The recipients of the third annual Roger Ebert Fellowship for Film Criticism have been announced, and all three aspiring film critics this year are young women: Hunter Harris, Sara Alexandra Pelaez and Sophia Nguyen. The trio will cover Sundance Festival 2016 and receive mentorship.
In a blog post on RogerEbert.com, Chaz Ebert, the site’s publisher (and wife of the late Roger Ebert) wrote, “In addition to writing about films in general, the Ebert Fellows will be tasked with observing and writing about how films foster empathy, kindness or compassion.” After describing this class of Fellows as “one of the most accomplished and diverse,” Ebert explained, “It is my opinion that diversity affects not only how we see the world, but how we begin to heal it. Movies serve many purposes, but one of the civilizing aspects of film is that of empathizing with, rather than otherizing different cultures, races, genders and socio-economic classes.”
We couldn’t agree with Ebert’s sentiments any more strongly. Women are severely underrepresented in the world of film criticism: 78% of the top critics on Rotten Tomatoes are men, and 91% of those writing for movie/entertainment magazines and websites are male.
Harris, Pelaez and Nguyen’s coverage of Sundance will appear on RogerEbert.com, as well as Indiewire.
Here’s more information about these promising voices in the next generation of film criticism, courtesy of RogerEbert.com:
Hunter Harris attends Emerson College and is expecting to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism this May. She currently serves as Managing Editor of The Berkeley Beacon, Campus Editor at Large at The Huffington Post and a Co-Op reporter at Boston.com.
“Journalism is important to me, because it’s how I know and understand the world,” Harris wrote in her application. “But film criticism is important to me because it’s how I know and understand my own life.”
Sara Pelaez earned her B.F.A. in Film, Photography & Visual Arts at Ithaca College in New York and is expecting to earn her B.F.A. in New Media at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Ubana, Roger’s alma mater, in May 2017. She is the owner and founder of the video production label, J3llyfish Productions, and has a rich background in theatre and the performing arts. In her essay for the application, Pelaez discussed a film she made as a freshman in college that went on to win a festival prize.
“It was about a young Latina who found herself with mysterious abilities that forced her to grow and adapt to change,” Palaez wrote. “Since [then], I have maintained an unnerving flirtation with the studies of film and its production.”
Sophia Nguyen earned her Bachelor of Arts in English at Yale University in 2014, and currently serves as Associate Editor of Harvard Magazine. She has won several accolades including the William H. Schubart Prize for Nonfiction Writing and the Shana Alexander Fellowship in Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies.
“Relating your dreams to another person the next morning can feel like a self-defeating project,” Nguyen wrote in her application. “The wrong words will make images flatly mundane. But since film is a collaborative art — and, in America, the dominant cultural industry and export — cinematic illusions reveal underlying truths about their makers and viewers. Interpretation, via criticism, is work worth doing.”