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LETTER: Cherry Reel review and what it means to critique

 Dear Editor,

I am about to graduate in two weeks. I transferred to the UNM film department from an art school. Over the course of the last four years I have been a part of probably hundreds of critiques. For drawing, for painting, for 2D art, multimedia art, digital and electronic art, essays, creative writing pieces, nonfiction writing, poetry, profiles, the basics of film, experimental film, narrative film, screenplays; from the smallest details worked out in classes like log lines to the broadest bare bones of a story. I was taught in my freshman year how a good critique is constructed.

A good critique is a conversation. The creator presents their work, often with a very short description or a brief artist’s statement. Their peers tell them what they see in the piece, which rhythms of words are working, what is sticking out or pulling them out of the immersion, what story they are seeing from their own experience. And the conversation begins. 

The artist tells what their intention was, which interpretations of their work they enjoyed, what they would change to get a different interpretation. Their peers, knowing better the intention, tell them what is or isn’t working, if they understand the piece better now or not. 

It is very hard to have a one-sided critique. Just like it’s very hard to have a one-sided conversation.

What the Cherry Reel review felt like was a one-sided conversation where the only person talking did not care about any of the intentions being set.

Cherry Reel is a showcase of majority student work. A showcase, not a competition. Awards are given out to encourage young creators to continue creating, to show them that there is an audience who wants to see what they will do. It is a joyful celebration of everything we have done, including class projects and passion projects that we were able to fit in between our busy schedules.

It is not a time for winning or losing, or sorting films into “disappointments” and “highlights.” Film students know that we are going into an industry that will try to pit us against each. We know that studios will make everything feel like a competition, and that “losing” feels like your work and everything you did for it is worthless. “Losing” means becoming a starving artist or abandoning your work. Cherry Reel is not that.

Cherry Reel is the uplifting of each other, the unifying of “I see the work you put in and I appreciate it.” It is the reassurance that our art means something, even if just in our own small community.

Critiques come with the understanding of this intention. With the understanding of why these 21 outstanding films were chosen out of the over 130 films submitted to be the best showcase of what is being created in our community.

No piece of artwork is ever without flaw. We artists know this, and we always want to improve. But improvement does not come through comments made in ignorance. Improvement comes through conversation knowledgeable in intention.

Submitted by Aiyana Shuler

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