JOPLIN, Mo. —
For 50 years running now, Harrison Kash has made it a mission to bring top-notch foreign films -- lifted from nearly every corner of the world -- to Joplin audiences.
And each and every one of these films are free for the public to see.
“In this area the awareness for these films had been rising,” said Kash, a retired MSSU professor. “So some of us got interested enough that we, back in 1962, got together and went on from there,”
Bill Kumbier, associate professor of English, chuckled as Kash spoke.
“Harrison’s being modest. Really, the films are his treasure. He’s provided so many opportunities” for Joplin residents with these foreign films, Kumbier said. “He does have helpers but he does a lot of it on his own.”
Throughout the years, Kash said, the program has evolved. At one point there were three different film series taking place on the Missouri Southern State University campus simultaneously, and each loosely interconnected.
The longest, now entering its 50th year, is Kash’s Missouri Southern Film Society series. It’s usually a half-dozen foreign films from all around the world shown on Tuesday nights during each spring semester.
The Polish film “Samson” was show on Tuesday. Other features shown this season include the Czechoslovakian movie “Adelheid” and the Polish movie “Border Street.” Each movie comes with detailed program notes researched and written by Kash.
Foreign film affairs
Fifty years is an incredible run, Kumbier said. It’s a streak that has “pretty much gone unbroken.”
The second foreign film effort was the Contemporary Foreign Film series, first launched in 1997. Foreign films, most of them from the very recent past, were shown on the MSSU campus, mostly on Friday nights.
“We did this up until two years ago,” Kumbier said. “We showed hundreds of films by the time we were done, anywhere from six to 10 movies a (month). But there wasn’t great attendance.”
The third and newest foreign film movement on the Missouri Southern campus are those representing the focused country of the university’s international themed semester. These films, under the direction of Kumbier, are usually shown during the fall months.
Egypt was the targeted country last fall, and some of the Egyptian movies shown between September and November included 2001’s “Saqafi” to the 1937 screwball comedy “Everything Is Fine.”
Sometimes, finding films from a country can be a real challenge, Kumbier said.
“Last semester, with Egypt, it was difficult,” he said. “For the first thing, the (running times) were much longer, and they were not always well made. So we had some trouble with those.”
On the other hand, when other foreign countries had robust cinematic studios, selecting films were difficult because there were so many good ones to choose from: Italy, France, Germany, Canada and Mexico were all cited by Kumbier.
Next fall’s country, Thailand, should prove easy -- and popular, thanks to that country’s high-octane movies often filled with martial arts and car chases.