Jacqueline Stewart Chimes in On the Cinematic World Just in Time for the Academy Awards

By Elizabeth Harper | April 21, 2021 | Feature Migration

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PHOTO COURTESY OF TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES

As the new lead of strategy and planning for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (academymuseum.org) programming initiatives, South Side native and University of Chicago professor Jacqueline Stewart has a lot to say about the cinematic world. With all eyes on the world of film with the Academy Awards being held April 25, the award-winning scholar muses on history, inclusion and the city’s on-screen cameos

Congratulations on your new post as chief artistic and programming officer of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. What does this appointment mean to you? Thank you! It means a great deal to me to have the opportunity to share my knowledge as a film scholar and programmer and archivist at the Academy Museum. Film museums are rare, and this is such a rare and grand space for sharing the rich history of cinema through exhibits, educational programs and, of course, screenings.

The Academy is such an auspicious institution. How do you hope to make your mark on the museum? I hope to make visitors feel welcome, no matter their level of knowledge about film history or moviemaking. Members of the filmmaking community will find their crafts reflected across the museum. Film fans will find favorites and discover new films and film artists. I’m most excited to share the museum’s offerings with young people—to give them a compelling look at the many artistic and technical aspects of filmmaking and hopefully to inspire them to tell their own stories.

Define the importance of film—both past and present—on the zeitgeist? Films have a profound impact on the ways in which people look at others and themselves. People get their senses of history and social roles from movies. Movies shape directions in fashion and music. We need only look at the global resonance of Black Panther’s Wakanda to see how films can confirm and inspire cultural thinking and shape ways we project our futures.

How is the Academy Museum making strides toward inclusion? We prioritize multiplicity of voices and experiences in our exhibitions and in our planned programming. Our core exhibition is called Stories of Cinema—plural—because we want to recognize that the history of cinema involves many pathways, including the contributions and experiences of those who have been left out of traditional narrations of film history. At the Academy Museum, visitors will learn about the women pioneers of the silent era, about the work of people of color behind the camera. And in our Impact/Reflection gallery, we invite viewers to think about how films have addressed pressing subjects, from climate change to the Black Lives Matter movement.

As a Chicago resident, name your top Windy City moments captured on film. When Preach holds his dying best friend, Cochise, in his arms under the screeching L train in Cooley High; when a group of legendary Black Chicago artists—Jeff Donaldson, Barbara Jones-Hogu, Val Grey Ward and Robert Paige—appear as militants who take over the scene in Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool; and when John Lee Hooker plays ‘Boom Boom’ at the Maxwell Street Market in The Blues Brothers.

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