Movies with Maya: Carver Conversations #1


Maya Kayastha with 3 of her favorite movies.

Khadijah Olufayo, Editor

Introducing a brand-new segment on Carver Catalyst. Our first guest is Maya Kayastha, certified movie expert.

If we’re embracing the honesty encouraged in this series, I wanted 11th-grade acting student Maya Kayastha (she/her) to be my first guest on Carver Conversations because of her enthusiasm for film. Most of my writing is prompted by my love for movies — I just can’t seem to stop talking about them. I assumed I could match her energy, but Maya’s passion and clarity when talking about film are sure to enthrall anyone.

The first movie Maya ever loved was Disney’s The Princess and Frog. She recalls the representation; it was “amazing” to see a Black princess fall in love with a Southeast Asian prince. Because she went to a white-dominated elementary school, it was important for her to see people that looked like her entwined in the childlike romance that Disney is known for.  Ever since watching as a child, she’s “loved animated movies”. When I asked her to describe her favorite movie in 5 words, she said “animated”, “Christmas”, “Halloween”, “Tim Burton”, and “music”, a clear allusion to Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas — a movie for which her eternal love is evident, after browsing her social media stories. 


For Maya, her comfort movies “are comfort movies because of the mindset she was in” when she first watched them. The sense of joy that she gets to re-experience when rewatching her favorites outweighs any other qualitative metric. She fondly remembers watching the Twilight Saga with her father and thinking the series was “just so cool”.  And there’s always something new to appreciate, because “people overlook cinematography.” She laments that “nowadays people just watch stuff that people are in — which is fine — ” but casual viewers often don’t recognize the true beauty in cinema. Movies like Christopher Nolan’s Inception have gorgeous shots and storylines that are obscured behind the big-name director. Media also helps Maya define her current period of life; the increasingly popular Gilmore Girls feels familiar to her because, “well, it’s junior year” and the portrayal of “fear of failure” is realistic. But she tends to avoid things that feel overfamiliar. She’s grateful for the representation in movies like Minari but she “wasn’t the biggest fan” because it “felt like I was in my home” and movies should be an escape from the mundanities of life. 


Most people watch movies as a passive pastime, but as one of the leaders of Carver’s Movie Club, Maya Kayastha is very active in her enthusiasm. Last year during virtual school, she heard about the club and started regularly attending meetings. When seniors left, looking for Maya quickly assumed a leadership position. Now on Mondays during Wildcat Time, you can find her in the Commons hosting a discussion on that week’s movie. Her advice for anyone interested in getting into movies? “Try a movie out of your comfort zone. Find things you like about it even if you hate it.” Once you know what you like, you can look for those aspects when finding other movies; there’s so much to love. When I asked her what movie everyone should see, she suggested movies by genre. For drama fans, The Pursuit of Happiness is a must-watch. “The tears I had; it was so moving”. On animation, The Princess and the Frog is “its own league”. She recommends 10 Things I Hate About You to all romance lovers, and The Dark Knight for all superhero movie fans. 

There are millions of movies available for rent, and on streaming services. Consider transforming casual entertainment into a lifelong passion.  You can connect with Maya on Instagram @mayakayastha or by walking the halls here at Carver Center.