They too were once young

Chris HillChris Hill- Associate Professor of Film

Where were you at age 20?
When I was 20 I was a psychology major at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

You wanted to be a psychologist?
I did actually do counseling, and I got a degree in psychology.  I did an honors project that had to do with perception. After I graduated, I worked at a free clinic as a counselor and then I worked at a women’s clinic. When I was in Michigan I worked in a womens crisis center.  And at that time abortions were legal in New York but not in Michigan so if people wanted to get an abortion and had to travel to NY state, they called us and we’d talk them through the whole process.

So you were already an activist?
In that sense yeah. That was right about the time when the women’s movement was getting off the ground; I was drawn to the early women’s movement in Ann Arbor.

When were your college years?
Between 1968 and 1973. When I went to MI, like two months after I arrived, the ROTC building was bombed, so there was a lot of activity on campus against the war in Vietnam; it was one of the major centers in the country for anti war activism, so there was a lot happening, which was kind of overwhelming.  But I was more focused on urban issues and class difference; I was against the war, but I focused more on women studies.  I was from a working class family and when I got into college, it took me a while to get oriented to  a world very different from the one I was used to.

What were your dreams when you were 20?
I was really interested in becoming a therapist. I was trying to figure out was what that really meant. I had some idealized version of that. When I was 20 I realized that the culture and society that we find ourselves in has as much  impact on peoples mental health as our individual personalities, so I think that was really important, recognizing that the individual is not isolated in his or her neurosis, but that they’re  in relative position within all the things contributed to the comfort or defensiveness or anxiety. So that was what I was learning when I was 20.  The other thing was that Michigan was being critiqued around race at that time, not only was there a huge antiwar movement, but like Antioch, Michigan had just admitted a lot of students of colour. So I became very involved in theses issues,   Then when I was 20 or 21, I dropped out of school for a time. Because all of these issues were so pressing, I didn’t know if it made sense to be in school.

Do you remember what your favourite book was?
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn had a great impact on me. And I was reading a lot of Doris Lessing–the Golden Notebooks.

What music did you listen to?
We listened to a lot of motown.  Because I grew up in Cleveland, the most powerful radiostation was a mowtown station.  So I listened to motown all through high school and then when I was in college, my roommates had grown up in Detroit with people who had involved in motown.  And started listening to jazz, but I think I was more interested in art than than music.

Any movie that particularly moved you?
I worked in a movie theatre actually.  Last Tango in Paris really affected me.  And I saw the Olympiad and was completely blown away by that.  I think I started watching old films then.  I had never really thought about film as a reflection of culture before.