Syd Stanley, a familiar face to Atlanta's film community, can often be found at Videodrome, Atlanta's beloved movie rental store, or crafting captivating lineups at The Tara, the recently reopened historic theater on Cheshire Bridge. Yet, Stanley's deep love for cinema traces back to her early childhood, thanks to her father, an unconventional puppeteer with a unique sense of humor, who nurtured her affinity for movies.
"He did Muppets from Space (1999) as an assistant puppeteer, so when I was like very, very little, he was on a film set for a month...he came back and it was this big transformative thing. Then he would show me movies and break down how things worked in them," Stanley told AFPZine.
At the young and absorbent age of ten, movie magic was discussed and dissected in detail — from how shot lists worked to how puppet suits functioned.
As Stanley reached pre-teen and teenage years, she frequently used Tumblr, a "mycelial network" that promotes wholesome internet chaos and varying aesthetics, to take a deeper dive into the world of film.
"There's kind of this curation that goes into having a Tumblr blog that a lot of people don't necessarily understand," Stanley explained the draw to Tumblr. She would return again and again to Tumblr when seeking inspiration for fiction writing, and of course, to dig into other Tumblr users' film recommendations.
"I would go on to a blog that was all about screenshots of aesthetic films and I would discover a ton of stuff through that."
"My friends on Tumblr were posting about [the movie Stoker] constantly, so I decided to check it out. I just had never seen something like it. It was early on in my film education too; I had seen some really interesting stuff, but I had never seen something that was as contemporary as that was. It felt so meticulously made, and I found it so thought provoking. As a teenager, it really influenced me to find more stuff like that," Stanley reminisced.
Directed by Park Chan-wook, renowned for his works like Oldboy (2003) and The Handmaiden (2016), Stoker was released in 2013. The film revolves around India Stoker, a teenage girl, and her journey into her inner aggression.
"I had seen [Mia Wasikwoska] in Alice in Wonderland (2010), [I was] only a couple of years out from being a tween at that point, and I was like, 'Oh, I would watch anything she's in," Stanley described.
The Tara recently screened Stanley’s curation: Stoker alongside Raw (2017) and Thoroughbreds (2017) for Stanley's debut program entitled, "JUST AS A FLOWER DOES NOT CHOOSE ITS COLOR." The program is a mini-series ran from October 13th - November 2nd, and explored trauma, grief and transformation from the perspective of young women at odds with their families and with the world.
The through line of these films is also found in how each of the directors reveal a deep focus on the main character.
"I love a character study," added Stanley. "I love watching a movie and feeling swept away in what's happening between the characters. I feel like romances really do that, and I feel like at least with Stoker and Thoroughbreds, there is a romantic element to both of them."
Additionally, the characters in Stanley's chosen films are clearly portrayed as outsiders in their respective environments.
"I myself am autistic, and I felt the women in these films were very much like me," added Stanley. "You kind of see a disillusionment in these young women, but you're also made to empathize with these girls that wouldn't have necessarily been empathetic characters before then."
At the age of twenty-five, Syd Stanley holds a film degree from Georgia State University, an institution that provided the fertile ground for her passion for film theory and criticism to flourish. Her debut program stands as a compelling testament to her unique perspective and her astute ability to curate films that delve into the profound aspects of the human experience, particularly the stories of young women who find themselves on the fringes of society.
The influence of Tumblr in shaping her cinematic exploration underscores the boundless reach of the film world in the digital age. Stanley's personal journey, evolving from an enthusiastic film lover to a curator, is a living testament to the timeless and profound appeal of cinema, serving as both a source of entertainment and a conduit for deeply personal connections with stories and characters on the screen.
“I'm very online as a person and taking that offline is always very jarring,” stated Stanley. This profound and Tumblr-informed curation of character studies serves as a bridging between Stanley’s online roots and her place in day-to-day life. As she continues to evolve from an enthusiastic online cinephile into a skilled curator, Stanley’s digital to tangible journey underscore the enduring allure of cinema and her ability to forge personal connections beyond the screen.
What’s next for Stanley consists of more curations of deep cut films at Tara Theatre. “I want to keep learning about programming and curating; it's something I'm really interested in.”