The Inspiring Work of the Ghetto Film School

Inside Criterion / FYI — May 25, 2016

For the past ten years, we’ve been proudly welcoming the students of Ghetto Film School—a Bronx-based program dedicated to educating and inspiring a new generation of artists and storytellers—into our Criterion family. Each summer we open our doors to the year’s newest GFS students, to kick off the school year with screenings and discussions of two undeniable masterpieces, Fritz Lang’s M and Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, before they set out on their first film assignment of the year. As these young artists settle in to our screening room, we encourage them to become the kinds of engaged and active viewers of film that will make them incisive, perceptive filmmakers.

As the 2016 school year ends, we’re thrilled to watch another class of young filmmakers express their vision and employ what they’ve learned in a new thesis film. Last month, following a screening of this year’s collaborative thesis project, GFS invited Criterion president Peter Becker for a conversation with the program’s senior students at the Paley Center for Media. “The Criterion Collection has been an incredibly influential supporter of Ghetto Film School over the years,” said GFS founder Joe Hall. “Their expertise and generosity make them an outstanding partner—imagine, as a teenager, your cinematic training begins with a screening of M and a lecture at Criterion, and then one year later you are onstage with Peter Becker doing a Q&A about the film you shot in Spain. The entire Criterion team make it all a truly unique, special experience.”

Each GFS thesis film is made abroad to foster an appreciation and understanding of universal storytelling and offer an experience of the wider world. In preparation for this year’s film, which was shot in Spain, the filmmakers visited us for a screening of Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and Víctor Erice’s The Spirit of the Beehive—and it’s clear that both films made an impact on these students’ moving familial ghost story El Coche Rojo, which showcases their remarkable abilities to construct a cinematic world rich with mood and feeling.


Take a look at El Coche Rojo above, and below, watch a clip from the postscreening talk with director Karla Taveras, writer Natalie Popoter, assistant director Christopher Negron, and cinematographer-editor Nathaniel Rojas. And to learn more about Ghetto Film School, head over to their site.