West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story (1961)
West Side Story (1961)

Film Studies

Cinema Classics Seminar:
West Side Story

Saturday, June 10, 12:30 pm to 4:30 pm  
Instructor: Jacob Mazer, Director of Programs and Education, BMFI

Using an extraordinary fusion of dance, music, and drama, West Side Story reimagined Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet amid the conflict between white and Puerto Rican street gangs in gritty, mid-century Manhattan. Following the show’s success on Broadway, its 1961 screen adaptation won eleven Academy Awards and endures as one of the most iconic and influential musical films of all time. It continues to be pertinent and potent, as evidenced by its many revivals, pastiches, and reconfigurations, most recently by Steven Spielberg in his 2021 remake.

In this seminar, we’ll discuss the genesis of the film and the collaboration of its five principal contributors: director/choreographer Jerome Robbins, composer Leonard Bernstein, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, dramatist Arthur Laurents, and filmmaker Robert Wise, who helped bring the story from stage to screen. We’ll frame West Side Story in its moment, examining its engagement with issues of juvenile delinquency and racial tensions. We’ll pay special attention to Bernstein’s score, unpacking the themes and leitmotifs that develop, shade, and comment on the dramatic action. Together, we’ll consider the film’s artistic achievements and cultural legacy while deepening our appreciation for its rich cinematic experience.

Are you interested in “just” seeing this movie? Visit the public screening page here.

Cinema Classics Seminars offer an entertaining and engaging way to learn more about some of the true classics of world cinema. All students receive an introductory lecture before the film and a guided discussion after the film. In addition, those in attendance receive a ticket to see it on the big screen, as well as popcorn and a drink. Please note: the screening associated with this seminar will be open to the public, as well.

If you are unable to attend this seminar on site, you can rent and stream it in our Remote Classroom beginning a week after the event date.

Please email BMFI Programs and Education Coordinator Jill Malcolm with any questions.


Course Information

$25 for members, $35 for non-members


  • Saturday, June 10 · 12:30 pm

Make your donation today!



cover of BMFI's quarterly magazine, Projections, issue 65

March – May 2023


Accessibility at BMFI

Health and Safety

Support our Sponsors

20–21 Annual Report