Rio Center Stories: Richard Peña, Professor at the School of The Arts

Richard Peña has been at Columbia since 1989, being named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003; from 2006 - 2009 was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. Mr. Peña has 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 2012.

August 23, 2019

Richard Peña has been at Columbia since 1989, being named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003; from 2006 - 2009 was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. Mr. Peña has 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 2012.

It is not his first time here in Brazil. The professor has come many times before to give talks and lectures about remarkable films.

Peña, who is fluent in Portuguese, was in Rio de Janeiro last week for “Nas margens do cinema americano", a lecture series of four days organized by the Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro.

We caught up with Peña before one of his classes, and had a nice chat about movies and his career.

Do you believe the presence of a Global Center in Rio is a positive way of connecting Columbia and Brazil?

Well, I can definitely speak for myself on this one. This connection is super important because I make great connections through Global Centers,  and I get to meet many great people. Yes… Many great things happened to me after I got to be more involved. You are always so fantastic to me and I always feel very welcomed here.

Why is it so important to talk about independent cinema’s movements?

In a perverse kind of way, American movies are almost too well known in the world. Hollywood has continued to dominate world film for over 100 years. And it´s so important to look at movements of independent filmmakers who tried to break free from the financial control and aesthetic model of commercial cinema by creating their own production structures… And these movements are less talked about just because they don’t follow a commercial rule, as we may say. I could easily talk about Alfred Hitchcock, who I admire so much for example, but it’s a pleasure for me to talk about independent artists.

Richard Peña at Columbia Global Centers | Rio de Janeiro

Is there any difference between Brazilians and Americans in terms of audience? In other terms, do we consume movies differently from the rest of the world?

Yes. For example, I like to see the reaction when I talk about African-American independent movies because the racial (and racist) reality in the US is so different from Brazil. Each country has it own broad history when it comes to ‘race’, but in Brazil people see it differently from the US. That is why I like to bring these movies so we can compare to the reality here in Brazil.

But why bring this topic to a workshop in Brazil now?

Brazilians are movie lovers, but unfortunately, they are not very familiar with independent artists, and it’s a pleasure for me to come here and talk about them. There are so many artists out there doing the same old commercial thing, that we should pay more attention to those who are pointing to other directions.

But why bring this topic to a workshop in Brazil now?

Brazilians are movie lovers, but unfortunately, they are not very familiar with independent artists, and it’s a pleasure for me to come here and talk about them. There are so many artists out there doing the same old commercial thing, that we should pay more attention to those who are pointing to other directions.

Considering our current political times in Brazil, a time in which we might lose ANCINE (The National Film Agency), would you agree that it’s extremely important to bring this subject to a lecture?

I hope it doesn’t come to an end, of course. I believe ANCINE and any other organizations that support the movie industry must be kept alive! Brazil has a long and beautiful story regarding arts and movies, and it must continue to grow.