Profile: Michael Richardson

By Queline Meadows, March 18, 2021
A conversation with Michael Richardson, Ithaca College professor and talkback moderator at FLEFF 2021.

Michael Richardson

Michael Richardson | Professor and Chair, Modern Languages and Literatures

Blog posting written by Queline Meadows, Culture and Communication with minors in French and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies, ’23, FLEFF Intern, Buffalo, New York.

Michael Richardson is no stranger to film festivals.

When I sat down with Dr. Richardson last week, I was expecting a brief conversation about his role in the Finger Lakes Environmental Film Festival.

I was treated to all of that and more as he took me on a journey through his own personal history with film festivals.

We started out by talking about Charlatan, a Czech film about healer Jan Mikolášek. Dr. Richardson will be moderating the talkback for Charlatan during the third week of the festival.

The film has been receiving considerable buzz lately, even making the shortlist for Best International Feature at the Oscars.

Dr. Richardson did not talk about Oscars, though.

Instead, he told me about the beautiful theater where he first watched Charlatan at the Berlin Film Festival. He described the initial audience response as a “hero’s welcome” for director Agnieszka Holland.

As a junior in college studying abroad, Berlin was the first film festival he ever attended. He still tries to make it whenever he can.

This love of film festivals has stayed with him over the years, and in our conversation, I could tell that he was bringing the same enthusiasm to FLEFF that he brought to Berlin years ago.

As a self-described omnivore of all things cinema, Dr. Richardson loves hearing new ideas about film.

“One of the wonderful things about FLEFF,” he told me, “is that it’s accessible to people with varying degrees of interest and backgrounds. They bring in perspectives that are really new and sometimes really challenging to the normal academic discourse about cinema.”

Festivals turn cinema into a public conversation. 

That is what makes talkbacks so exciting, especially since they will be able to last longer with FLEFF’s virtual format.

Since Dr. Richardson is a festival veteran, I asked him for advice regarding how to manage a film festival.

Virtual festivals offer more flexibility. As a student, I can easily fit in Eventive screenings between my classes.

To him, however, one of the best parts about a festival “is the experience of watching one film after another, seeing connections and just having the film sort of wash over you.”

He recommends designating specific blocks of time as “festival time” in order to fully immerse.

As this year’s festival is just around the corner, this is certainly something to keep in mind.

We ended the conversation by looking to the future. Dr. Richardson is launching a new Screen Cultures program at Ithaca College in the fall.

I asked him what he hoped the relationship between FLEFF and Screen Cultures would be.

He hopes that the festival will help Screen Cultures students think in a different way.

In his eyes, festivals provide an opportunity to interrogate cinema in the public sphere. The ideas that come out of festivals are often radically different from what can be found in academia.

Festivals allow new ways of thinking to infiltrate the old.

Who knows what new ideas will be generated during FLEFF this year?

You can watch Charlatan during week 3 of FLEFF on Eventive. Be sure to register for the Zoom talkback with Michael Richardson, Sarka Gmiterkova, and Rachel Schaff on Saturday, April 10 at 1 pm.