Take Five with Cassius Michael Kim ’02



Cassius Michael Kim ’02 is a filmmaker, photographer and journalist. He helped create The Wonder List with Bill Weir for CNN — a documentary series that ran for three seasons and spanned 20 episodes. The show focused on change issues around the world, ranging from rising waters along the Nile Delta in Egypt to the conflict between development and cultural exploitation in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. Kim is currently in development on his first feature film, Broken Nights. He often presents his work on Instagram (@cassiusMK).

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I remember walking up Broadway on that first day of school and feeling this immediate sense of being home, even though I’d never previously set foot in New York. Although I grew up in Seoul, I sulked my way through my teenage years in a small town in rural California. Coming to NYC immediately brought about a sense of empowerment and acceptance that I’d been missing in a more homogenous environment.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

There was no air conditioning in Carman, which was an alien concept to my naive 17-year-old self. More importantly, I was struck by the diversity of the people on my floor, in the building and on campus. It seemed to me that it was the platonic ideal of American multiculturalism that I’d only imagined and read about.

What class do you most remember and why?

I took a class my senior year called “The Warfare Between Science and Religion,” with Philip Kitcher. I immediately regretted not having taken a philosophy class sooner. I’d grown up atheist and the topic of the class was one I’d always felt passionate about, but was challenged to examine more rigorously by Professor Kitcher. It opened my eyes to philosophers I’d never studied and really forced me to examine both perspectives of an issue — even if I entered with preconceived notions about what was right and wrong. I think the analytical skills I learned in that class are the ones I return to most often in my daily life.

I also took a film class on Martin Scorsese that was a short discussion followed by screenings of his films. That class was amazing, for obvious reasons.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

Many people say “the steps of Low Library,” and with good reason. It was the jumping off point for so many idyllic afternoons and the social epicenter on campus — especially once the weather turned from obnoxiously cold to vaguely warm. It became increasingly difficult in the spring to go to your classes on that side of campus because every time you passed by, groups of friends would shout at you to come hang out and enjoy the sun (and beers). Two memories stand out: an epic bagel fight on the last night of school, freshman year. A few of us were gifted with giant bags full of stale bagels from Columbia Hot Bagels, and what started as a funny moment escalated quickly into bagel dodgeball, drawing in every soul that was still awake and not completely ready to leave campus after that first year. The other was seeing Outkast in their prime during the spring concert, junior year. Being surrounded by all of your classmates, united in rocking out to the same beat and just being supremely happy to be alive. It was a beautiful day.

I want to throw a special shout-out to the grill cooks at JJ’s Place. Those guys made getting a late-night snack more fun than it had any right to be.


Kim filming on Champion Island in the Galapagos.


What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

I wish I’d taken more classes, gone to more classes and pushed myself outside my comfort zone more than I did. It’s difficult to realize at that age that this is your best opportunity to soak up as much knowledge as possible, with no other responsibilities. Well, maybe some people realized it, but I’m not sure I fully did. Even with that said, my years at Columbia were some of the best of my life.