In some way or another, a person’s passion for film has to be articulated. Even if one is not a film critic, they can still experience or revisit a film’s many emotional dimensions through a well-composed film review. Besides expressing the writer’s opinion, a robust film review usually aligns with the film medium’s humane focus and closely examines human behaviors and their emotional complexity. It is for this shared love of humanity that a film critic should be seen as caring instead of ruthless; amiable rather than detached. To redefine the image of a film critic so that they are seen as an approachable human being rather than an intimidating figure to is to create a welcoming and open environment for all amateur film writers.

To encourage young people to participate more in film criticism, I believe it is crucial to tap into their love of cinema and encourage them to use film criticism as a vehicle to express their passion and thoughts. The younger generation of film lovers should be uninhibited by the old-school notion of journalistic criticism; and indeed, with more and more people blogging about films on the internet, the modern cultural environment for film critics has been unprecedentedly liberal and accepting.

Despite the Internet providing easy access for young people to freely express their opinions on films, it is still important to remind them about film criticism’s liberal format of writing. I personally always felt restrained by the fixed essay structure commonly embraced in many of my undergraduate courses. I yearned for a boundless kind of writing that would allow me to fully explore my voice and range of feelings. After I started writing for Columbia University’s undergraduate film journal Double Exposure, I found a platform to explore my freedom in writing. With Double Exposure, there is neither set assignment nor instruction on writing. Instead, the weekly meetings are based on members pitching films of all periods, genres, and topics. Its supportive system of peer editing also encouraged me to be unafraid of making mistakes in my writing. Therefore, I was able to trust my gut and let my thoughts roam on the page.

I am a firm believer in a community’s power to draw out the potential of its members. One possible approach to augmenting young people’s interests in film criticism is organizing small interest groups and holding workshop events in a local library or a school. With Double Exposure, I felt a deep connection with the community, a strong sense of purpose, and a sense of belonging. After feeling firmly grounded in and supported by the group, I was able to push boundaries in my writing with confidence.

Overall, there are many different approaches to attracting young people’s interests and attention in the field of film criticism. A deep passion for cinema is undoubtedly at the heart and soul of a memorable film review. It is helpful to remind young people that writing film criticism can simply begin with an honest emotional recording—like a diary entry. Building upon the self-reflective process, young emerging film critics should have resources such as writing workshops or film clubs available from their local community centers, libraries, and schools in order to equip their love of cinema with strong writing skills.

Rita Zhang

Rita Zhang

Based in New York, Rita received her B.A. in Film & Media Studies from Columbia University. Her 12 years of acting in movies rooted her ceaseless love in arts and cinema. Her wide spectrum of favorite movies ranges from Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann to Steven Soderbergh's High Flying Bird. She believes that writing reviews enable her to distill many levels of emotions in the film world and, perhaps, help decipher the mysterious meaning of life. Lately, she has been enjoying making random film lists (see below) and watching more documentaries. The NYC-based movies that leave Rita with a warm, fuzzy feeling include: Private Life, Please Give, Mistress America, Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco, Maggie's Plan, and The Daytrippers. Her favorite Terence Davies' movies by seasonal moods are: Sunset Song (for spring), A Quiet Passion (for summer), The Deep Blue Sea (for fall), and The Long Day Closes (for winter).