Changing the Picture
Christian YosefClass of 2021 • Arlington, Virginia
- Phi Delta Theta fraternity
- Radio Free George, Black Student Union, Student Government Association
Christian, an international studies major with a minor in communication & media studies, wants to make films that counter anti-Black racism in Hollywood films. Popular movies often perpetrate racial stereotypes that reflect common prejudices in our society, he says, and movies about American slavery remain quite popular in the film academy.
“One of my goals is to talk about the Black identity, but not through a stereotypical lens,” Christian says. He points to the Fred Hampton biopic, Judas and the Black Messiah, the 2021 film that was nominated for five Oscars. Daniel Kaluuya won the Best Supporting Actor category for his portrayal of Hampton. The film was notable, too, as the first with an all-Black production team. But it’s not the movie Christian would have made.
“This was a movie about the person who betrayed and killed Fred Hampton,” Christian says. I’d rather make a movie with the focus on the man who stood up for poor whites, poor blacks, and poor Latinos. That’s the movie I want to make.”
Born in Ethiopia, Christian also wants to change the way Africa is depicted in film.
“Stories set on the African continent portray Africa as a terrible place, full of violence and poverty,” he says. “Hollywood directors are influenced by colonialist depictions of Africa as the dark continent. Blood Diamond, for instance, the 2006 film set during the Sierra Leone Civil War, juxtaposes a wild and brutal Africa with the stable and distanced influence of the Europeans in charge.”
Christian credits Alicia Kozma, the chair and assistant professor of communications & media studies, with helping him get into graduate school. “I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, and I was exposed to a lot of great films through her. When I was studying abroad in Turkey, I reached out to her and told her I was thinking about going to film school. She encouraged me to apply to USC.”
Christine Wade, professor of political science and international studies, was also in his corner, encouraging him to travel, helping him find the funding for internships, and supporting his application to USC.
He also believes his Explore America internship at The Apollo Theater in New York City helped bolster his application.
“I love that city. It was so fun. And not only did I learn how to podcast through my internship at the Apollo, I got to meet Spike Lee. He was having a block party for one of his movies. Do the Right Thing and Malcom X are two Spike Lee movies that I’ll watch again and again.”
Christian's Four Year Plan
Year 1Favorite ClassCMS 101: Introduction to Communication & Media Studies
“Alicia Kozma is such a great professor. I’ve always wanted to be a filmmaker, and that’s her specialty. She is one of the reasons I got into USC.”
Year 2Learn by Doing Interning at The Apollo Theater
“I am the second Washington College student to get an Explore America internship here. The Apollo was producing a series of oral histories with the Significant Elders of Harlem. My job was to create a 20-minute podcast from an hour-long interview, so I really learned how to edit.”
Year 3Best ExperienceStudy Abroad in Turkey
“I spent the fall semester of my junior year in Turkey, taking classes in anthropology, history of the byzantine empire, and economics. Best of all, I really got to travel. I saw so many beautiful places.”
Year 4Most RewardingThe Senior Capstone Project
“My senior thesis examines Hollywood’s negative depiction of Africa, including Blood Diamond.”