Global Programs | Richard Peña Teaches Introduction to Film Studies in Nairobi

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In August 2014, Columbia University School of the Arts Professor of Film Studies Richard Peña visited the Columbia Global Centers | Africa (Nairobi) to present an introductory course in Cinema Studies to local film students.

Professor Peña selected the Kenyan film Nairobi Half-Life for showing. “I thought it was a breath of fresh air in the form of an urban film in a country from which we had been accustomed to seeing more traditional films,” he said. In selecting films for his course there, Professor Peña chose those that similarly dealt with social and political issues.

Ultimately, screenings included a selection of classic American films, among them Stanley Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain (1953), John Ford’s The Searchers (1956), and Howard Hawks’s noir thriller The Big Sleep (1946). Over the course of five sessions, Professor Peña taught the fundamental aspects of film analysis: the choices made by filmmakers with regards to editing, sound, camera movement, set design and lighting that affect the ways filmmakers express their visions of the world.

Richard Peña has been at Columbia University since 1989, becoming full time in 1996 and being named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003. From 2006 to 2009, he was a visiting professor in Spanish at Princeton University. Peña also served as the program director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the director of the New York Film Festival from 1988 to 2013.  At the Film Society, he organized retrospectives of many greats of the film world, as well as major film series devoted to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Japanese, Soviet and Argentine cinema. He is also currently the co-host of TV Channel 13’s weekly film program, Reel 13.


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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.