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Spring 2019

FSCP 81000/ Film Theory: Documenting the Self: Performance in Nonfiction Media, [3 credits]. Crosslisted w/ THEA 81600 and MALS 78500, Wednesdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm
Instructor: Edward Miller

This seminar examines theories of nonfiction media and performances of the self. We begin by looking at depictions of the self in cinéma vérité and direct cinema in the 1960s. Filmmakers such as D.A. Pennebaker, the Maysles Brothers, and Fred Wiseman eliminated the artifice of voice-over, interviews, archival footage, and incidental music and made use of new lightweight equipment to create a new mode of documentary. They were especially drawn to capturing backstage views of rock stars (such as Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie) as well as gaining access to interactions of ordinary people in extraordinary situations (such as in mental institutions, on the road selling bibles, working in political campaigns). In their attempt at recording life as it occurs, an unintended consequence emerged as an aspect of these films--theatricality. This theatricality arises not from the staging of situations per se, but in the freedom the filmmaker gives subjects to act out and to pretend as if the filmmaker was not there. Indeed this contradiction generates riveting performances of self as the presence of the camera motivates and frames conscious and unconscious techniques of playing a role.

The course traces a selective history of nonfiction film and television since 1960, starting with the assembling of Parisians in Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch's Chronicle of a Summer (1961). We distinguish the strategies of directors who represent the "other" in films like the Maysles Brothers' Grey Gardens (1975) and Shirley Jackson's Portrait of Jason (1967) with the tactics of mediatized self-portraiture utilized by feminist artists such as Carolee Schneeman, Martha Rosler, Joan Jonas, and Cindy Sherman. We pay attention to on-screen performances of gender and race due to the influence of identity politics on many of the key nonfiction works of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Marlon Rigg's Tongues Untied (1989), Isaac Julien's Looking for Langston (1989), and Jennie Livingston's Paris is Burning (1990). Finally, we assess the impact of groundbreaking reality television like An American Family (1971) that features the flamboyant Lance Loud and the third season of The Real World (1993) that stars the AIDS activist Pedro Zamora to investigate the connections and disconnections between these antecedents and contemporary reality television. This course integrates film, media, and performance theory and enlists an interdisciplinary approach to understand the emphasis upon declarations--and repudiations--of self in contemporary media culture.

FSCP 81000/ History of Cinema III: The Digital Age, 1980-2020 [3 credits].  Crosslisted w/ THEA 81500,Thursday, 11:45am-2:45pm
Instructor: Marc Dolan
**For this semester only, this course will substitute for Film History I or Film History II required for the Certificate)

This is a course in the most recent era of international cinema, an age in which the digital tools, digital media, and digital communication of the contemporary world have transformed nearly every aspect of filmmaking—right down to making the word “film” increasingly obsolete. 

We will begin with magnetic tape, the forerunner of digital media in so many regards, from its institutional adoption in midcentury broadcasting and the increasing use of video assist on film sets to the surprisingly slow adoption of videotape as an alternative means for cinematic consumption and the eventual, symbolic shift from home movies to home video.  (Steven Soderbergh’s Sex Lies and Videotape [1989] will serve as an emblematic instance in this regard.)

We will then consider the first significant contribution of computers to film: computer-generated special effects.  We will probably trace this trend a few decades back to its (retrospectively) crude beginnings in the mostly practical effects of 2001 and Star Wars but we will mostly focus on the leap forward made in such middle-period James Cameron films as The Abyss (1989) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), which are interesting, not just in terms of the creation of visual worlds and creatures, but in terms of how interacting with those new creations subtly transformed the work of actors and cinematographers in turn.

The last phase of the course will consider how the full embrace of digital cinematography has transformed both action heroes (Skyfall (2012]) and less commonly represented members of society (Tangerine [2015]).  We will conclude our common viewing with Ang Lee’s revolutionary Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016), which is simultaneously intimate and epic, using the new technology to stretch our concept of how the affective experience of a story’s characters may be rendered in cinema.

