Film Curating in Houston Texas, USA

I am a second-year PhD candidate in Film Studies at the University of Edinburgh. I also teach an introductory undergraduate course to European Cinema. Regarding my research, I am working on absurd humour and contemporary European cinema. You know how they say that when you have to explain a joke, then you have basically killed the joke? This is what I do for my PhD: I kill jokes by explaining them.

Thanks to the Go Abroad Fund, I worked as a curatorial fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. This was my third summer working at the MFAH’s film department. The first two years I was an intern, but this year I was upgraded to a fellow. One hears a lot of stereotypes about Texas, however, since this was my third summer there, I was quite used to the culture shock. I learned to enjoy the friendly chitchat people like to engage in wherever you go… the street, grocery, shops, elevators, parking lots… strangers will start talking to you! Last year Hurricane Harvey hit Houston during the last week of my internship, luckily this year I survived my American trip without a major natural disaster!

The friendly welcome and support of my colleagues was as heart-warming as ever. I worked under the supervision of Marian Luntz, Film and Video Curator. I introduced films, moderated post-screening discussions and conducted interviews with filmmakers. I also wrote introductory notes for screened films and assisted in the development of film programming for series and festivals. My three major projects included a thematic film series, a film collection and a film festival.

The MFAH recently presented a film series contemplating themes of family, community, and identity. As part of this program, we screened three short films from Houston based directors, who were invited to the screenings. I moderated the post screening discussion and separately conducted interviews with the filmmakers. If you are interested in reading the interviews, they are available as blog posts on the MFAH website. And if you are really really interested, you can also read the long version of the interviews (not just the short version), which is also available on the MFAH website.

MFAH serves as both an archive and distributor for a film and video collection by internationally renowned photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank. Best known as a photographer, Robert Frank gained worldwide attention in the 1950s with his book The Americans. He turned to filmmaking in the 1960’s and his 30-minute short film, Pull My Daisy, became a foundational film for the New American Cinema, a movement which is known for a disregard for Hollywood convention.

Robert Frank films were in many regards, ahead of their time and the director is known for his out of the box thinking when it comes to film style. One of his best-known films, Cocksucker Blues, is about the Rolling Stones’ 1972 tour of North America. It is a fly-on-the-wall style documentary, which paints a shockingly unflattering picture of the famous rock band. The Rolling Stones were so upset by this film’s portrayal of them that they sued to prevent its release. The film is under a court order that only allows it to be shown four times a year with director Robert Frank present in person. I assisted the process of updating information about the Robert Frank films in the museum’s online system and the museum’s website, so that these films can get a bit more and deserved attention.

The third major project I was involved with was the 6th Houston Turkish Film Festival, which showcases new and stand-out Turkish films that have gained international interest in the film festival world. I assisted in the development of programming, including animations, fiction and documentaries.

Just like the previous years, I was thrilled by my Houston experience and I hope to return next summer for further personal and professional enrichment. Thank you, Go Abroad Fund!

Categories: Go Abroad Fund, North America, USA

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