My plans to study computer science in college went straight to hell once I found out that Carleton College, my alma mater, had a Media Studies program that offered a Concentration on Film and Literature (renamed Cinema and Media Studies, it now offers a major and a curriculum to die for. How I wish I was a college freshman again!).
I gorged on movies during my four years in college, not only the ones shown on campus but off-campus as well. Between my film classes and regular screenings, I was, easily, watching four to five movies a week. I finally came face to face with the works of the great masters: Hitchcock, Lang, Truffaut, Godard, Herzog, Fassbinder, Gutiérrez Alea, Humberto Solás, Renoir, Orson Welles. Back home, Cinearte became my refuge during my first two summer vacations away from college.
The story repeated itself in grad school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where its more than half a dozen film societies screened films on an almost daily basis and the options off-campus were equally sensational.
Film Writing as a Living
My professional journey as an entertainment reporter, editor and film critic began in 1988, as a volunteer video producer for the Chicago Access Network. There, I shot a series of interviews with those Latin American filmmakers who were invited to present their films at the Chicago Latino Film Festival for CAN’s weekly Hispanic newsmagazine program Orgullo Latino. As a freelance writer, I started writing capsule reviews about the Chicago Latino Film Festival and the Chicago International Film Festival as well as film reviews and interviews for ¡Exito!, the Chicago Tribune’s Spanish-language weekly. Once I joined ¡Exito! on a full time basis, I turned film coverage into a regular weekly feature of its entertainment pullout.
The work continued once ¡Exito! became Hoy and I was named its Senior Entertainment Editor in 2004. And as Editor in Chief for Café Media, my weekly film reviews became stage one for our original online content initiative. No matter what I did, I always found a way to incorporate my love for movies to the task at hand.
This past fall, I was hired as the seasonal publications manager for the 47th Chicago International Film Festival where I oversaw the production of their print and web materials, including the Festival Schedule and Program Book. Seeing how a film festival operates from the inside, the logistics involved, gave me a new appreciation not only for film festivals worldwide but for the hard work involved in any type of cultural event. Some of the films (or artists) may not be to my liking but there is no denying the love and commitment of the many staffers and volunteers involved in the undertaking.)
My film education continues to this day, although I don’t go to the movies as often as I used to. Thanks to the VHS and DVD revolutions, I have built my own cinematheque. And thanks to Netflix and Video on Demand, I can play catch-up by watching at home those films I may have missed the first time around (although I am not too much into streaming yet. I still like to pop a DVD on a machine. It may not have the same feeling as spooling a film into a projector but it comes quite close). I avidly read film magazines like Film Comment and Sight & Sound as well as the reviews of colleagues on print and online.
So, do not be surprised if you find that a significant portion of my blog entries will focus on film. I cannot turn my back on one of my biggest passions. My film education is not yet over. And I want to share it with you.