A disaster movie-oriented class will soon be added to Brandon University’s course list.
Disaster Movies: Fact vs. Fiction, will explore the science and the myths portrayed in movies from the 1930s to today, including 1974’s "Towering Inferno," 1996’s "Twister," and 2011’s "Contagion."
"We’re hoping this will be one way to use something the students are familiar with to get them to start talking about the social, physical and the management sciences that are portrayed in the movies," said Jack Lindsay, associate professor with BU’s Applied Disaster and Emergency Studies program.
"The movies reinforce myths and they reinforce bad habits so we’re hoping to cover that."
The 200 level, once-a-week evening course serves as an elective for ADES major students and doesn’t require any prerequisites, something Lindsay hopes will attract more students to the program.
"It’s a way of demonstrating that disaster studies is a broad field," he said. "Covering the different movies lets us appeal to students who are interested in physical hazard science as well as ones in social science and those that are looking at the public administration management side of it.
"The movies offer an opportunity to look at all of those things at one time in a way that’s appealing to our traditional university student."
BU also has a similar course in its Aboriginal Studies program, "Images of the ‘Indian’: Aboriginal People in Cinema," which looks at how Hollywood portrays First Nations people, Lindsay said.
"It’s a good way of using movies to demonstrate these lessons," he said. "It should be exciting and entertaining and hopefully draws more attention to the opportunities that we have in disaster studies."
Lindsay said the class will include watching a new film once a week with a portion of the following class reserved for discussion. Students will also be encouraged to continue the discussion online on Brandon University’s website.
"These movies have enormous influence on how society perceives disasters and disaster response," Lindsay said. "It’s critical for our ADES students to understand those perceptions as they move into roles within emergency management."
"Disaster Movies: Fact vs. Fiction" begins in September. For information or to register, visit brandonu.ca/registration/.
A similar course, "Images of Disasters in Film and Media," has been offered since 2001 at the University of North Texas, and is recognized by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency.