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Meet the Locarno Critics Academy, Class of 2015

Meet the Locarno Critics Academy, Class of 2015

For the fourth year, Indiewire, along with the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Locarno International Film Festival, is giving a group of talented up-and-coming critics a chance to help their role in the current climate for film criticism and journalism. They’ll spend the first half of the festival, which begins today, in roundtable discussions with working critics and industry figures, and beginning next week, provide their unique perspectives on the festivals films in essays for Criticwire, Film Comment, and the festival’s Pardo Live newsletter. Before then, take a minute to get to know them, and find out what they’re looking forward to. Keep up with their dispatches from this year’s festival here.

Name: Justine Smith

Age: 26

Twitter handle: @redroomrantings

Home: Montreal, Québec, Canada

Cinematic area of expertise: horror, eroticism, and transgression

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Best movie I’ve seen for the first time: “Insignificance” (Nicholas Roeg)

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Cosmos” (Zulawski) and “Chant d’Hiver” (Iosseliani)

Favorite book about film: House of Psychotic Women by Kier-La Janisse

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I want to meet new people and share experiences. Locarno is such a unique and fantastic opportunity, I’d be crazy to turn it down. It comes down to the fact I want to learn as much as I can, and I’m not sure there exists a better opportunity right now for people interested in writing about film.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
A loaded question — I’m not sure I bring something totally unique, but I like the idea of discussing themes and subjects we find difficult. I like talking about sex because it’s fun, natural and many people struggle with it. I treat most subjects and ideas with that way, I think it should balance between confronting readers with new ideas and maybe a new point of view. I don’t see this as a negative act, I’m about building the community rather than tearing it down.

Name: Lauren Carroll Harris

Age: 28

Twitter handle: @LCarrollHarris

Home: Sydney, Australia

Cinematic area of expertise: I know about Australian cinema, digital distribution and US anti-capitalist action genre films from the 1980s!

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: Both “Haemoo” (Shim Sung-Bo and co-written by Bong Joon-Ho) and “Slow West” (John McClean) really stretched each of their genres – the action film and the Western – to their limits to make really tense, exciting, entertaining and humane films stuffed with lots of ideas and emotion.

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: I’m curious to see what “The Sky Trembles…” does with hybrid filmmaking, and I’m just discovering Korean film so am really keen to see “Right Now, Wrong Then.”

Favorite book (or writing) about film: Can I cheat? The best things about film I’ve been into lately have been video essays by Matt Zoller Seitz (especially his one on “The New World”) and the “Every Frame a Painting” YouTube Channel.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I really want to test the creative and communicative possibilities of film criticism. Film criticism is as natural an impulse as filmmaking or any creative pursuit – it’s something we tend to do instinctively. There are such huge shifts taking place in the film industry. With the push towards franchises and Marvel adaptations, the major studios are making less films for grown-ups featuring actual humans, and shifts in film distribution are changing creating problems for independent filmmaking. That means the job of a film critic is more important than ever, not just to provide subjective ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ responses to individual films but to engage critically with the industry, contribute to audiences’ visual and media literacy by talking about film history, genre, industry context and form. It makes me really angry that from most reviews published, you can learn a lot about a critic’s surface-level opinion about a film, but nothing about film itself.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
There’s been a lot of discussion, globally, lately about the need to bring women to the forefront of the filmmaking process and into positions of writing and directing. The same applies to film criticism. There’s a desperate need within film criticism to support a diversity of critical voices that can engage with the heart and intellect of films and provide an antidote to the PR nonsense that often passes for film criticism. In my PhD, I am researching film distribution and its impact on storytelling, film culture and the industry, so I’m really interested in bringing that knowledge and learning much more at the film festival system that Locarno is part of.

Name: Nicolas Carrasco

Age: 24

Home: Lima, Peru

Cinematic area of expertise: Experimental film and exploitation cinema

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: Top 5: “Inherent Vice,” “Horse Money,” “Branco sai, petri fica,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “The Look of Silence”.

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: Zulawski’s “Cosmos”

Favorite book (or writing) about film: Adrian Martin’s ¿Que es el cine moderno? (What Is Modern Cinema?)

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I’m excited by Locarno’s commitment to support filmmakers that have proved their freedom and originality through their cinema. The Critics Academy appeals to me as a way to strengthen my relationship with other critics from all over the world.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
I have some experience on filmmaking and on distribution, so I have knowledge on how a film is conceived and what happens after it’s finished.

Name: Clara Miranda Scherffig

Age: 27

Twitter handle: @cmirffig

Home: Berlin, Germany

Cinematic area of expertise: Documentary and independent cinema, video art, contemporary films from Eastern Europe (especially those from the Balkan region and those involving the Roma community)

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “No Home Movie” by Chantal Akerman

Favorite book (or writing) about film: A classic, André Bazin’s “What is Cinema” and then anything written by Wesley Morris as well as Hito Steyerl’s essays on visual cultures.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I really want to strengthen my writing skills, particularly since I aim to address an international audience. This is a very exciting opportunity not only to learn more about film criticism, but also (and to me, most importantly) to discuss issues related to the film industry in a broader sense. I believe cinema is a very democratic and accessible mean of artistic expression and reporting/discussing also what is happening behind the big screen should be part of the same game.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
My background is in literature and independent publishing, so I’d love to combine the theoretical knowledge of film writing/curating with the more practical approach of producing ad-hoc publications for specific audiences. Also, as my studies in Visual Anthropology taught me, art and science often intermingle with cinema: although sometimes the outcomes are embarrassing (or pretentious, or just terrible), we should definitely have more of that!

Name: Nathan Letoré

Age: 26    

Home: Paris, France

Cinematic area of expertise: Japanese pre-war cinema and the Nouvelle Vague and its offshoots. But though those two are areas I don’t feel too ignorant about, and care deeply for, I probably fall victim to that great danger: jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Til Madness do Us Part” (Wang Bing), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller)

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Bella e perduta” (Pietro Marcello)

Favorite book about film: The Material Ghost by Gilberto Perez

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… well, because 10 days of watching films and talking about them with other people who care sounds like a small slice of heaven to me.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
God knows; hopefully by the end of those 10 days I will too. More seriously, I can say what I try and do: write from a place of passion; approach films with a balance of open-minded generosity and uncompromising ruthlessness; describe not only what the filmmaker is doing in formal terms, but how that (re)defines the viewer’s relation to the work.

Name: Nathalie Codina

Age: 26

Home: Lugano, Switzerland.

Cinematic area of expertise: Swiss cinema.

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Chrieg,” Simon Jaquemet

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Heimatland” (Various Directors) and “Keeper” (Guillaume Senez) .

Favorite book (or writing) about film: Olivier Père’s blog. Film Bulletin.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… I want to figure out how I can make a living out of what I like the most: watching good movies, writing about them and trying to make people enjoy this form of art.  

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?
I’ll do my best to write intelligently and honestly and I commit myself to be fair to the movies and to the reader, by trying to translate into my writing some of the marvel I’ll be experiencing at the Festival. I strongly believe in the potential of beauty and creativity – both in cinema and in writing – in shaping our worldview, or our world, differently. So let’s try.

Name: Pierre Hagmann

Age: 32

Home: Bern, Switzerland

Cinematic area of expertise: My main interest lies in contemporary European cinema, specifically sociocritical Scandinavian film.

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Taxi Teheran.”

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Heimatland” (CH), Chantal Akerman’s “No Home Movie”

Favorite book (or writing) about film: “The Magic Lantern,” autobiography by Ingmar Bergman

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… it’s a superb opportunity to learn more about how to watch and review a movie. and watch a lot of movies. in a great environment. with lots of like-minded. and a couple of beers.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? I’m in Locarno to find one. Generally, I want my texts about cinematic stories to become own stories.

Name: Kim Schelbert

Age: 25

Home: Lucerne, Switzerland

Cinematic area of expertise: Fuzziness in Film, François Truffaut, Documentaries

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Electroboy,” by Marcel Gisler

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Above and Below” by Nicolas Steiner, “Brat Dejan” by Bakur Bakuradzde, Vynalez Skazy” by Karel Zeman

Favorite book about film: Hitchcock/Truffaut

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… it’s a unique chance to work with people who know the business and who are keen on teaching their knowledge to others. It will be an unforgettable and instructive festival experience

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism? Be open, I don’t judge movies on a single criterion — there’s so much to discover!

Name: Christopher Small

Age: 21

Twitter handle: @antinomovies

Home: Wales

Cinematic area of expertise: Slapstick comedies from 1909. I’m not an expert but that’s what I like.

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “December” by Nathaniel Dorsky. Otherwise “Taken 3,” “Phoenix,” “Our Stars,” bits of “Poltergeist 3D.”

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: Of the premieres, it’s probably “Right Now, Wrong Then” by Hong Sangsoo. Otherwise, anything playing in 35mm.

Favorite book (or writing) about film: I’d be lying if I didn’t say Negative Space by Manny Farber. And I like
classic Hollywood director autobiographies: those by Wellman, Walsh,
Sternberg, etc. They’re all good. Karl Brown’s Griffith bio is
excellent. As far as underrated image-based books go, Rita Azevedo
Gomes’ lovely Um Mar des Filmes (which I don’t own but have been
fortunate to leaf through a few times) and, running with the Portuguese
theme, I like Caderno, the really beautiful companion to “Casa de Lava”  Pedro Costa compiled during preproduction for his film.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… Well, the possibility of watching from a distance again was far too
painful. So I did something about it. And you answered my weepy
prayers

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?

Unique — I don’t know. I’m just trying to write something that holds up
as a companion to the movie itself, which I guess is an old idea
straight out of Farber. But today,
I think it’s a radical act to try and write in a way that evokes the
movie experience; to at least try and work in a way conducive with the
spirit of watching the thing, in a cinema moment where more and more — I
guess in large part owing to the rise of DCP, where homogeneity is taken
as a starting point — everything is being sold to be the exact same
experience. That itself is probably a pretty outmoded stance to take.
Anyway, unique or not, I’m taking it.

Name: Andreea Pătru

Age: 26

Twitter handle: I don’t have a Twitter, but you can check out my portfolio here.

Home: Romania, Bucharest

Cinematic area of expertise: I love films which explore new means of cinematic expressions, I also love long-take aesthetics, film essays, personal films, but mostly films which are socially engaged, for instance films which treat topics such as politics (in the more social, broader sense) and religion.

Best movie you’ve seen in 2015: “Virgin Mountain” (Fusi)

Movie you’re most looking forward to at Locarno: “Ma dar Behesht” (Paradise), a film shot without official permission from the government of Iran.

Favorite book (or writing) about film: I’m actually reading it right now: Interviews With Film Directors by Andrew Sarris, which was an influential film critic. He gathered interviews with the central directors of his time and his book is besides a good read, a smart piece of the art of interviewing. It shows how good questions can lead to very profound statements. I would also mention Guy Debord’s The Society of The Spectacle though it isn’t necessarily a book about film, it is a book which has a lot to do with film, society, politics and it speaks about representation in a very actual way.

I’m taking part in the Locarno Critics Academy because… Being interested in surprising, inspiring cinema, Locarno is the go-to-place for me to discover provocative new film expressions and to acquire a more mature voice in my attempts to deliver movies to the audience. Because I advocate for a journalism with an assumed, committed subjectivity, I think Locarno Film Festival with the professionals it gathers around it, would be the place for me to better shape my writing.

What unique perspective do you bring to the world of film criticism?

I worked both in the contemporary art field coordinating an art center and in the film industry in film festivals. I wrote since I was little, but not only film criticism. Though I am a writer, I also like to know how things work. After writing a thesis on Andrei Tarkovsky’s cinema called “Cult images in the cinematography of Andrei Tarkovsky – a chrono/topogenetic meditation”, I became interested in writing differently about films, analysing them to the core with the tools of critical thinking. I try to bring a unique perspective by engaging them in a broader discourse which includes our social context, arts, literature, philosophy because my belief is that film is a very engaging art form.

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