Actual Wisdom: Richard Peña

Written by

Richard Peña

In today’s installment of Actual Wisdom, meet film professor Richard Peña. Besides teaching at Columbia, he is Program Director of the Film Society at Lincoln Center and Director at the New York Film Festival (see OldBwog’s first and second interviews about that, from before we even knew what theory was). It’s fair to say that he is a BFD in the world of film—and a family man too!

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: I’m the husband of a wonderful woman, the father of three terrific children, and a scholar/promoter of international cinema.

Your claim to fame: I think it’s fair to say that I have been among the most active and best-known proponents of understanding and appreciating international cinema in a very broad sense of that term.

What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience? Writing my Senior Thesis was the single best experience I had in college.

What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard? “My boyfriend came for a visit, and I was just too wasted from sex.”

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’d never give up oral sex.

Back in my day… I wasn’t a Columbia undergraduate, but since I began teaching in 1989 I think political consciousness has returned in a mainly positive way.

Three things you learned at Columbia: These would be as a professor: 1) Listen to students; 2) Listen to colleagues; 3) Everybody basically wants to either make or teach film.

What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general? Try to experience the world as others do.

Image via

Tags: , ,


  1. Anonymous  

    Finally a professor who answers the oral sex/cheese question like a beast

  2. Anonymous

    i LOVE richard pena. smartest guy ever

  3. CC'11

    I loved Richard! Not only a great professor (and essentially a walking encyclopedia) but has basically changed the way we see cinema. He was the first to introduce audiences to people like Pedro Almodovar, Mike Leigh, Lars Von Trier, and many many more

  4. Can we get  

    ..Deantini? And maybe Khalidi?

  5. YES  

    A professor who answered this without artifice, and without trying to sound like Intelligence Personified. Cool.

  6. Anonymous

    back in the day, Richard was an awesome Westside Soccer Ref too. A really fine man.

  7. and  

    MOST DEFINITELY MATT PALMER. that would be so entertaining. and wise. and awkward.

  8. @Bwog PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not  

    stop "Actual Wisdom" just because finals are ending!!!!

    Make this a permanent thing! There are way too many interesting professors here to only do 15 per year. We literally have hundreds of options, and this is such an awesome feature.

    <3 and happy break to you

© 2006-2015 Blue and White Publishing Inc.