Category Archives: Films

Birth of a Nation and Culturally Responsive Education

Last week at the Murphy Institute, I had the pleasure of meeting Erika Ewing, an Educational Engagement Strategist who works with the CUNY Creative Arts Team. She had just finished running a workshop which engaged high school students in rigorous conversation about the film “Birth of a Nation” following an arranged screening of the film for them at an AMC theater. 

In the piece below, Ewing discusses the responsibility of educators to be open and honest with youth about American history, the ways in which non-traditional approaches to education challenges young people to think constructively and critically and how promoting more open discussion of films like Parker’s “Birth of Nation” plays a seminal role.

— Zenzile Greene, Arts and Culture Editor

“Don’t let your past define your future.” It’s a quote we’ve all heard some version of before. But when we’re confronted with our own dark pasts, how easy is it to take this advice? Continue reading Birth of a Nation and Culturally Responsive Education

An Rong Xu’s “The Chinese Americans”

Photo: An Rong Xu, The Chinese Americans

Photographer An Rong Xu’s series “The Chinese Americans” connects the experiences of immigrant Americans by threading together the narratives of Asian Americans across several cities in the United States. In the essay that accompanies this New York Times feature, the artist writes that these pieces are reflections on identity. Her childhood in Queens was shaped in part by anti-Asian racism. Xu revisits the journey of her great-grandfather, documenting the physical and psychic spaces of contemporary Asian immigrant communities in New York City, Seattle and San Francisco.

Xu’s visual art responds to her painful formative experiences by mining familial and community histories that are contextualized by their immigration to America and their roles in American history. To this end, she locates relatives who have worked on the Transcontinental Railroad. Continue reading An Rong Xu’s “The Chinese Americans”

Two Days, One Night Movie Review

If you can find the time – and cash – this January, and are lucky to be somewhere with good movie theaters, I highly recommend checking out the new movie by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Two Days, One Night. (In NYC it’s playing at the IFC for now.) It’s a quiet, multilayered film that I’ve continued to think about since watching last week.

A woman (Marion Cotillard, in an incredible performance) is told that she’s lost her job unless she can convince her co-workers at a solar panel manufacturing company in Belgium to give up their bonuses in exchange for bringing her back on. The movie is the story of the weekend she has to make the case to her colleagues, who she visits one by one across small towns and industrial suburbs where they live. I don’t want to give too much away, as it’s the kind of movie that invites reflection, and I think is great to see and chew on yourself. But I’ll make some observations here about what I’ve thought about these past few days.

Continue reading Two Days, One Night Movie Review

Pushing Through Doors: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”

By Zenzile Greene

On the heels of the Spike Lee Retrospective being shown at BAM Cinematek through July 11th, I would like to present a piece I wrote up on assignment for my “Culture Through Film” class taken this past fall at the School of Professional studies. The course, taught by Professor Kelley Kawano, was developed brilliantly not only for the purpose of traditional Film History survey, but also towards the goal of turning a critical lens on the pervasive and myriad ways in which culture influences film and vice versa.

Over the course of the fall semester, we viewed and deconstructed a range of films from the Silent Era to the Hollywood Studio Era, to the groundbreaking independent films made by such pioneers as Irving Penn and Spike Lee. For several of our weekly assignments, we were asked to take one scene from a movie and analyze its use of one in a list of primary technical film elements, including editing, sound effects and direction.

For inspiration, I drew on the use of symbolism in Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” from a paper I wrote in the class “Mass Media in Black America” taught by Professor Arthur Lewin at Baruch in 2010. I was very excited to write up a brief analysis of the symbolic use of editing in one particular scene of this, one of my favorite films in Lee’s “Brooklyn Trilogy” series.
Continue reading Pushing Through Doors: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing”

Workers Unite! Film Festival 2014

NYC Celebrates Global Labor Solidarity
MAY 9TH TO MAY 19TH, 2014

The Workers Unite! Film Festival aims to showcase student and professional films from the United States and around the world which publicize and highlight the struggles, successes and daily lives of all workers in their efforts to unite and organize for better living conditions and social justice.

This year we honor the Joseph Murphy Institute for Workers Education and Labor Studies, based at The City University of NY.

FRIDAY, MAY 9th OPENING NIGHT –Cinema Village theater one
Salute to the Next Generation of Labor leaders and Socially Conscious Filmmakers
@22 E 12th St, New York, NY 10003, (212) 924-3363

Continue reading Workers Unite! Film Festival 2014