College of Arts and Sciences
Film Studies

Selected Syllabi

  • History of Film

    Overview: The course will examine the evolution and development of film from its beginnings in the mid 1890's to rougly 1960. Focus will be upon the four broad areas of investigation: (1) the technological innovations upon which the film industry depended (2) economic modes of production that governed film industry practice (3) aesthetic movements and styles as an expression of national identity, and (4) the cultural and social impacts of the movies. The course chronology will be framed to cover the early years of cinema, or "Primitive Era" (1895-1914), the Silent Era (1914-1927), the Sound Era to the Post War Period (1927-1945), and the High Classical period that ends wtih the breakdown of the studio system (1945-1960).

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    Film Adaptions

    Overview: The course will examine the source texts and film adaptations of works drawn from a variety of print genres, including short stories, a novel, a novella, a modern play, a Shakespearean play, and a graphic novel. Each pair of works, a source and its film adaptation, will provide an illuminating case study, and taken together, the works selected demonstrate both close and loose adaptations, “classic” and recent film productions, and a wide range of approaches to adaptation. Nearly half of the films you have ever seen are adaptations, and historically, three-fourths of the Academy Award winners for Best Picture have been adaptations.

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    Global African Film

    Overview: The goal of this class is to highlight how people of African descent are expressing their heritage, identity and vital issues through cinematic images worldwide. The course will provide an in-depth analysis of films from across the broad spectrum of the African Diaspora in order to capture their richness and diversities in terms of aesthetic, political, social and cultural significance. Some of the films that will be included in the class are Africa: Different but Equal (1984, dir. Basil Davidson), Xala, the Curse (1974, dir. Ousmane Sembene), Bamako (2006, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako), and Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Mask (1996, directed by Isaac Julien).

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    The History of Chinese Cinema

    Overview: The History of Chinese Cinema will explore film in the context of that nation's rise from the "sick man of Asia" to a world power in less than a century. The films of China during the past 100 years reflect the turmoil and aspirations of a society that has been producing works of art for millennia. The course will explore the unique characteristics of films produced in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Mainland in the context of historical, social and political events. Film makers studied will include Sun Yu, Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Wong Kar Wai, Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Jiang Wen, Xiao Jiang, Joan Chen and others. Films to be screened include "The Peach Girl," “Breaking with Old Ideas,"“The Red Detachment of Women," " A City of Sadness," "Red Sorghum," " Xiu, Xiu, The Sent Down Girl,” "Devils at the Doorstep" and others. Students studying history,political science, fine arts and film studies will find this course useful.

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    The Art of Film

    Overview: The fundamental objective of this course is that you learn to perceive, understand, and evaluate films more effectively, with greater assurance, validity, and pleasure. To achieve this objective, we will study the basic principles and techniques of film art, with emphasis upon the complementary contributions of the director, the cinematographer, the editor, and the screenwriter. In a ten-week quarter, we have time to deal with only seven films, including the one for the final exam:

    Chapter One- Photography: Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick)Chapter Two- Mise en Scène: Blade Runner (Ridley Scott)Chapter Three- Movement: La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini)Chapter Four- Editing: Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn) Chapter Five- Sound: Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly)Chapter Nine- Writing: Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg)

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    Great Directors: Woody Allen

    Overview: Over a period of forty years, Woody Allen has written and directed approximately forty films, in addition to acting in many films by other directors. This amazing productivity makes it very difficult to choose which films to study in a ten-week course. I have spent the past summer watching and rewatching all forty of them, and I have made some interesting discoveries. First of all, with the exception of his two earliest films, What’s Up, Tiger Lily? and What’s New, Pussycat? (neither of which he directed and both of which he hated), Allen has not made a bad movie. They are not all equally good, of course, and some of his best have been financial failures, but there is not a film among them that is not at least good. The first few are virtually plotless, with only a vague storyline upon which he could hang his one-liner jokes. Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex, and Sleeper could best be characterized as inspired silliness, and the audiences loved them. There are some fans who wish he would go back to making that kind of film. Those films also established the Woody Allen “persona,” and the audience expectations created by that persona have been among the greatest problems Allen has faced as a writer and as an actor in his own films. There are still people who believe, with astonishing naiveté, that this “nebbish” persona is the “real” Woody Allen, and that has led to egregious misinterpretation of his work.

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    The Western

    Overview: The western is the defining genre of film. So many decisively influential films have been westerns that it can fairly be said: You can’t know film if you don’t know the western. Despite the fact that it has gone in and out of fashion since its inception at the beginning of the 20th century, the western has enjoyed more enduring popularity than all other film genres combined. In peak years, westerns accounted for as much as 40% of Hollywood’s entire output. It’s been estimated that more than one-fifth of all American films ever made are westerns. The straightforward shoot-’em-ups and high-action programmers of the cinema’s first half century…the more character-oriented “adult westerns” of 1946-68…the invasion of European-made “spaghetti westerns” of 1962-78…the iconoclastic “revisionist” westerns of 1968-90…the post-modern western revival of the 1990s and 2000s—all these reflect the changing attitudes of American society and politics, while still exemplifying the core images, themes, and values that uniquely identify a film as a western, regardless of the country or time period in which it is set.

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    Science Fiction Films

    Overview: In an era when we are capable of destroying all life on earth in a single day of nuclear strikes, or over several decades through the reckless destruction of our environment, no other film genre addresses the subject of our future as fully as science fiction. In addition to spurring many technological innovations in moviemaking throughout its history, science fiction films traditionally have undertaken serious philosophical exploration and social, cultural, and ideological critique. They often address, implicitly or explicitly, our assumptions, our values, our aspirations, and our fears. Moreover, because they speak directly to their times, they serve as a useful barometer for how people viewed themselves and their world at the time they were created. This course introduces the SF film genre, its methods of inquiry, its notable experiments, and through a series of interdisciplinary readings and an eclectic selection of films, the stakes in our imaginative visions of our future.

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    Film & History

    Overview: This course is about cities, the country and nature in films. Main subthemes are modernization, modern space and architecture, war, gender relations, childhood, class relations, imperialism, and ethnic relations. The course uses two major approaches to knowledge, those of the humanities and the social sciences. As film is a cultural artifact and a product of creative imagination, it will be studied as a form of art. At the same time, history will be explored through films by situating films in the historical context. Films are seen as cultural artifacts of specific times and places. The course explores issues of how historians can use films and which films are best suited for historical studies. We mostly see European films, plus some Asian and American films.

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    Film Production I

    Overview: An introduction to basic filmmaking technique, structure, and aesthetics through the production of digital media projects. The course will develop skills in narrative filmmaking through emphasis on story, cinematography, editing and directing.

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