Bijou Film Board director shares how she explores the mind, body, and space through film

Since her first year on campus, Molly Bagnall has devoted her time to screening independent films and creating unique movies. After being selected as the executive director of Bijou Film Board, Bagnall discusses the need to watch underground filmmakers.


Wyatt Dlouhy

Molly Bagnall poses for a portrait in front of Film Scene in Iowa City on Monday, August 19, 2019.

Sarah Stortz, Arts Editor

With eyeliner curved around her eyelid, complemented by a matching black dress and bright, red lipstick, Molly Bagnall’s outfit popped inside the café. Her classical look mirrors her appreciation for older cinema, which she continually works to help screen for the Iowa City community.

For Bagnall, sitting inside a cinema is more than a form of entertainment — it’s a spiritual experience.

Although she began as an international-studies major, one general-education course, “Introduction to Film Studies,” changed everything for her. The movies she watched were unlike anything she’d seen before, she said, making her want to delve further into cinema as an art form.

In the second semester of her freshman year, a friend of Bagnall encouraged her to apply to Bijou Film Board, the university’s student organization dedicated to screening independent cinema. She worked on the After Hours Screening Committee, where she helped screen films late at night and get students to attend the events. This year, she is the organization executive director.

With the several committees in Bijou, Bagnall said, she appreciates how the organization helps present a large range of movies from all over the world, whether they’re serious documentaries or light-hearted cartoons.

Video: Thinking of You by Molly Bagnall

Bagnall has a large selection of favorite movies, such as the Czech drama-comedy Daisies, psychological horror Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and French arthouse Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelle.

With older films such as Vertigo, Bagnall said, she was enraptured by how the movie portrayed its complex relationships and character interactions.

“Relationships among people are really fascinating, and people’s routines and the things that they like to do over and over,” Bagnall said. “… You don’t really get that kind of emotional intensity from films nowadays. Everything is so sterile and bland.”

As a cinema major, she frequently needs to create movies as class assignments. Her films have exclusively been set in her own apartment, taking an unconventional approach by not writing a script or linear story.

“I’m really interested in space, and how people inhabit space, and how the space that I’m living in can be manipulated through film,” she said.

Video: Hunger For by Molly Bagnall on Vimeo

In her new role, she said, she wants to make more of an effort to support independent filmmakers, believing that it’s difficult for moviegoers to keep an open-mind with so many remakes and sequels being released in recent years.

“I think that’s really discouraging, because people are really getting in their boxes, and they just seek out what they know and what’s comfortable,” Bagnall said. “I really implore everyone to step out of their comfort zone and go see a movie that they might not have heard of but sounds really interesting.”