Evan Benton, Staff Writer

George Mason University is known for its many centers of learning: a continually growing School of Law in Arlington; a massive, world-renowned communication department featuring former journalists and reporters from News 4 and Reuters; and an economics department that touts such professors as Russ Roberts and popular conservative analyst Walter Williams — to name only the most popular fields.

It’s a testament to the university’s scholastic diversity that it can continue to be successful as a school of many thoughts, rather than just one or two — appealing to and providing for the desires and interests of all its student population.

Last year I discovered for myself one of Mason’s smallest, yet one of its most rewarding, departments: film.
Not quite its own department in name (it falls under specialized classes, under sections such as ENGL 332, RUSS 470, JAPA 320), Mason Film is taught by experienced, knowledgeable professors eager to share what they know with Mason students interested in film.

Two years ago, halfway through my college career and wanting to add something with a little spice to my bland and broad “Communication” major, I stumbled upon the Film and Media Studies (FAMS) minor, offered by the English department.

After some e-mail correspondence with Professor Cynthia Fuchs, director of the FAMS minor, declaring my minor via some official-looking papers and taking some preliminary core classes, I was able to sign up for ENGL 332, Introduction to Film, in my junior year.

Teaching my class was Desson Thomson, a British ex-patriot and film critic for The Washington Post from 1983 to 2008.

He remains to be rivaled as the best professor I’ve ever had, and I find myself especially lucky to have been taught by a professional public speaker and author of two books for the National Society of Film Critics.

Despite the fact that our opinions of movies were often not in agreement, Desson and I still keep up correspondence, but unfortunately for all of Mason, he isn’t teaching any more classes.

But there are plenty of other film authorities, both new additions and veterans, who are not only filling in the vacancy left by Desson, but adding their own expertise to new classes as well.

These professors include Jessica Scarlata, who holds a Ph.D in cinema studies from New York University and who teaches Film and Cultural Theory (ENGL 422) and the brand-new Indian Cinema (ENGL 490), and Carla Marcantonio, who teaches ENGL 332 along with Cynthia Fuchs, and also holds her Ph.D from NYU.
Marcantonio is a recognized expert and author on the works of Pedro Almodovar as well.

Michael Jeck, who teaches the Post-Soviet Film (RUSS 470) and Japanese Cinema (JAPA 320) classes I’m currently in, is a former program director for the American Film Institute.

An expert on Japanese film and the works of Akira Kurosawa, Jeck was selected to provide the commentary to the Criterion Collection version of Seven Samurai.

Even with film studies luminaries such as these teaching classes at Mason, many of these classes remain very under populated.

This may be due to the fact that film classes are forced to fit in strange time slots due to their lack of popularity and faculty strength. For instance, my Japanese and Soviet film classes are from 5:55 to 7:10 p.m. and 8:45 to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, respectively.

These are fantastic classes, for both the self-proclaimed film buff like myself and just the casual enjoyer of the silver screen.

The professors are masterminds of critical film thought, and men like Michael Jeck, who have been in the business for decades, have a seemingly inexhaustible supply of stories and experience to share.
Whether you’re a student looking for an exciting, worthwhile minor to add to your college resume, or just a film fan like myself, give these classes a try.

­­Or e-mail one of the professors I’ve listed and maybe shadow a class yourself to see if they’re for you.
Watching movies and getting graded on them. What could be better?

If interested in the FAMS minor, go to their new-and-improved site, http://fams.gmu.edu. Or just check out Desson’s website, www.dessonthomson.com, featuring a complete listing of films he’s reviewed, including recent ones such as Avatar and Inglorious Basterds.