Throughout the course, technological changes will be the premises of our discussions, never their conclusions.  Our focus will be on how new tools and techniques have affected preexisting methods of film production, distribution, and consumption, as such other innovations as synchronized sound, color, variations in aspect ratio, etc. have done in previous eras. 

Readings will be assigned from Paul Haggis, Digital Filmmaking [rev ed], Michael Curtin, Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television, and Andre Gaudreault’s The Kinematic Turn: Film in the Digital Era and Its Ten Problems, as well as miscellaneous essays.

Students will be expected to prepare an annotated bibliography, 15-to-20-minute presentation, and a 5000-word essay on a topic related to this important transition in global cinema.

FSCP 81000/ Cinemas of the Global South [3 credits]. Crosslisted with COMP LIT 85500, Monday, 2:00pm-6:00pm
Room C-419
Instructor: Jerry Carlson

In recent decades cultural theorists have embraced the concept of the Global South as a way of exploring the many uneven relations of resources, development, and governance that exist between the wealthy industrial nations and their clients, external and internal. Since World War II a considerable body of narrative film has been created that explores these conditions while issuing from the Global South itself.
This course maps and explores the many cinemas of the Global South that have been created in the Americas.

Close readings of films will be combined with historical, cultural, and theoretical texts
The first half of the course will emphasize foundational works from the 1960s and 1970s: Cuban revolutionary cinema (i.e. Memories of Underdevelopment); Brazilian Cine Novo (i.e. How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman); independent African-American films (i.e. Killer of Sheep); and others.

The second half of the course will emphasize the emergent cinemas of recent decades. This may include such films as Guarani (Argentina/Paraguay), City of Men (Brazil), Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia), Sand Dollars (Dominican Republic), Ixcanul (Guatemala), Daughters of the Dust (USA) and Smoke Signals (USA) and Sugar (USA / Dominican Republic).

Critical texts may include writings by filmmakers such as Julio Garcia Espinosa, Glauber Rocha, and Julie Dash as well as theory by Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Epistemologies of the South), Walter Mignolo (Local Histories / Global Designs), Robert Stam & Ella Shohat (Unthinking Eurocentrism), and Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (Kafka: Toward a Minor Literature), among others.


FSCP 81000/ Television without Borders: Transnational Perspectives on Prestige Serial Drama. Cross-listed w/ 85000,  (2-4 credits for Comp Lit; 3 credits for Film Studies)
Tuesday, 6:30pm-10:00pm
Instructor: Giancarlo Lombardi

Television has enjoyed a creative resurgence in the US, virtually depleting and replacing the once thriving independent film industry. At the same time, the advent of digital platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime has facilitated the local distribution of foreign serial drama, granting access to productions that were once imagined as strictly bound to a national target of viewers. In Europe, the merger of BSkyB, Sky Italia, and Sky Deutschland has led to the restructuring of a media conglomerate that promoted the simultaneous airing of prestige European serial drama across several countries, including the US. The global launch of Netflix has not only led to increasing worldwide distribution of American serial drama, but also to the company’s growing investment in the creation of local original series, to be distributed simultaneously all over the world.

This course proposes a comparative approach to television drama, through the specific study of prestige serial drama, namely TV series usually connoted by high production values, naturalistic performance style, narrative complexity, stylistic integrity, and committed viewer engagement.  Our investigation will be guided by the narratological concerns raised by Jason Mittell in Complex Television, and inflected by the application of theoretical tenets until now largely associated with the study of comparative literature. While maintaining its firm footing in the specific critical tools associated to the study of television, this course grafts onto the study of television questions raised in Pascale Casanova’s World Republic of Letters, investigating serial drama in its global positioning and in its nationalistic investments, identifying its national aesthetics and its political dependencies, its loci of assimilation and its forms of rebellion against dominant paradigms dictated by Hollywood. Pierre Bourdieu’s understanding of power and capital in his study of sites of force(s) and struggle(s) in the field of cultural production, Benedict Anderson’s definition of imagined communities, and Arjun Appadurai’s investigation of imagination as social force in identity creation will all contribute to our reading of a diverse group of television series, analyzed through questions of genre, themes, and format. For the purpose of limiting what is already an incredibly vast field of inquiry, comedies will not be taken into consideration.

