During the first week of classes, teachers running through a dreary list of items to buy and assign tasks required for their specific class. Some direct students to a long list of required documentaries to occasionally watch in conjunction with the class. Many, including myself, thought nothing of the site they were hosted on; perhaps they even wrote it off as a site for solely educational purposes, offering nothing that would be of interest to them to search on their own time.
Kanopy, the site described, in fact, provides a wealth of films and documentaries to St. John’s students for free. Whether a student is searching for a documentary to complement their extensive research paper or simply desires to have a night in with popcorn and friends, Kanopy has it all. An official statement from St. John’s released in 2014 announced that (at the time) the newly acquired service “provid[ed] access to high-quality streaming video collections such as PBS, BBC, Criterion and California Newsreel covering a broad range of academic disciplines.”
This is an understatement. One hundred and forty-two documentaries span topics from the social sciences to midwifery. Organized by subject, supplier, filmmaker, features, languages, captions and year of production, the database is sure to have a documentary pertaining to any particular subject a student may be interested in. A unique feature that Kanopy also has, unlike other streaming sites such as Netflix, is the ability to search for documentaries using more than one of its 73 subject labels. Every film is tagged with several subjects, making the niche film that a student needs easier to find.
The 420 films located in the site’s Criterion Collection, facilitate many long nights featuring eyes glued to a screen and popcorn cooking in the background. Nights filled with classics ranging from American Independents to New Wave French, American Mid-Century to classic silent films and many more. Kanopy offers something for everyone, no matter the taste. For the music inclined, The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” is available to stream. For fans of the classic femme fatale and love triangle, Francois Truffaut’s “Jules et Jim” is a click away. Even for those who have always wondered what exactly a Charlie Chaplin film was like outside of their short, succinct mention in a history textbook, “The Great Dictator” and “City of Lights” are two of many films of or starring Chaplin.
Kanopy is easy to use as well. Similar to the layout of Netflix and other streaming sites, the homepage is customizable. Under their personal accounts, students can save movies to “My List” and can access previously watched in their “Viewing History.” Students can create playlists to watch on certain occasions or certain classes or browse one of numerous Kanopy premade playlists typically released during a designated time of year. Most recently, “Native American Heritage Month’s Special Collection” and “Horror and Thriller” graced its homepage.
If you’ve made it this far, you may be wondering how exactly to get to this free treasure trove of films. The answer is simple. When navigating from the St. John’s library homepage, students should click “Video Collections” under the red heading “Quick Links.” This new page will offer a link to Kanopy itself. By accessing Kanopy through this link, students are acknowledging their eligibility for a free subscription and an account can be created through Facebook, Gmail or a completely new username and password special to the site.
Despite St. John’s acquiring a subscription in 2014, Kanopy is not well known to students, especially freshmen, whose teachers do not utilize the site in class. Let Kanopy be a lesson in exploring what St. John’s offers but does not advertise. But for now, on those stressful days where the world seems to be ending, take a deep breath, slow down and put on one of the many free movies St. John’s has to offer.