Amherst College:  Courses in Film and Video Arts

FALL 2008 (updated 4/4/08)


Anthropology 41 Visual Anthropology

Professor Gewertz

meeting time:  TTh 11:30-12:50

Five College Film Studies Major category:  6?

This course will explore and evaluate various visual genres, including photography, ethnographic film and museum presentation as modes of anthropological analysis–as media of communication facilitating cross-cultural understanding.  Among the topics to be examined are the ethics of observation, the politics of artifact collection and display, the dilemma of representing non-Western “others” through Western media, and the challenge of interpreting indigenously produced visual depictions of “self” and “other.”

            Limited to 20 students.


English 16 Coming to Terms:  Cinema

Professor Cameron

MW 2-3:20

Five College Film Studies Major category:   1?

An introduction to cinema studies through consideration of a few critical and descriptive terms together with a selection of various films (historical and contemporary, foreign and American) for illustration and discussion.  The terms for discussion will include, among others:  the moving image, montage, mise en scPne, sound, genre, authorship, the gaze.

            Recommended:  English 19 or another college-level film course.


English 24 Screenwriting

Visiting Lecturer Johnson

Tu 2-5

Five College Film Studies Major category:   8

This course is a first workshop in narrative screenplay writing.  The “screenplay” is a unique and ephemeral form that exists as a blueprint for something else–a finished film.  How do you convey this audio-visual medium (movies) on the page?  In order to do that, the screenwriter must have some sense of what the “language of film” is, as well as some sense of what kinds of stories movies–as opposed to novels, plays, or short stories–tell well.  This course will try to analyze both the language of film and the shape of film stories, as a means toward teaching the craft of screenwriting.  Frequent exercises, readings, and screenings.

            Limited to 15 students.  Preregistration is not allowed.  Please consult the Amherst College Creative Writing Center website for information on admission to this course:


English 82  Production Workshop in the Moving Image

Visiting Lecturer Mellis

Th 2-5 + Wed film screening

Five College Film Studies Major category:   8

The topic changes each time the course is taught.  In fall 2008 the topic will be “Introduction to Video Production.”  This introductory video production course will emphasize documentary filmmaking from the first-person point of view.  We will use our own stories as material, but we will look beyond self-expression, using video to explore places where our lives intersect with larger historical, economic, environmental, or social forces.  We will develop our own voices while learning the vocabulary of moving images and gaining technical training in production and post-production.  Through in-class critiques, screenings, readings and discussion, students will explore the aesthetics and practice of the moving image while developing their own original projects.

            Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 12 students.  Please complete the questionnaire at


English 84-01  Topics in Film Study:  Cinema and New Media

Visiting Professor Hudson.

TTh 2-3:20 + Tues film screening

Five College Film Studies Major category:    6?

Like television before it, new media is often considered the death knell to cinema.  This course complicates such assumptions, focusing on understanding and writing about ways that new and old technologies converge.  Students will consider key issues relating to social, philosophical, legal, geopolitical, economic, and aesthetic implications of new media on cinema.  New media transforms production through high definition video (HD) and computer-generated imagery (CGI) in commercial, avant-garde, and amateur film, video, and animation, as well as transforms the immersive experience of media in massively multiplayer online games.  New media also transforms distribution, exhibition, and reception though lossy compression formats, broadband, and downloads.  The course examines blogs and vlogs, clip culture, machinima, social networking sites, 3D virtual worlds, culture poaching and jamming, and tactical media in relation to both fandom and activism.  The course asks students to consider questions about the political economies of new media in terms of access to technologies “in real life” (IRL) through readings and documentaries on the digital divide and racial ravine both in U.S. classrooms and in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as questions of copyright, piracy, and P2P file sharing.  The courses explores the interface of technology and the environment in its broadest definition, such as virtual migrations in information technologies (IT) and business processing outsourcing (BPO) industries in India, digital cameras for workers’ rights in Mexican maquilladoras, state control of user access to content within the so-called borderless frontier of the Internet, and digital mobilizations for environmentalism and human rights.  Weekly screenings and in-class streamings explore new media as a theme in commercial narrative filmmaking, as in The Matrix or The Blair Witch Project, and as a practice in mashups, mods, and open-source screen-savers.            Previous course in film studies or new media studies recommended.


English 84-02 Topics in Film Study:  The Romance

Senior Lecturer von Schmidt

TTh 11:30-12:50

Five College Film Studies Major category:   4?

The romance, and the generic forms it has taken, in Hollywood and elsewhere:  classical romance, melodrama, screwball comedy, romantic comedy, the musical.  How has the screen romance variously reflected and/or shaped our own attitudes?  We will look at examples representing a range of cultures and historical eras, from a range of critical positions.  Two screenings per week.


English 95-01 National and Global Cinemas

Visiting Professor Hudson

TTh 10-11:20 + Wed film screening

Five College Film Studies Major category:  5?

Acknowledging that cinema is always already transnational, this course explores tensions between “the national” and “the global” in narrative, documentary, and experimental films produced in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and the Americas in the postcolonial era of cultural hybridity and global capitalism.  The course begins by examining the nationalist ideologies of Hollywood production in tandem with Third Cinema’s radical decentering of the assumptions of both Hollywood and auteurist cinemas.  The course examines ways that minor, feminist, avant-garde, and third world cinemas respond to the regional and global domination of the commercial industries in Cairo, Chennai, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Mumbai, and elsewhere, either by appropriating and reconfiguring cinematic conventions within indigenous pre-cinematic traditions, by parodying and satirizing them, or by outright rejecting them.  The course explores ways that political economy relates to filmic aesthetics and styles; different historical and cultural conceptions of cinema; different theoretical models for the analysis of national and global cultures; and implications of an increasing standardization of world film into an “international style” particularly since the 1990s.  Films produced in, or financed with state or private funds from, Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chad, Cuba, France, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Kenya, México, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sénégal, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States will be screened.  Weekly film screenings.

            Requisite:  prior courses in film studies, preferably both an introductory course and a film history course.  Open only to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.


Theater and Dance 23  Fleeting Images:  Choreography on Film

Five College Dance Professor Valis-Hill

MW 02:00PM-04:00PM

Five College Film Studies Major category:   8?

This selected survey of choreography on film and video indulges in the purely kinesthetic experience of watching the dancing body on film.  We will focus on works that have most successfully effected a true synthesis of the two mediums, negotiating between the spatial freedom of film and the time-space-energy fields of dance, the cinematic techniques of camera-cutting-collage, and the vibrant continuity of the moving body.  We will discern the roles of the choreographer, director, and editor in shaping and controlling the moving image, and explore

the relationship of music and the dancing body.  We will also attempt to theorize the medium of the “moving picture dance,” and formulate a theoretical understanding of the relationship between films and viewers and the powerful effect of the moving/dancing image on viewers.  Putting theory to practice, we will form small group collaborations to create an original study in

choreography for the camera.


Theater and Dance 62 Performance Studio

Professor Woodson

F 01:00PM-04:00PM

Five College Film Studies Major category: 8  

An advanced course in the techniques of creating performance.  Each student will create and rehearse a performance piece that develops and incorporates original choreography, text, music, sound and/or video.  Experimental and collaborative structures and approaches among and within different media will be stressed.  The final performance pieces and events will be presented in the Holden Theater.  Can be taken more than once for credit.

            Requisite:  Theater and Dance 35 or the equivalent and consent of the instructor.