50 Years of Film Studies

Film Critics, Curators & Scholars

Filmmaker Amie Siegel in discussion with author & film scholar Scott MacDonald
Filmmaker Amie Siegel (DDD/DDR) in discussion with author & film scholar Scott MacDonald (Avant-Garde Cinema), February 2015

Cornell Cinema’s history also includes an impressive list of visitors who were invited to campus to share their film scholarship, present their curatorial or archival work, introduce films or interview filmmakers they’d written about, and in some cases, lead workshops with aspiring film critics on campus. We offer a dozen representative visits here.

Richard Herskowitz Era

As part of Herskowitz’s Expanding Cinema series, he hosted Gerald O'Grady, a media scholar and former University at Buffalo professor of English, who led the media revolution in Buffalo in the early 1970s. O'Grady introduced the program “Experimental Films from Media Study,” including work by Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, James Blue, Barbara Lattanzi and Kathy High, in September 1988 to kick-off Herskowitz’s Media Buff. exhibition at the Johnson Museum of Art.

Cornell alum Jon Gartenberg ’73 worked for many years as a curator in the film archive of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where he acquired, catalogued, and preserved films for the permanent collection. One of his signature projects was restoring the films of Andy Warhol, and he returned to campus in September 1990 to introduce Warhol’s Eat and Beauty #2 as part of the Expanding Cinema series The Films of Andy Warhol, curated by Jon Hanhardt from the Whitney Museum of American Art. Gartenberg went on to become President of Gartenberg Media Enterprises, a company that restores and distributes libraries of classic and avant-garde films.

Film theorist Laura Mulvey presented Frida Kahlo and Tina Modotti (1983), her essayistic short film about the two artists who lived and worked in post-revolutionary Mexico, which she co-directed with Peter Wollen. The screening took place in March 1991 as part of the Expanding Cinema series The Artist in Society

Former New Yorker film critic Terrence Rafferty ’73, who chaired the Cornell Cinema Advisory Board when an undergraduate, returned to campus to introduce a new print of Jean Vigo’s L’Atalante (1934) and conduct a workshop for aspiring film reviewers in April 1991.

In conjunction with the Department of Architecture, Herskowitz presented a series on architecture in film, inspired by Donald Albrecht’s book Designing Dreams: Modern Architecture in the Movies. Albrecht spoke as part of a departmental lecture series following a rare screening of the French film classic L’Inhumaine (1924) by Marcel L’Herbier in March 1993.

Mary Fessenden Era

Fessenden hosted Thierry Frémaux, Artistic Director of the Institut Lumière, devoted to the preservation of the world’s cinema heritage, in November 1996, with Lumière: The First Picture Show, a program of newly restored shorts in 35mm, made between 1895 and 1900—some of the same films that were shown at the very first screening in Lyon in 1895. Four years later, Frémaux became the artistic director of the Cannes Film Festival. As of 2022, he continues to serve in this role, as well as the director of the Lumière Film Festival and general director of the Institut Lumière. Fessenden recalls he was an inspiring and delightful guest, who spoke passionately about his work at the Institut and left behind a number of Lumière flipbooks!

Film scholar Thomas Doherty came to campus to lecture on his book Pre-Code Hollywood: Sex, Immorality and Insurrection in American Cinema, 1930-1934  in November 2000, and Fessenden organized a screening of Gabriel Over the White House (1933), suggested by Doherty, which he introduced that evening.

Film scholar Judith Mayne, author of Directed by Dorothy Arzner (1994), introduced Arzner’s Working Girls (1931) in September 2003, which was showing as part of the NEA-supported Monday Night Classic Cinema series Directed by Dorothy Arzner, a touring exhibition of six restored 35mm film prints from the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

Another highlight for Fessenden was hosting French film preservationist, Serge Bromberg, in October 2006.  Bromberg is the founder and President of Lobster films, the most important private collection of films in the world with over 20,000 titles, but he also served as the artistic director of the Annecy Animation Festival from 1998–2012, and is a wildly entertaining performer who presented an annual show of rare archival films, short oddities and more with live commentary and piano accompaniment each year in Paris and New York City.

