New York Film Festival Critics' Academy: The New Class

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by Sam Adams
September 25, 2013 4:23 PM
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'Captain Phillips' star Tom Hanks spies fresh talent in the 2013 New York Film Festival Critics Academy

The New York Film Festival starts Friday night with the star-studded premiere of Captain Phillips. But while Tom Hanks basks in the spotlight, a new generation of film critics is getting ready for their close-up, courtesy of the NYFF Critics Academy. A joint venture between Indiewire and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Critics Academy -- the second in New York, following a second year in Locarno -- gives young and underexposed film writers an entree into the storied film festival, and a chance to write for Criticwire, FilmLinc.com, and other professional outlets. 

You'll be reading the Critics Academy's work on this blog all through the festival's run from September 27 to October 13, but before then, we asked them a few questions to give you a hint of what they have in store. You can follow their collective adventures on Twitter here.

The 2013 New York Film Festival Critics Academy Questionnaire

Name: Diana Drumm

Age: 23 (turning 24 on NYFF opening night)

Twitter handle: @DianaDDrumm

Home: All up and down the East Coast (Georgia, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland)

Cinematic area of expertise: British cinema and classic Hollywood 

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Dallas Buyers Club

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: The Immigrant

Favorite book about film: Historical Pleasures: Gainsborough Costume Melodrama by Sue Harper

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... Like the other seven here, I love film and unlike other passions, there's a medium in which to express it that isn't too embarrassing or detrimental (although the occasional awkward Facebook post does turn up from time to time). Through writing about film, we're celebrating it. So at the NYFF Critics Academy, not only are we celebrating what we love, but we're doing so with the masters and professionals, thereby learning how to bring more to the party. Also known as living the dream, and how could you not at least apply for that?  

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism? 

At heart, I'm a gushing Judy Garland singing "Dear Mr. Gable"-type film fan, which isn't that unique (although not many carry around an Errol Flynn clothing swatch for good luck), but through said luck, studying abroad, and the work experience that I have had, I've tempered that with an appreciation of "cinema," specifically American Indie, British and European cinema. Those perspectives aren't that unique, but hopefully the combination is interesting.    

Name: Shelley Farmer

Age: 21

Twitter handle: @sbrooksfarmer

Home: From the world renowned cultural capital Flowery Branch, GA; attending school in NY 

Cinematic area of expertise: Hindi and Polish cinema, musicals, Satyajit Ray

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Not a 2013 release, but Alan Clarke's BBC adaptation of Brecht's Baal, which screened in FSLC's David Bowie series 

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Stranger By the Lake 

Favorite book about film: Richard Brody's Everything is Cinema

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... I'm keen to learn the process of pitching to and writing for professional publications. Also, for the opportunity to attend one of the world's best film festivals and engage with both professional critics and other young enthusiasts!

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism? 

A feminist perspective and an interest in the influence of other art forms in film (esp. music and theater).

Name: Mark Lukenbill

Age: 21

Twitter handle: @mlknbill

Home: Rochester, NY. Currently a senior at NYU.

Cinematic area of expertise: Contemporary American no budget/indie films. Also a Godard and De Palma obsessive.

Best movie you've seen in 2013: The Act of Killing

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Probably a toss-up between Stray Dogs and Alan Partridge. Is that weird?

Favorite book about film: It's an obvious one, but I've been in a committed relationship with Hitchcock/Truffaut for over a year now. Essential for both film making and film viewership.

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... I love the advocacy that goes along with film criticism. Nothing gets me more excited than having the opportunity and ability to champion a film that deserves to be seen, and the Critics Academy is a pretty incredible opportunity to hone that ability.

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism?

I've been working on sets in various capacities of film production for a few years now, so hopefully that technical experience informs some of my criticism. I'd also like to think I've managed to maintain my wide-eyed, sincere positivity since becoming a film critic. But hey, it's only been like two years.

Name: Gus Reed

Age: 21

Home: Orleans, Massachusetts 

Cinematic area of expertise: dance on film, ghost stories, Krzysztof Kieslowski

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Leviathan

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil le Clerq

Favorite book about film: The Moviegoer by Walker Percy

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... this total immersion in film culture is a gift. Plain and simple. And I've never been invited to the same party as Tom Hanks before.

