Maria Cabrera on her FEDS International Placement
Reporting back from her time at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Maria Cabrera reflects on her placement.
I am currently Film Curation Officer at Into Film, a film education charity running film-based programmes for children and young people aged 5-19.
I have just returned from a six week placement in cinema at Brooklyn Academy of Music (mostly known as BAM). I had previously taken part in the ICO’s FEDS programme, an invaluable scheme that provides on-the-job paid training for those starting out in the film industry, so when the opportunity came up to continue my training, this time with funding support from the British Council, I knew straight away where I wanted to go to further my experience in film programming. I read this article on BAM Film’s Associate Vice President Gina Duncan last year and felt so motivated by her perspective on cinema and BAM’s socially engaged programme, which I had admired from afar via their website.
I’m still trying to take in everything I learned during the six weeks but what I will say is that I left feeling so energised and more excited about film, and the experience of watching them on a screen with a bunch of people, than I have in a while. The team’s enthusiasm and dedication to film is infectious to be around, and with Gina, film programmers, coordinators and marketing team all in one office, it was a really welcoming space to join and gave me an insight into the Repertory and Specialty film program as whole. It was inspiring to work alongside film programmers Ashley Clark, Jesse Trussell and Natalie Erazo (who is also the team’s coordinator), who were each generous in giving me advice and the chance to contribute to some of their projects, including research and shorts pre-selection viewing for their upcoming film festival, BAMcinemaFest. During my stay I also got to work with BAM’s archive team on a display of the history of film in the institution, giving me a unique insight into the cinema’s role within Brooklyn and the legacy from which the team are building on.
As someone who has been working in film for a little while now, I have noticed how discussions on ‘diversity’, ‘inclusion’ or films by people of colour often focus on scarcity, something I can find myself guilty of doing too. BAM’s programme highlights that the work is already out there and must be celebrated and analysed not simply for the sake of representation (although of course this is important too) but because it is essential and exists in versatile and surprising forms. Perhaps an obvious reminder but one I certainly needed again at this stage in my career. It has made me excited to continue seeking out and sharing films with audiences.
Aside from my time at BAM I got to explore New York, meet new people and eat everything in sight (the empanada truck nearby knew my order after a couple of weeks). I also had the perk of free entry to many cinemas and museums across the city, with the Black Women’s Film Conference organised by The New Negress Society at MOMA PS1 being a particular highlight.
I’m grateful to have had this tremendous opportunity and I look forward to digesting all that I learn and putting it into practice. Next up, I am planning to continue my own research and developing some film programmes.