Law students receive movie night summons

By Cynthia Edwards

The desks in the College of Law’s Max L. Rowe Auditorium are usually crammed with laptops and notebooks, but they were replaced Tuesday evening with pop cans and pizza as about 30 law students gathered inside to watch the film Erin Brockovich.

The film viewing is part of a series pioneered by University law professor Larry Ribstein to show how films negatively portray businesses and firms.

Ribstein said he organized the series, “Firms on Film,” after writing an article for the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). The similarly titled article, “Films and Firms,” argued that many filmmakers resent “capitalists’ constraints on their artistic vision,” according to its abstract. After it was published in July, Ribstein decided to put his words into action by organizing the film series so University students could watch movies and discuss them afterward.

Ribstein said he picked “Erin Brockovich” as the first film because it was one of his favorite movies about “evil corporations.” He said he hoped the film series would reveal how movies often portray businesses and capitalists negatively, while workers, artists and creative types are often characterized as heroes.

“I think it’s very important for law students to get a general perspective on the world in which they are going to be practicing law,” Ribstein said.

Following each film, Ribstein leads the class in a discussion about their impressions of the movie and how it related to Ribstein’s theme. Though he knows everyone might not agree with his ideas, Ribstein hoped the series would get students to think what filmmakers want their viewers to assume is true.

Martina Rossel, a law student, learned about the “Firms on Film” series through an e-mail sent by one of her professors. Rossel enjoyed Tuesday’s film because it did not make her feel like she was at a law seminar.

“The setting reminds me of class, but the pizza and drinks made it more relaxing,” she said.

“Quiz Show,” a film directed by Robert Redford about the television quiz show scandals of the 1950s, will be shown Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. as the series’ next film. A discussion will follow its showing.