Germany, and the constant fear of losing everything to the Stasis was very real.
The series began in the fall of 2003 as a project of the Film and History Club. The series was so popular that the Office of Student Life has adopted it as part of its programming, hiring the club's graduating president Sonia Hernandez as a part-time employee to continue the series.
"We try to choose films that will develop an awareness of viewing film as art and as a primary source of social history," said Hernandez, now a cultural arts assistant.
The Film and Speaker Series charges an attendance fee, but tries to keep the prices low. General admission tickets are $3 and season passes are $20.
"It is a great deal in terms of money," Hernandez said. "For folks on a budget, the Film and Speaker Series is great. We try and team up with student groups around UCHL to help pay the funds of the films' copyrights."
The Film and Speaker Series runs Aug. 24 - Nov. 3 with the next film, "The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez," scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. in the SSCB. The film is a documentary about the life of the first American solider killed in Iraq.
For more information about upcoming movies and guest speakers, go to the Film and Speaker Series Web site at www.uhcl.edu/culturalarts. Tickets for the events can be purchased at the door before any show, at the Office of Student Life or by sending a request to email@example.com.