This fall marked the 8th year of BAM’s Young Film Critics After-School Program, inaugurated in 2006. Fourteen students from Brooklyn area high schools spent 10 weeks with instructor Josh Cabat, watching films and learning how to talk and write about them. Cabat selected movies made by directors “outside of the white male-dominated mainstream,” introducing the students to directors such as Agnès Varda, Akira Kurosawa, and Hany Abu-Assad, among others. As is tradition in the program, the Young Film Critics benefited from a visit from a professional film critic; this year’s guest was Wesley Morris of Grantland.com.
According to BAM’s Assistant Director of Education John Tighe, “these kids are astute because, more so than any generation before, they are visually literate… They all love film because they can ‘read’ images.” The idea of a universal language of cinema that is best read by someone who has grown up immersed in its grammar is nowhere better exemplified than in the work of BAM’s Young Film Critics, whose final film reviews can be as elegant as A.O. Scott’s. Here’s an example from Ali Motte, a junior at the French-American School of New York: “While film is completely valid as a form of entertainment, Cleo from 5 to 7 engages the viewer in a melting pot of the gravity of reality and the light nature of fiction, inducing a delightfully confusing third reality.”
This season continued a powerful tradition and also marked a first: the fledgling expedition into distance learning between BAM’s Young Film Critics and Cabat’s students at Roslyn High on Long Island. The two student groups made strides for BAM’s expanding technological education initiatives as they discussed Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and its powerful resonance with youth today.
To read more of the students’ reviews, visit the program page. And, if you know a high schooler who would benefit from the program, check back in the fall for information on the 2015 application process.
Lucie Hecht is the general management administrative assistant at BAM and takes great photos of her cats.