The Ultimate NYU Film Lover’s Guide to New York
A love for cinema brought me to New York last September. As a second-year graduate student at NYU who’s been lucky to call many places home (including an hour away across the Hudson River in New Jersey - it’s not a made-up place for tv shows, I promise!), the smell of popcorn and silver screen lights have always been familiar friends. In fact, my decision to come to NYU for graduate studies in documentary film has its seeds in a movie theater.
One rainy October morning, not unlike the view outside my window in New York today, I was running to a screening of Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story at the Mumbai Film Festival after being trapped in one of the city’s infamous monsoon traffic jams. I was two minutes late, literally 120 seconds, and in film festival language that means my ticket was kaput and there was no getting in. (It’s okay, I caught it later on Netflix. So good. That fight scene between Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansen still makes for the most iconic memes.
As the Marriage Story ticket collector mouthed “sorry,” I dejectedly walked away and into the first open screening room I saw. I had no expectations but thankfully, the best movies often catch you by surprise. On the screen was a documentary called One Child Nation. About China’s former one-child policy and the filmmaker’s personal grappling with it as a new mother, the film was vivid and visceral and personal in a way that caught me by surprise. I saw the director’s name, Nanfu Wang, in the credits and did what I usually do when I’m gobsmacked by what I’ve just seen: google search every possible detail about them. That’s how I found out that Wang, who recently received a MacArthur Genius Grant for her documentary film efforts, both graduated from and now teaches at this program called News and Documentary at NYU. And long story short, I ended up applying to that program and that’s how I’m here today.
Film brought me to NYU and beyond being something I study and create, it’s a world I enjoy being immersed in. And there’s no better place to do it than the film mecca that is New York. Here are some of my tips and tricks for being an NYU student who loves going to the cinema:
Watch a film, duh!
New York has some of the best movie theaters in the world. From IMAX to the independents to festivals, you can watch films on every imaginable screen size anywhere in the city. I recently went to the New York Film Festival and saw Decision to Leave at Lincoln Center through free tickets from an NYU student organization. After the film ended, everyone started clapping enthusiastically, and I looked up to see the director Park Chan-Wook waving from the balcony right above our seats. He and the cast participated in a question and answer period that was by equal parts hilarious and insightful.
There are several great indie movie theaters around NYU’s Washington Square Campus, such as Angelika Film Center where I saw Wes Anderson’s French Dispatch, as well as the IFC Center, the Village East Cinema, and more. Some of them also offer discounts for NYU students, so make sure to check!
Also, we have screenings held at NYU, from events with filmmakers to student showcases. You can even get your friends together for a movie night and book a collaborative media room at the Avery Fisher Center for Music & Media on Floor 7 of Bobst Library, the largest of NYU’s 10-library system. Even if you’re usually a Netflix-at-home gal, it’s worth occasionally taking advantage of the range of movie-going experiences the city offers.
Visit iconic locations
From Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, the most iconic films have been shot in New York City. You can go have your King Kong moment at the top of the Empire State Building or listen to the soundtrack of Bollywood film Kal Ho Naa Ho on the Brooklyn Bridge. One of my personal favorites is going to Katz’s Delicatessen, a no-frills deli memorably featured in Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally, which is less than a ten-minute walk from campus. I’ll have what she’s having!
Take a course at the Tisch School of Arts
Even if you don’t study film full-time, you can still take it as an elective. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts offers courses for non-majors through its Open Arts Curriculum. You can learn the fundamentals of filmmaking, quench the acting bug, or finally write that screenplay idea you’ve always had. There are many course options available during the academic year, as well as over the summer and January terms.
Go to the Museum of the Moving Image
Through NYU’s Museum Gateway program, NYU students can visit many of the city’s museums at no cost. One of them is the Museum of the Moving Image, the country's only museum dedicated to the moving image in all its forms, located in Queens. Open Friday through Sunday, the museum also hosts 35 mm screenings of classic works and holds art exhibitions. Later this month they have a screening of the horror classic Nosferatu with a live piano accompaniment. It’s the perfect spooky watch for this Halloween season, and I’m looking forward to catching it with some friends.
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Earlier this year, my program had a masterclass with filmmaker Nanfu Wang, whose film I saw at the Mumbai Film Festival way back. I chatted with her, asked her some of my burning questions, and told her the story of how One Child Nation led me to NYU for graduate school. She was so kind and generous with her time; it felt full circle.
Hope this was helpful for you, whether or not you’re pursuing a film-related program at NYU, and that you get to meet people that inspired you to pursue your chosen path during your time as a graduate student too. See you at the movies.
Mehar Gujral is a Master’s student at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) studying Journalism in the News and Documentary program.
Mehar loves films, books, poetry, memes and yoga. She loves travel and frequently dog-sits.