Ethics Film Series

Each spring, the Kenan Institute for Ethics sponsors a film series in collaboration with Duke’s Screen/Society, the Center for Documentary Studies, and the Arts of the Moving Image Program. The films provide popular and accessible vehicles for talking about ethics around a particular theme, and each series as a whole offers rich opportunities for debate and discussion on ethical issues for audiences from both the Duke and Durham communities.


Spring 2014: The South
Navigating the Past, Carving out a Future

“The past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past,” William Faulkner once famously quipped. This year’s Ethics Film Series turns an eye inward, straddling the historical and contemporary to examine the space and place we inhabit every day: the American South. Each of our four films, released within the past decade, explore different but connecting issues that define the reality of living in a place often ascribed to the mystique of a “New South”—one marked by both great social and cultural progress and by enormous, and persistent, inequalities. We invite you to engage with the following four films, and discuss with us such ethical questions as: How do we navigate complex and violent histories to carve out a proud and productive present? Is it possible to create an equitable South for both its residents and its observers? Who owns the contemporary vision and reality of the American South, and what role do we play, as Durhamites or as world travelers, in shaping its future?

January 21

Moving Midway
(dir. Godfrey Cheshire, 2007)*

February 18
(dir. Phil Morrison, 2005)
March 18
(dir. Lisa Biagiotti, 2012)*
April 14
Beasts of the Southern Wild
(dir. Benh Zeitlin, 2012)

* The directors for Moving Midway and deepsouth will be present for the screenings.

All films will begin at 7:00pm  in the Griffith Film Theater in Duke University’s Bryan Center, followed by a post-film discussion with faculty. Refreshments and free parking passes provided.

The screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 15 will occur at 7:00pm on Monday, April 14.

Previous series

The 2013 series  ”Love and Justice” explored how individuals – both alone and in context of their communities – engage the tension between the demands of justice and the grace of love. For this series, we partnered with the Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival for two of the selections, which included  Gran Torino (2008), Le fils (The Son) (2002), Brother Number One (2011), and Habibi (2011).

“Condemned to be Free,” the 2012 series, featured four films focusing on individuals—even in the most restrictive, oppressive circumstances—who claimed their existential freedom by taking responsibility for their decisions and actions. Films included Defiance (2008), Of Gods and Men (2010), Human Terrain (2010), and Little Town of Bethlehem (2010).

The Institute’s 2011 Ethics Film Series featured four films that touch on the theme of community, addressing the tensions that arise between individual rights and the common good and examining how individuals become members of and valued by their communities. Films included The Heart of the Game (2005), Restrepo (2010), Monica & David (2009), and Lars and the Real Girl (2007).