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FALL 2015

FSCP 81000 – Film History I,  Professor Marc Dolan, Thursday, 11:45am-2:45pm, Room C-419, 3 credits  [28608] Cross listed with  THEA 71500, ART 79500 & MALS 77200

This is a course in the history and historiography of the silent cinema, from the zoopraxiscope experiments of Eadweard Muybridge to the reluctant conversion of industries, artists, and audiences to fully synchronized sound.  Much of the course will explore how the foundations of modern filmmaking evolved out of the rudimentary work of the earliest filmmakers--how the Edison and Lumiere “actuality” films led to the explicitly labeled “documentary,” the cinematic tricks of Georges Melies to the fantastic action/adventure film, the early melodramas of Porter, Guy-Blache, and Griffith to the so-called “classical” narrative style, etc. 

However, the course will not employ an exclusively auteurist approach.  We will also consider the developments of specific national film industries, particular genres, and the points of intersection between those two sets of developments (e.g., American slapstick, Italian historical epics, Swedish naturalism, German expressionism, Soviet montage).  Moreover, the play between identifiable national cinemas and the syncretic medium of international cinema will be a central theme of the course, especially since the idea of film as a potentially universal language was one of the most powerful dreams of the silent era.

Students will view on reserve and in class individual examples of all these types of films. Three classes during the term will be devoted to reconstructed programs (including short subjects, newsreels, cartoons, etc.) of what a typical audience might have seen when they went to the movies in 1907, 1912, and 1927. Readings will primarily be drawn from David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s Film History: An Introduction and Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen’s anthology Film Theory and Criticism, but other readings will be put on reserve to reflect the specific interests of registered students. 

Individual pre-class viewing assignments will be varied some weeks depending on students’ more focused areas of interest.  All students will conclude the semester with a final presentation and paper that goes beyond our weekly assignments to enlarge our collective understanding of the first third of a century of global cinema.

FSCP 81000 - Documentary/Non-Fiction Film, Professor Noah Tsika, Monday, 4:15-8:15pm, Room C-419, 3 credits [28609] Cross listed with ART 89600 & THEA 81500

This course explores the transnational development of documentary and its social and institutional articulation as (often simultaneously) an art form, a pedagogical tool, a therapeutic discourse, and a vehicle for public policy; it embraces investigations of a variety of national contexts, raising the following questions: How, over the past 100 years, have documentaries managed to balance political and artistic aspirations? How have their makers sought to position themselves in relation to social knowledge, artistic endeavor, and humanist activism? How might social and cultural theory help us to understand the operations of documentary in different national contexts and at various historical moments? Threaded throughout this course are the interrelated matters of reenactment, narrative staging, and outright fabrication, and the question of what these devices “do” to documentary.

The distinct phases of this course include but are not limited to the following: documentary modernism in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Soviet Union; state documentary in the US, UK, and Canada; World War II training films and the US military's theories of documentary pedagogy; pre- and post-independence West African military documentaries; state documentary in Senegal and Nigeria; colonial and anti-colonial documentary ethnography in Guinea, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Mali; feminist documentary in Senegal and Togo; anti-state documentary in Japan and the United States; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer documentary in the US; various forms of documentary reenactment (from sociological reenactment to historical and counter-historical reenactment); documentary remakes; and the docudrama. Each of these phases will involve the study of documentary definitions of the state, its policies, and its peoples.


CANCELLED FSCP81000 – Law & Film: Childhood, Pornography, Death,  Professors Amy Herzog & Joe Rollins, Tuesday, 11:45am-3:45pm, Room C-419, 3 credits  [28610] Cross listed with PSC 82001

In this seminar we will examine the relationship between law and moving-image media with an emphasis on race, gender, and sexuality as they are represented across three cultural locations:  childhood, pornography, and death. Our inquiry will emphasize the ways that law is represented on film; the ways regulations have intervened in the production, distribution, and consumption of media; as well as the ways that films structure our conceptions of law and legal actors. 

During the first section of the semester we will explore representations of judges, juries, lawyers, legal education, and political activism as well as the place of such concepts as fairness, equality, morality, and justice as they are represented in popular culture.  We will then turn our attention to the ways that legal conflicts about gender, sexuality, and the family are represented in both law and popular culture, paying particular attention to the points of intersection and slippage between these two discursive realms. The final section of the course will approach death and cinema through several examples: controversies surrounding purported snuff films, and in the re-animated form of the zombie film.

FSCP 81000 - Four American Directors:  Huston, Scorsese, Jarmusch, Soderbergh, Professor William Boddy, Wednesday, 11:45am-3:15pm, Room C-419, 3 credits [28698] Cross listed with THEA 81500

This course explores issues of authorship, genre, adaptation, and film and social history through the scrutiny of selected feature films by four diverse and distinctive American directors:  John Huston, Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, and Steven Soderbergh.  Collectively, their careers span a half-century of filmmaking and suggest the historical possibilities for personal expression within and beyond traditional Hollywood genres and industry structures.  From James Agee’s 1950 profile of John Huston as “The Undirectable Director” through Steven Soderburgh’s elegiac “State of Cinema” speech at the 2013 San Francisco Film Festival, the shifting notions of creative independence as seen through the evolving critical reputations of these four filmmakers can illuminate wider changes in American film criticism and culture. 

Course requirements include weekly response journals, a 5-page critical essay, and a 15-page research paper.  No previous course experience in film studies is required, and students from a variety of academic backgrounds are welcome.  Course outline and list of recommended readings available in the Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).


SPAN 887200 - The Cinemas of Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro [28732] Wednesday, 4:15-6:15pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Paul Julian Smith   COURSE IS OPEN TO PH.D. STUDENTS ONLY

This course examines the works of contemporary Spain and Mexico's most successful filmmakers, critically and commercially. These two figures might appear to be very different and, indeed, have formally collaborated only when Almodóvar produced del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, shot and set in Spain. Although he has greater transnational projection than perhaps any other European filmmaker, Almodóvar has filmed all seventeen features in his home country and language; while del Toro, with just eight films, has made for himself a nomadic career in two languages and three countries. Yet it can be argued that the pair has a great deal in common.

For example, both directors have embraced transmedia, going beyond the feature film. Almodóvar's production company has expanded into television and theater; del Toro is a respected creator in the fields of the comic book and novel. Their internet presence is also substantial.

The aims of the course are industrial, critical, and theoretical. First, Almodóvar is placed in the context of audiovisual production in Spain, while del Toro (as director and producer) is contextualized within the 'golden triangle' of Mexico, Europe, and the US. Second, both cineastes are interrogated for signs of auteurship (a consistent aesthetic and media image), sharing as they do a self-fashioning that takes place, unusually, within the confines of genre cinema (comedy/melodrama and fantasy/horror, respectively). Finally, the course explores how English-language critics have assimilated these two Spanish-speaking directors to debates in Anglo-American film studies that draw on psychoanalysis, feminism, queer theory, and the transnational.

Recommended, but not required, is the book Desire Unlimited: The Cinema of Pedro Almodóvar (2nd edition, 2000), written by the instructor (on reserve at GC library). A bibliography in Spanish can also be provided on request. Grading is by written exam (25%), student oral participation and presentation (25%) and final paper (50%).

See Also:

C L. 85500 – Classical Chinese Officialdom: Novels and Their Contemporary Screen Reincarnations [28681] Thursday, 4:15pm-6:15pm,  4 credits, Prof. Ying Zhu

MES 76900– Egyptian Cinema [28798] Hunter College, Monday/Thursday, 2:45-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Christopher Stone