Maria Lopez, manager of film programs at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

What first interested you in film?

I grew up in a big family. My dad, as a cost-effective way to keep us entertained, would take us to this local mom-and-pop video rental store close to our house every Friday. He would let us choose as many movies as we wanted.

I started out just watching kids’ movies. Eventually, I got tired of watching the same animated movies, ventured off, and discovered the foreign film section. Then, the classic film section. I just felt like watching as many movies as I could.

In Chicago, I was very involved in the film scene. I started off as a volunteer, and then became an intern, and eventually got hired as a film programmer at the Chicago Latino Film Festival. 

I am a young Latina. Growing up, I never really saw myself represented in big Hollywood movies and television. 

One of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is giving people the opportunity to see themselves represented on screen. 

In your time at NCMA so far, what are you most proud of accomplishing? 

I started January 2020, the pandemic hit, and I didn’t get a chance to really have any in-person screenings. I was forced to come up with virtual film programming, which at first was daunting to me. How do you replicate the experience of watching the movie in a theater and turn it virtual?

I realized that one of my favorite things to do after watching a film is talk about them. 

This brought on the idea of the NCMA Film Club, which was essentially a discussion on Zoom of a particular film that I chose every month. 

Can you tell me a bit more about your film selection process?

I have a very diverse taste in movies. I watch all genres, all languages. I usually start off with a long list of films that I’d like to show, and then narrow it down to six or seven that I can program each season.

I wish I could share all of my favorite films. What helps me is coming up with a theme. This past fall season the theme was “contemporary coming-of-age films.” I was trying to make it as diverse as possible and tell as many stories from diverse perspectives as I could, and I’m very proud of what I came up with.

When programming [the outdoor film series this summer], I was thinking about showing nostalgic movies that would bring people joy, remind them of better times—pre-pandemic times. 

The theme for our winter film series is “artists.” I think it’s fitting since we are a museum; I want to share the work that these artists have done and introduce them to people that may not have heard of them. 

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