Series discussed in this course will include Cleverman (Australia), 13 Commandments and Public Enemy (Belgium),  Pure (Canada), 1864, The Rain, and Ride Upon the Storm (Denmark), Les Revenants and Churchmen (France), Dark (Germany), Srugim and Fauda (Israel), Gomorra, Suburra, The Thirteenth Apostle, and The Miracle (Italy), The Young Pope (Italy-US), Top of the Lake (New Zealand), Mammon (Norway), Night and Day (Spain), Jördskott (Sweden), Broken, Fortitude, and The State (UK), The Handmaid’s Tale, True Detective, The Sinner, Westworld, American Gods, Preacher, The Path, The Leftovers (US)

FSCP 81000/ Le cinéma moderne: fragments d'une histoire, 2 or 4 credits
Cross-listed with FREN 70700
Tuesday, 6:30pm-10:00pm
Instructor: Sam Di Iorio

The word ‘modern’ designates slippery terrain in postwar French cinema. Some define it in reference to historical events, making cinematic modernity indivisible from the cataclysm of the Second World War, the global unrest of the 1950s and 60s, or the advent of post-industrial society. Others foreground the word’s aesthetic dimensions, using the phrase cinéma moderne to evoke formal innovations that were variously associated with Neorealism, the New Wave, or Michelangelo Antonioni's L’avventura. Our course is situated at the juncture of these diverging paths. In order to examine how competing notions of the modern emerge in French film and French film criticism between 1945 and 1968, we will look to history as well as aesthetics, and trace this contested term’s connection to postwar debates about a cinematic avant-garde, to the reinvention of montage in French documentary, to the rehabilitation of aesthetic classicism in the 1950s, and to the international turn towards the New Cinemas of the 1960s.
Our weekly 6:30-10:00PM sessions will include a film screening as well as discussion. Please note that this course is offered in French: all readings will be in French and some films will not be subtitled. Films will include shorts and features by Roberto Rossellini, Nicole Vedrès, Alain Resnais, Charles Chaplin, Jean Rouch, Raoul Walsh, François Truffaut, Carole Roussopoulos, Jean-Luc Godard, Philippe Garrel, and Shirley Clarke. Readings will include essays by André Bazin, Claude Edmonde-Magny, Serge Daney, Sylvie Lindeperg, Antoine de Baecque, Nicole Brenez, Éric Rohmer, Hélène Fleckinger, and Roland Barthes.

FSCP 81000/ The Cinemas of Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro, 3 credits
Cross-listed with SPAN 87200

Wednesdays, 4:15pm-6:15pm
Instructor: Paul Julian Smith

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 twenty features in his home country and language; while del Toro, with just ten films, has made for himself a nomadic career in two languages and three countries. 

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.

Grading is by written exam (25%), student oral participation and presentation (25%) and final paper (50%). 


