Martin Scorsese, Academy Award winning American film director, screenwriter, producer, actor, film historian and preservationist, and distinguished alumnus has delivered the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on April 1, 2013. The annual lecture, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.
“Martin Scorsese is a scholar of, advocate for, and icon of American cinema,” said NEH Chairman Jim Leach. “He is the first filmmaker designated as a Jefferson Lecturer, but he follows in the tradition of earlier speakers like John Updike, Barbara Tuchman, and Arthur Miller in revealing a profound understanding and empathy for the human condition.”
Scorsese's lecture, "Persistence of Vision: Reading the Language of Cinema," was followed by an on-stage conversation with noted film-critic and long-time collaborator Kent Jones.
Martin Scorsese was born in 1942 in Flushing, New York. His mania for film dates to the Italian films he watched as a child on television or local movie theaters with his family. By age eight, Scorsese was drawing his own storyboards, his vision of humanity shaped by the view through the fire escape of his grandmother’s Little Italy apartment. Scorsese studied at Washington Square College, now known as New York University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature in 1964, and received a Masters in Fine Arts in film from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 1966.
Scorsese is a current member of the Tisch School of the Arts Dean's Council and received an honorary degree from NYU in 1992.
Scorsese has directed such landmark works as Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), Casino (1995), and The Departed (2006). His singular vision has helped define modern American film. Drawing inspiration from such wide-ranging sources as Fellini, Powell and Pressburger, Hitchcock, Dante, and Dostoyevsky, Scorsese is renowned for having expanded the boundaries of his art. His films, though incredibly diverse in subject and style, are reputed for their incorporation of camera and editing techniques from different genres and distinctive treatment of signature themes of isolation and tribal identity, violence and loss, guilt and redemption, faith and spirituality.
In addition to his work as a filmmaker, Scorsese is a champion of film preservation and education. In 1990, Scorsese established The Film Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving motion picture history by providing support for preservation and restoration film projects at leading film archives. Since its inception, The Film Foundation has helped save over 560 motion pictures and has been instrumental in raising awareness of the need for film preservation. In 2007 he established the World Cinema Foundation, which works to preserve and distribute neglected global films from around the world, particularly from countries without the financial or technical means to do so.
The 2013 Jefferson Lecture was made possible through the generous support of The American Express Foundation and HBO.