R Star

Nikolay Maslov ’08: The Curator

By Omar Shamout

If you’ve ever been to a film screening at UCR ARTSblock, Nikolay Maslov ’08 is the man who picked the movie.

And if you saw a foreign flick that left you scratching your head — that’s OK with him.

“Sometimes when people feel challenged by a film, that’s just as good,” said the 31-year-old. His job as curator of film and multimedia projects allows him to bring movies from across the world to ARTSblock’s 72-seat screening room — whether it’s director Thor Anderson’s documentary “Zapatista Moon,” about the role of women in the revolutionary social movement in Chiapas, Mexico, or an upcoming Ingmar Bergman retrospective this summer.

“The important part is that you’re left with some kind of reaction … a glimpse of what else is out there beyond narrative Hollywood film,” Maslov said.

He likes popcorn movies too — “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” screened on May 4, aka Star Wars Day, alongside a discussion with faculty from the Department of Physics and Astronomy about the science behind the movie.

Born in Moscow, Maslov and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1991. They came to Riverside four years later when his father, Professor Dmitri Maslov, accepted a faculty position in the Department of Biology.

Nikolay opted to attend UCR, where he majored in English and worked at the California Museum of Photography as a student. He returned in 2010 after receiving a master’s degree in cinema and media studies from USC, beginning his work with the film screening series as the projectionist.

His role at ARTSblock has expanded in other ways over the last eight years. Maslov oversees a summer filmmaking program for high school students called Off the Block.

Launched in 2009 as a direct response to the profound need for youth arts programming in the Riverside area, Off the Block was started by Jennifer Frias, ARTSblock’s director of education and academic relations; and Scott Hernandez, assistant professor of film, TV, and video at Riverside City College. What began as an informal, free, month-long film camp where high-schoolers could come and make whatever type of movies they wanted — vampire and zombie projects were popular at the time, according to Maslov — evolved by 2011 into a series of workshops focused on documentary cinema. Students receive instruction in all the necessary skills, from preproduction through postproduction, to make their own roughly 10-minute documentary short. Thanks to support from sponsors including the City of Riverside and the California Arts Council, Off the Block remains free of charge.

By the end of the four weeks, each of the 30 students leaves having produced a documentary on a subject of their own choosing. “We ask them to come up with a few ideas and to pitch those ideas,” Maslov said. “That’s part of the process of people learning how to constructively give feedback, which is as much a part of the workshop as anything else.”

Topics tackled by student projects include illegal immigration, transgender rights, and California’s wild burros, to name a few. Maslov and the other instructors also strive to give the attendees a firm footing in media literacy, prompting them to consider the role media plays in society.

“It’s really important for students to be able to think about things in their community and think about how media is constructed,” he said. “To know that they have a voice, and they are able to construct narratives of their own stories. It’s especially timely with everything that happened in Parkland, Florida. You have this really big push of students taking more narrative into their own hands.”