2022 Senior Series: Emily Su Bin Ko
“I’m currently doing my honors thesis on dreams in cinema and videographic criticism. Making video essays is something that I’m passionate about — this project is a culmination of all my majors. The philosophy and psychology part comes in when discussing film theory and talking about dreams and why they are important to us. I’m referring to a French poem and short film in the video essay, so that’s where the French Studies comes in. It's been awesome being able to consolidate all of the interests that I have during my senior year.
Presenting at my first conference is a memory that stands out to me when I look back at my time at UMass. The film studies department hosted a conference on 'Citizen Kane.' It’s a movie that a lot of people call 'the best movie ever made.' The conference was about exploring the legacy of that film. I screened my video essay about Andre Bazin’s — who is a film theorist — writings about 'Citizen Kane.' He praised this film for its realist filmmaking, and that interested me because I had always thought this film was highly stylized. And it is! But my video essay explores the nuances of what Bazin meant and how this film positions viewers as if reality is unfolding in front of them. This film uses techniques such as deep focus and long takes to produce the effect of 'reality.'
Film can transform you. It can open up your mind to various ways of viewing, understanding, and experiencing reality. I really do believe in the transformative power of cinema.
When I screened that video essay, it was an amazing experience because it was my first ever conference presentation. It was a glimpse into what the future could look like, and it was an incredibly supportive environment. Hearing other people’s presentations about the film led me to look at the film in a new way — this is why I love film studies. You’re constantly involved in this academic discourse and rethinking and reimagining films that have existed for a really long time. No matter how old a film is, you can constantly make new discoveries about it.
Being a part of UMassterclass [the official podcast of the film studies program] is something that has really shaped my experience at UMass. It’s a whole team. We have production assistants, we have a social media manager, we have an audio engineer, and we have other hosts. It’s really a team effort in creating episodes that analyze films and other media. That’s been an amazing experience because we created pieces of art together.
I love getting to know people and writing together. It’s a way of reimagining and re-experiencing the film in a new way. You can see the film in a new light. That’s what I really value. I would say my favorite episode would be the one we did on 'One Night in Miami' and 'Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.' That episode was amazing because we talked about the intersections between activism and art, as well as antiracism. It was the first episode we produced as a full team, and it also won a Michael S. Roif Award!
Film can transform you. It can open up your mind to various ways of viewing, understanding, and experiencing reality. I really do believe in the transformative power of cinema. That’s what UMass [film studies] has led me to experience: the transformative power of cinema."
Emily Su Bin Ko '22 is a film studies, philosophy, French, and Psychology (CNS) major, and a research assistant of the College of Humanities and Fine Arts digital humanities project Gynocine, which is directed by professor Barbara Zecchi. Ko redesigned and revamped the project and created an entire new section on Asian women filmmakers. In addition, she has served as a peer advisor, lead host of the UMassterclass Podcast, film curator assistant, and member of the organizing committee of the International Conference on Videographic Criticism presented by the Film Studies Program.
Then and Now: Senior Series
Now in its fourth year, the UMass Amherst Senior Series celebrates the remarkable stories of the university's graduating class. Take a peek at the stories from the last four years below.