MALS 71300/ Film, Fashion, Cities and Cultural Heritage, x credits
Thursdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm
Instructor: Eugenia Paulicelli
Fashion and Film share a highly interactive quality. As two of the most well=-known and widespread commercial industries to grow out of modernity, cinema and fashion have always had a synergetic relationship insofar as both use the technology of the camera and that of the body and performance. Costume is integral both to the actor’s performance and to the cinematic rendition of visual narratives and experience. Since the birth of cinema in the late nineteenth century, the film scene has constituted a virtual shopping window for clothes, exhibiting and making desirable the newest fashions and goods available at department stores. Film costumes have not just borrowed from fashion and haute couture, but have also inspired the production of the newest fashion. Costumes in cinema have been used as narrative tools for telling stories on screen that emphasize character identity and development while also attracting a larger audience. More recently, the digital genre of “fashion film” has become a widespread advertising and storytelling tool for fashion luxury brands such as Ferragamo, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci, among others. The course will be structured in four sections that will explore in depth the historical context of the interaction of film/fashion/costume from the silent era up to the present. Some rare American, Italian, and French films will be shown from the 1920s. The course will also include   Hollywood films from the 1930s; films from the 1950s and 1960s; and contemporary production in film, fashion, music video and screen media.  The role of women as audience, actors, characters and designers as well as gender representation will be studied as will race, queer and ethnic identities. Many actors, and performers, for instance, were immigrants from Europe and established a high profile in the Hollywood industry from the beginning of the 20th century. Fashion and film are multibillion industries that are nourished by immaterial narratives and emotions and as such play a pivotal role in attracting tourism, business and culture. This is particularly crucial in a global city such as NYC where the creative industries thrive. The course will include guest speakers and visits in NY based sites of studio and costume archives and a “Practice Lab” with a NY based designer.

IDS 81630: Mediating Race: Technology, Performance, Politics, and Aesthetics in Popular Culture, Wednesday, 2:00pm-4:00pm, Room TBA, 3 credits, Professor Cathy N. Davidson and Professor Racquel Gates
Futures Initiative course – (Course Number 57419)
Crosslisted with ASCP 81500

What does it mean to be “cool,” to be “fierce,” or to “slay”? This course focuses on technologies, techniques, performance, and style (including fashion) as components contributing to our ideas, representations, conventions, and stereotypes of race. More specifically, this course asks how cinematic and media aesthetics have contributed to how we identify and “read” blackness in popular media. Rather than treat film, television, and new media as straightforward reflections of social realities, this course will analyze how the media established, and continues to shape, our understandings of what blackness “looks” like. This course asks how popular culture has created the aesthetic vocabulary for how media consumers “read” blackness in all of its various incarnations.
This is an ideal course for anyone in the humanities and social sciences, for those interested in traditional and new media, and for anyone looking for sophisticated, critical, and original approaches to issues of race, racism, and representation in American popular culture.  In addition, the course will be using a number of active learning pedagogical techniques that will both make this a lively “workshop” of ideas to which every student will contribute and will offer anyone who is teaching, at any level, a new set of methods, activities, and ideas about active learning and the teaching of controversial, difficult, and complicated subject matter.

Fall 2018

FSCP 81000/ Film History II: Visual Historiography, [3 credits], Cross-listed with MALS 77300 and THEA 71600
Tuesday, 11:45am-3:45pm (C419)
Instructor: Michael Gillespie
This class engages with how cinema complicates, renders, and critiques the idea of history. In this way, this class will examine how cinema narrativizes or enacts a writing of history in the terms of ‘visual historiography.’ If historiography is the study of the writing of history, then this class will consider the cinematic writing of history with attention to narrativity, the purpose of historical narratives, and the significant values and meanings attributed to history. Furthermore, the class will focus on the emplotment of history by the visual and the significant epistemological questions about the shared impulse of narrativity between history and film as visual art. We will explore questions of truth and authenticity, temporality, the production of historical knowledge, memory and remembrance, trauma, and power. Our focus will take a critically disobedient approach in the sense that we will treat the films as historiographic interventions while also avoiding the fidelity concerns that most often shadow discussion of film and history. Thus, these films will be treated as distinct acts of visual historiography that consequentially confound and enliven our understanding of history and the critical capacities of visual art.
FSCP 81000/ Genre and Global Conflict, [3 credits], Cross-listed with THEA 81500 and MALS 78500
Wednesday, 4:15pm-8:15pm (C-419)
Instructor: Ria Banerjee

This course will examine the interaction between a film’s employment of genre and the conflicts it depicts, defined broadly and globally. We will begin with the opening premise that genre fundamentally affects subject matter, so any analysis of film involves attention to the interpellation of form and content. War, an enormity of violence, seems to ask for “serious” filmic forms such as the documentary or drama; what happens, then, when it appears in forms that appear on the surface to be less serious, frivolous even?