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism?

“Unique” is a strong word. From what I’ve seen, writing criticism -- at least, the kind that’s worth anything to anyone -- is a matter of putting in the time with the material and allowing yourself to be sensitive to an experience. If there’s anything uncommon, if not unique, in my approach, I hope it’s this sort of openness.

Name: Greg Cwik

Age: 23

Twitter handle: @gregcwik1

Home: Rocky Point, NY, and occasionally The Bronx

Cinematic area of expertise: New Hollywood; Pauline Kael; Hitchcock; Altman; Scorsese; Horror; Batman 

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Upstream Color (limited) and Blue Jasmine (wide)

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Her and Inside Llewyn Davis

Favorite book about film: David Thomson's Orson Welles biography Rosebud

I'm talking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... I've studied film writing and criticism, and now I want to try it in the real world.

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism? (

I want criticism to be written and read as literature, not simply a lazy opinion piece, so I revise and edit fervidly.

Name: Graham Winfrey

Age: 30

Twitter handle: @GrahamWinfrey

Home: Brooklyn

Cinematic area of expertise: I'm a sucker for tragicomedies and French films.

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Blue Jasmine

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Her

Favorite book about film: Sidney Lumet's Making Movies

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... of the opportunity to learn from the experts at Indiewire, Film Comment and The Film Society of Lincoln center.   

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism?

A perspective of wanting to help people toward films they might enjoy

Name: Vanessa Erazo

Age: 34

Twitter handle: @infoCinelandia

Home: Brooklyn, NY

Cinematic area of expertise: U.S. Latino and Latin American films, Documentaries

Best movie you've seen in 2013: Tanta Agua (So Much Water), an Uruguayan film I saw at this year's Latinbeat. I loved it. Who knew that a boring family vacation could be so entertaining!

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Gloria. It's gotten great reviews so far and Chile selected it as its official submission for the foreign language film Oscar.

Favorite book (or piece of writing) about film: To promote his most recent film I'm So Excited, Pedro Almodovar interviewed himself on Huffington Post. It was hilarious. He asks himself, "Are you worried about what American critics will say?" He replies, "Not really."

I'm taking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... I like watching movies and writing about them. And I am hoping I can somehow pay my rent doing that. The Critics Academy seemed like the perfect place to figure out if that's still even actually possible and how to go about it.

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism? 

My parents are from Latin America and I was born in California. I grew up speaking English and Spanish but mostly only watching films in English. Then, I discovered that Latin America has a very rich film history and really amazing films continue to come out of the region. But, few people know about them. Being a Latina doesn't make me unique (I am part of the fasting growing demographic in the United States) but being a Latina film critic who writes about Latino films in English does. There are very few of us out there. Also, I feel like I am an advocate for these films. I want to convince people who rarely see arthouse or indie films to take a chance.

Name: Judith Dry

Age: 26

Twitter handle: @jdry

Home: Fort Greene, Brooklyn 

Cinematic area of expertise: Queer cinema, old Hollywood musicals, and music documentaries

Best movie you've seen in 2013: The Bayou Maharrajah: The Tragic Genius of James Carroll Booker

Movie you're most looking forward to at NYFF: Blue is the Warmest Color

Favorite book about film: New Queer Cinema by B. Ruby Rich

I'm talking part in the NYFF Critics Academy because... I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage in candid conversations with leading film writers and professionals. I have never seen a bad film at the New York Film Festival, and I am looking forward to sharing my coverage with new audiences. 

What unique perspective would you bring to the world of criticism? 

With my theater and playwriting background I bring a love of story and spectacle to my film writing. I appreciate camp and humor, two main components of queer cinema. I aim to reach the widest possible audience with my writing: from the most persnickety cinephile to the simple folks who just want to have a good time. A great example of my witty writing style can be found here.

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2 Comments

  • Chevy Chase | September 25, 2013 4:56 PMReply

    Peter Labuza didn't get in this year?

  • Carrin | September 25, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    I think you mean Tom Hanks!

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