ARTH 290 - DOCUMENTARY FILM:
This course will explore a broad range of documentary films, which use different visual styles and cover a broad range of subject matter, from diverse critical perspectives—political, historical, structural, aesthetic, and ethical. This discussion-based course is structured thematically—around such topics as representations of the family, subjectivity and selfhood, crime and justice, sexuality, trauma, and war propaganda. We will view a wide variety of documentary styles—poetic, ethnographic, direct cinema, government sponsored, social advocacy, rockumentary, mockumentary, pseudo-documentary, and different hybrid forms. These styles and themes will be used as springboards to explore larger questions: What is the source of our fascination with the real? How can documentary evoke discourses of truth, realism and authenticity when the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction have become ever more fluid; when digital technology makes possible the absence of any camera or original referent from the “real” world; and when documentarians make use of strategies such as staging, re-enactments, discontinuous editing, or various poetic devices? What are the conventions of documentary film practice, that provide the necessary impression of “authenticity;” when and for what purposes have these conventions been challenged? What is the ethical responsibility of a filmmaker to his/her subjects who are, after all, not actors, but people going about the business of their lives? How can documentary filmmakers avoid victimizing, re-victimizing, stereotyping, romanticizing, patronizing or objectifying their subjects? Who is paying for the film and what effect/pressures might institutional sponsorship (or, for that matter, an institutional framework) exert? What sort of “voice” does the filmmaker assume—anonymous, first person, third person, institutional--and how do these voices, with their different levels of engagement, partiality, and authority affect our experience of the film? Film Studies, as an intellectual pursuit, provides us with many issues to interrogate—ones that exert a powerful pull on our cultural, political, social and individual lives. Through our study of the genre of documentary, we will investigate the central contentious epistemological question of the genre--its relationship to truth and “the real world.” Looking at documentary film will also give us an entry point through which to discuss other issues such as identity formation; the discourses of race, class and gender; the nature of power and its distribution; the investments of various types of institutions in media; the manipulation of form to make meaning; the multiple roles, interactions, and expectations of documentary’s subjects, makers and audiences. In order to understand better the complex nature of representation, we need to take into account how context, expectations, institutional supports, viewing communities, cultural frameworks, and historical and social forces (and their interaction) all contribute to the making of meaning in visual images.
COMM 401/ENG 395 -FILM THEORY
This course is designed to do a few different things at once. First, and most importantly, students will be introduced to a broad range of theories, both historical and contemporary, that animate our understanding of film. Second, we will engage with the debates that have surrounded these theoretical positions from the beginning. Third, and as an outgrowth of the first two goals, we will trace the history of film theory from the aesthetic theories of the first part of the 20th century, to the “grand theories” that defined the emergence of Film Studies as an academic discipline, to the more concretely located “middle-range” theorizing of the current moment. Finally, this course is designed to challenge students to engage in theorizing of their own: to apply what they have learned to specific problems in the ongoing quest to grapple with the question: What is film?
ASIA 250 - CHINA ON SCREEN
Through viewing and discussing some two dozen Chinese movies, we will discuss the following issues: 1) the image of China as presented through films by mostly contemporary Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese directors, 2) the aesthetics of Chinese films, and 3) the mutual influences between Chinese (especially Hong Kong) and Hollywood films. We will start by reading the movies as texts, namely, how literary elements such as themes, symbols, metaphors, settings, characterization, and plots are expressed through modern media, and particularly how these expressions pertain to China. Although film-making is decidedly an imported art form, we will also examine how Chinese poetics--as expressed through poetry, painting, and drama--intercept and influence Chinese films and directors. Building on such understanding, we will narrow our focus onto Chinese movie genres--kung-fu, "soft-core" romance, "hard-core" action, nonsensical (mo li tou in Cantonese) comic, and social realism. Since our focus is more contemporary, the issue of cultural hegemony (the power Hollywood is thought to exert over film industries of the "Third World") will be an underlined theme in our discussion of cinematic constructions of perceived Chinese gender, nationhood, and sense of identity. You should not expect to emerge from this class experts in Chinese cinema; but, through viewing and discussing featured commercial films, you will learn to appreciate how China has been presented as a nation and a culture by Chinese directors from various Chinese enclaves and by current film critics, both Chinese and western.
ENG 343 - DRAMATIC WRITING TOPICS: ADAPTATION
This course is an intensive writing workshop focusing on short adaptations for the stage and screen. Your primary work will be in adapting late nineteenth and early twentieth century fiction writers’ work into contemporary short dramatic writing forms. Through readings, screenings, class discussion, and analysis of texts, you will become adept at stage play and screenplay formats, structures, and objectives. Writing exercises and assignments, both in and outside of class, will help you identify a personal response to a preexisting work, mine what is most useful and inspirational from the original, and craft an authentically new version. We may also use historical events, photographs, poetry, songs, and essays as source material. Finally, we will explore different types of adaptation responses to original works – from fidelity to satire. By the end of the semester, you will have completed first and final drafts of an adapted ten-minute play and an adapted short screenplay, revisions of shorter playwriting and screenwriting assignments, and first drafts of several others.