Lucky for Cornell Cinema, Bromberg was willing to make the trip to Ithaca in 2006 and again in 2010, to present this one-of-a-kind show called Treasures from the Chest. During his second visit, he also presented Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno, a fascinating tale of a film that never was, which he wrote, produced and directed. Bromberg is also the preservationist responsible for the restored hand-painted color version of the legendary short silent A Trip to the Moon by Georges Méliès, which inspired Cornell Cinema’s 8th Annual Elegant Winter Party and fundraising event, A Magical Mélies Evening, in March 2012.

Film critic and author J. Hoberman was invited to campus in March 2008 to conduct an on-stage interview with filmmaker Todd Haynes following a screening of Haynes’ unconventional Bob Dylan biopic I’m Not There, part of two related series, a Todd Haynes retrospective and a series of documentaries about Dylan, all supported by the Atkinson Forum in American Studies. Faculty, students and community members got to mingle with Hoberman and Haynes afterwards at a party, another memorable night.

Michelle Silva of the Conner Family Trust visited in November that same year to present A Tribute to Bruce Conner, who had died in July 2008. Connor, an internationally acclaimed multi-media artist, was best known for his groundbreaking avant-garde films, which he began making alongside the legendary Stan Brakhage. He pioneered the art of found footage collage filmmaking, on glorious display in his first and best-known film, A Movie (1958), which was shown with a selection of Conner’s other short films drawn from his personal collection of prints and presented by Silva.

Named an Academy Scholar by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in 2012, Scott MacDonald is the author of 20 books, including Avant-Doc: Intersections of Documentary and Avant-Garde Cinema, that includes a chapter on artist Amie Siegel’s DDR/DDR (2008), a multi-layered and disarmingly beautiful film essay on the German Democratic Republic and its dissolution.  MacDonald (who presented programs at Cornell Cinema during both Herskowitz’s and Fessenden’s tenures) was invited to campus in February 2015 to do an on-stage interview with Siegel following a screening of the film, showing as part of an Amie Siegel Retrospective supported by the Atkinson Forum in American Studies.

Historian Paul Cronin, editor/author of A Time to Stir: Columbia ’68, who made a film about the making of Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool (1969), filmed in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention riots, joined Cornell Cinema via Skype following a screening of Medium Cool that was part of the Fall 2018 series The 1968 Era Revisited.

Guest Artists: Film Critics, Curators & Scholars

  • Donald Albrecht
  • Erik Barnouw
  • David Bordwell
  • Serge Bromberg
  • Timothy Corrigan
  • Paul Cronin
  • David Dinnell
  • Wimal Dissanayake
  • Thomas Doherty
  • Thierry Frémaux
  • Lucinda Furlong
  • John Hanhardt
  • Maggie Hennefeld
  • Logan Hill
  • J. Hoberman
  • Philip Mallory Jones
  • Helen Kolias
  • Richard Koszarski
  • John Kuiper
  • Noel Lawrence
  • Scott MacDonald
  • Judith Mayne
  • Mandy Merck
  • Annette Michelson
  • D.A. Miller
  • John Minkowsky
  • Laura Mulvey
  • Charles Musser
  • Nick Nicastro ’85
  • Gerald O’Grady
  • Rita Ottens-Yiddish
  • Marcia Pally
  • Richard Peña
  • Valery Podoroga
  • Bruce Posner
  • Rick Prelinger
  • Maria Racheva
  • Terrence Rafferty ’73
  • Eric Rentschler
  • Jonathan Rosenbaum
  • Vito Russo
  • Charles Samu
  • Christiane Schauder
  • A.O. Scott
  • Pradeep Sebastian
  • Leah Shafer ’94/’99/’08
  • Ella Shohat
  • Michelle Silva
  • P. Adams Sitney
  • Saviana Stanescu Condeescu
  • Cecille Starr
  • Astria Suparak
  • Helen Upton
  • Andrew Utterson
  • Ruth Vanita
  • Michael Walsh
  • Patty White
  • Reinhard Wolf
  • Boris Yampolsky
  • Marilyn Young
  • Patricia Zimmermann