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Opening Night: 25 Years of Columbia's Film Festival at Tully Hall

Thompson on Hollywood By Annette Insdorf | Thompson on Hollywood May 5, 2012 at 5:36PM

The 25th anniversary of presenting Columbia University student films kicked off last night at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. Since I was part of the first event in 1987, the celebration filled me with nostalgia, pride, and optimism. 25 years ago, our inaugural night at Symphony Space on upper Broadway consisted of four shorts...

Movies by white males no longer constitute the majority of Columbia student films.  And the work of our female graduates has earned acclaim, including Tanya Wexler, Patricia Riggen, Kimberly Peirce, Laryssa Kondracki, Katharina Otto-Bernstein and Courtney Hunt.  On Wednesday, my colleague Bette Gordon will moderate a Lincoln Center panel with alumnae Lisa Cholodenko, Nicole Holofcener, Shari Springer Berman and Cherien Dabis, titled "What Glass Ceiling? The Remarkable Success of Columbia's Women Filmmakers."

The one constant in our classes over the decades? To have a story worth telling, and to find the right cinematic language for it.  The Film Program of Columbia's School of the Arts has evolved from a respected screenwriting conservatory and cinema studies program to a major filmmaking institution.  Feeling the power of the images projected on the enormous screen of Alice Tully Hall, I was reminded of Deutchman's letter in the printed program.  He acknowledged the proliferation of movies being made--as well as the mistaken belief that anyone with a smartphone is a filmmaker--and concluded, "Having a camera does not make a filmmaker, just as having a word processor does not make a writer. Film is a complex and powerful art form that requires talent, devotion and plenty of practice."

Annette Insdorf, author of "Philip Kaufman," is Director of Undergraduate Film Studies at Columbia University, and former Chair of the Graduate Program.

This article is related to: Festivals, Festivals

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.