Augie Bernstein’s voice rises with excitement. “What happens when you get cinema students in a room together? What happens when you have these meetings when we’re all just hanging out, talking about film, in a pre–professional setting?”
The College senior’s eyes shine behind dark frames. He looks to Elliot Wolf, a fellow College senior and co–president of Kinoki, Penn’s film senior society.
Augie answers his own question, exclaiming, “Agency is sparked! What I mean by that is: We are doing things in Kinoki that are made possible because we know we have a team of people behind us.”
If you haven’t yet heard of Kinoki, you’ve got an excuse. Just not for long. The senior society was formed only last year, but it’s quickly proven itself to be one of the most dynamic and exciting new ventures on campus.
Kinoki emerged as the brainchild of its six original members, including Augie, Elliot and Max Kurtzman C’15.
Elliot explains that he and fellow Cinema Studies students brainstormed “a bunch of different ways that seniors who were majoring in film or interested in the industry could come together and take on projects.” The group originally wanted to make a film, but ultimately decided to instead form a comprehensive cinematic society.
The name itself is derived from a theory that all Penn film students know well; Kinoki is the idea that the camera acts as some kind of eye, observing human nature.
“We wanted to create something that could last beyond our time here and contribute to the community in some way. We saw the void for film students,” Elliot elaborated.
While the group usually meets at Smokes’ for pizza and lively cinematic discussion, the real ambitions of Kinoki reach far beyond 40th Street.
“One of our goals is for ten years down the road [is] for there to be a Kinoki dinner in Los Angeles...where the pledge classes from the last ten years can all come together, sit down, have a meal together,” Elliot explains. “Hopefully at that dinner they’ll be catching up, but they’ll also be pitching projects to one another. And it will be an opportunity for all these people to work together… we’re basically looking to keep people in touch and keep people working together after leaving Penn.”
With Kinoki’s chemistry, it’s hard to imagine the group will struggle to keep in touch. Augie and Elliot share a palpable spark, a frenetic energy that propels them through their ideas and conversations rapidly—fast–forwarding from the emergence of Netflix to projects they’re excited to work on to movies they love in seconds.
With such enthusiasm for the project, it’s easy to see how Kinoki came together so naturally. But the co–presidents are quick to cite Kinoki’s thriving success to all 17 original members of the society, as well as their incoming class of juniors.
Max explains, “The reason Kinoki works so well is because we push each other to reach our goals in the film industry.”
Augie echoes Max's sentiments, elaborating, “Kinoki’s made up of people across a lot of different demographics and social scenes. That’s what’s so cool: it brings people together.” And while Augie, Max, and Elliot share a pledge class in Theos, the group is quite diverse, with nearly one–third of Kinoki unaffiliated with any Greek organization.
The “unbelievable group”— as Max describes it—is currently studying the TriBeca Film Festival and is planning a program in which they teach local elementary schools about media.
During our meeting, I exclaimed that the pair’s obvious passion for what they do is empowering to all humanities students at Penn.
To this, Elliot responded simply, “That’s how we feel at every Kinoki meeting. Empowered to do something.”