After the University called off and then reinstated a showing of the film “American Sniper,” the screening drew about 100 people, but no organized protest.
During the last week, the University has received national attention for canceling a showing of the film “American Sniper” at UMix, the University’s weekly Friday evening event in the Michigan Union.
After students circulated a letter expressing concern about the film, saying the screening created an unsafe environment for Muslim and Middle Eastern and North African students on campus, the University temporarily canceled the showing, with the intention of showing the film at a later date followed by a panel discussion.
However, the University reversed course after a counter petition criticized the University’s decision, citing free speech concerns. The University provided a simultaneous screening of “Paddington” as an alternative movie option.
Moviegoers filled most of the Michigan Union’s Anderson Room for “American Sniper.” Shortly before the start of “Paddington,” the screening room was mostly empty.
University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said UMix may not have been the ideal place to screen “American Sniper,” but said the University needed to follow through with its original decision to screen the film.
“I think ‘American Sniper’ didn’t quite fit this venue and this event,” he said. “But, having said that, we made the commitment, we made that decision, and in the final analysis we needed to honor that decision that was made to show, and so tonight we have two movies.”
“American Sniper” is a 2014 film adaption of the autobiography of Chris Kyle, a sniper who served four tours in Iraq and is credited with the most kills in U.S. military history. While the movie has been critically acclaimed, it has also been critiqued for its depiction of Muslims and the war in Iraq.
“The reason why the film was disturbing to be played at UMix is because UMix is supposed to be fun and inclusive, and the movie ‘American Sniper’ raised a lot of controversy from all sides of the spectrum,” wrote LSA sophomore Lamees Mekkaoui in the initial letter calling for the screening’s cancellation. “It’s clearly not something that could be fun and inclusive. It just doesn’t go with Build-A-Bear and inflatable laser tag, those things just don’t go with ‘American Sniper.’ ”
Before starting the film, a representative from the Center for Campus Involvement read a statement saying the University supported the right of the media to express viewpoints and would remove anyone who disrupted that right.
Though the University’s decisions related to the movie screenings has generated controversy on campus and in the national media, Friday’s UMix proceeded without protest or disruption. Late last week, several Muslim and Arab students reported. experiencing threats and racist remarks after many students in those communities advocated for the film screening’s cancellation.
Ann Arbor resident Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, a University alum, attempted to hold a discussion after the film, unaffiliated with the University. However, students showed a lack of interest and the discussion fell through.
When the University decided to show “American Sniper” at another location and time — before returning the film to the UMix schedule — the Center for Campus Involvement had promised a discussion forum following the screening.
Savabieasfahani said she came to the screening after hearing of the possibility of a student-led protest. However, a protest did not occur.
Business senior Lance Feigeles said he agreed with the University’s decision to follow through with the showing.
“I liked that they added the alternative movie for people who didn’t want to see it,” Feigeles said. “But I think the initial trying to get rid of it, I had a problem with that.”
Engineering sophomore Nick VerSchure also said he agreed with the University’s decision.
“The University is not condoning anything in this film as good or bad, they just want to show a feature film,” VerSchure said. “Personally, I’m here because I support the movie itself, and I support our troops.”