Film criticism can affect beyond the understanding of particular works, to cultivate living attuned to interactions between internal and external environments.
So writes Princeton University junior Cammie Lee in “Searching for Meaning: The Role of the Film Critic in Everyday Life.” Lee received the grand prize in Gen Z Critics’ 2021 film criticism contest for the essay and a review of the Japanese comedy Tampopo (1985).
At Princeton, Lee is a concentrator in English and a certificate student in Asian American studies and in East Asian studies.
“Cammie is in my ‘Wounded Beauty’ class now and is an exquisitely thoughtful reader and a nuanced writer,” said Professor of English Anne Cheng. “In the essay that won, I love the voice, and in the review (at once unassuming yet full of the authority of incisive insights) the way she elegantly but astutely links the protagonist’s ‘make over’ to the larger transformation taking place in Japan at the time.”
Gen Z Critics, founded by Elizabeth Kim, then a junior at Stanford University, and producer and host Mark Ehrenkranz, has held a yearly contest since 2017 to foster youth film criticism. Applicants, who must be 24 years old or younger, submit an essay and a review. Five finalists are chosen by professional film critics from organizations such as the New York Film Critics Circle and the Boston Society of Film Critics.
Contest winners participate in an online round table discussion moderated by a professional film critic, and receive an all-access pass to the National Film Festival for Talented Youth. Their pieces are published on the Gen Z Critics website.
Lee’s creative work in Assistant Professor of English and American Studies Paul Nadal’s fall 2018 class “The Asian American Family” — a participatory installation of the letters Y, E, L, L, O, W, first as blank solids, then as multi-colored graffitied objects, each held by a student — was featured in an article on the class on the University homepage. Lee said she created the installation to reclaim a racial epithet and represent the challenges of Asian American community building.
“It's been a delight to see Cammie's writing develop over the years,” Nadal said, “first in ‘Asian American Family,’ then ‘Asian American Literature and Culture,’ and more recently in my ‘Scale of the World’ seminar. Cammie’s prize-winning essay gives just a glimpse of the range of her interests and the depth of her thinking, her ability to re-illuminate — through her critical intuitions and sheer curiosity — the meaning of a work of art entirely.”
Lee is a head editor of The Prospect, the arts and culture publication of The Daily Princetonian.