This redefinition of the parameters of a “war film” means that we will begin the course with a rigorous discussion of what the term means to us as a class using a classic of the genre such as Apocalypse Now. We will then consider the way that other genres have deployed conflicts: for instance, the American Civil War in the classic Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the fantasy thriller Pan’s Labyrinth set in Franco’s Spain. World War II will inevitably form a bulk of our investigations. We will range from documentary film with a turbulent reception history like Night and Fog, to the depiction of Vichy France in the romance Casablanca, and World War II intrigue in The Third Man. Class discussions will also cluster around the Partition of India in 1947, a displacement of fourteen million people that is considered one of the bloodiest recent upheavals. We will discuss the ways that it is invoked in big budget Bollywood musicals like Earth versus in Ritwick Ghatak’s low budget indie trilogy from the 1960s. Can comedy accommodate serious conflicts? We will approach this question by discussing the Crusades and holy war in light of the self conscious silly-serious medievalism of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Other genres we might consider include historical romances (Gladiator), horror/sci-fi (District 9), and animation (Waltz with Bashir), keeping an eye on the different conflicts they reference. Television has contributed its own powerful note to this question of genre; time permitting, we will consider treatments of conflict in The Twilight Zone and Prisoners of War (Hatufim), among others.

Since we will range widely in both genres we consider and the conflicts shown on film, students will be asked to present on one conflict of their choice from the syllabus; they will also contribute weekly to blog posts and class discussions. Final paper of 15-20 pages with view to publication in a suitable academic forum.
FSCP 81000/ Aesthetics of Film, [3 credits], Sponsored by MALS (MALS 77100)
Tuesdays, 4:15pm-8:15pm (C-419)
Instructor: Leah Anderst

Film Aesthetics provides students with the basic skills necessary to read and analyze the formal and stylistic components of film, both historical and contemporary. This course introduces the student to various genre of narrative cinema and categories of film (for example, silent comedy, melodrama, film noir, documentary, animation, and experimental, among others) produced in the United States and internationally. As students survey the work of important film theorists and apply it to films screened in class, they will master the fundamental vocabulary of film analysis and will learn to recognize the techniques and conventions that structure the cinematic experience – narrative systems, mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, sound, genre – in order to understand how these various components combine to yield film form and have developed over the history of the form.

Each student will lead discussion on one of our weekly readings and write two formal papers: a scene analysis essay due around the midterm point, and a longer seminar paper at the end of the semester on a topic of their choosing related to our course screenings, readings, or topics. This second paper will require a project proposal as well as an annotated bibliography of research sources. Readings for the course will be drawn heavily from Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson (11th edition) as well as additional articles provided. 

FSCP 81000/ Islam, Media, and Politics in the Middle East [3 credits], Sponsored by MAMES (MES 74900)
Wednesdays, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Room 6114
Instructor: Bilge Yesil

This course examines politics, religion and culture in the Middle East through the lens of media forms and practices. It analyzes how Middle Eastern media shape (and are shaped by) global cultural flows and national and inter-regional politics. Topics include but are not limited to political activism and democratization; consumerism and modernity; youth, media and civic participation; women, media use and female empowerment. Taking into consideration the heterogeneity of media and political systems across the region, the course pays special attention to the articulation of national identity, modernization and Islam in various countries. The course also covers Islamophobia in the United States and Europe, and examines its historical roots, its connections with colonialism and Orientalism, and media representations of Arabs and Muslims in Western media. Special attention is paid to September 11 and the War on Terror, and the “migrant crisis” in Europe and rise of right-wing nationalism. The course is based on mini lectures, class discussions and presentations, occasional guest speakers and screenings (documentaries, films, reality TV shows, music videos, etc.). Students do not need to have prior knowledge of media history, theories or methods.