Five College Film & Video Course Guide


N.B.  This version of the Guide is a work in progress.  Please see the websites or for revisions and additions.

(updated 11/6/08)

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Professor Emeritus Reck.

TTh 2-3:20, location TBA                                                        Cap 30

A study of selected films from India, Europe, and the United States ranging from popular cinema (Meera Nam Joker, Taal, Indian, Kal Ho Na Ho, Gunga Din, Bhawani Junction, Black Narcissus, Gandhi, Passage to India) to art cinema (Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy, Charulata, Spices, Samskara, Salaam Bombay).  In which ways are the themes, characters, plot, structures and techniques of the films culturally specific?  Using Edward Said’s book Orientalism as a starting point, this course will explore how Western films deal with the exotic, and conversely, how Indian films present the idea of Self and reaffirm (or contradict) the ideals and values of Indian society.  Limited to 30 students.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category: IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  5  (core)



Professor Van Compernolle                  Cap 20

TTh 2-3:20, location TBA

This course will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic and social contexts.  In particular, the relationship between the individual and the mise-en-scPne will be a major theme throughout the term.  We will cover the first hundred years of Japanese cinema, from the very first film footage shot in Japan in 1897 through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to important independent filmmakers working today.  We will cover silent films, talkies, and animation.  The course includes the major genres of Japanese film and influential schools/movements.  Students will also learn and get extensive practice using the vocabulary of the discipline of film studies.  This course assumes no prior knowledge of Japan or Japanese, and all films have English subtitles.  Limited to 20 students.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  5  (core)



Visiting Professor Hudson.                                            Cap 15

TTh 10-11:20 + Wed film screening, location TBA

This course acquaints students with the critical study of “entertainment” film by reading vampire films as immigration stories and by considering these films in terms of the uneven and unequal global circulation of audiovisual media.  The course situates cinematic vampires within the historical and cultural context of pre-cinematic vampires, including vampires from central and eastern European folklore, vampires from western European literature and drama, as well as supernatural creatures from much older traditions, such as the Indian vetala and the Chinese jiang shi, that come to be confused with vampires.  Weekly writing assignments emphasize textual analysis of film in terms of its formal properties and generic codes and conventions, whether from horror and melodrama, or from masala and wuxia, to support thematic analysis.  The course ask students to consider ways that vampires function in European, North American, and Asian popular cinemas in relation to questions of cultural assimilation, racialization, nativism, nationalism, and violations of national sovereignty, such as political assassinations and vigilantism.  As a counterpoint to vampire films, we will screen short films on the subject of immigrants from the early days of cinema.  The course asks students to reflect upon the politics of entertainment in films from Canada, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, México, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  Weekly film screenings. Preference given to first-year students and sophomores.  Limited to 15 students.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  4, 5, 6 (core)



Senior Lecturer von Schmidt                             Cap 25

TTh 11:30-12:50, location TBA

A first course in reading films and writing about them.  A varied selection of films for study and criticism, partly to illustrate the main elements of film language and partly to pose challenging texts for reading and writing.  Frequent short papers.  Two 90-minute class meetings and two screenings per week.             Limited to 25 students.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category: I

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  1 (core)



Professor Parham.

TTh 10-11:20, location TBA

 (Also Black Studies 15.)  Against a backdrop that moves from Heart of Darkness to (PRODUCT)RED™, this semester we will focus on the current proliferation of “Africa” in the western imaginary.  Such surges in interest about the continent are not new, and we will trace this literary and cultural phenomenon across the twentieth century, coming to settle mainly on contemporary American films.  We will read our films as films, but also as cultural texts.  We must wonder:  why these films now?  Are there certain conditions under which the West turns to its imagination of Africa?  And how might we account for the repetition of such turns over time?  We will end the course in a consideration of cultural appropriation and what it means for expressive traditions.  To get at this question, however, we will also look to some of the ways African filmmakers have responded to and have themselves appropriated elements of texts similar to those with which we began the semester.  Priority will be given to students with prior film classes, or who have taken English 13 in the past.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category: IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  5 (core)



Visiting Professor Hudson.

TTh 2-3:20 + Tues film screening, location TBA

 (Also French 64.)  The topic changes each time the course is taught.  In spring 2009 the topic will be “Transnational French Cinemas.”  Although canonized as a “national cinema,” French cinema has been an international enterprise since its invention by the LumiPres in 1895 and has become increasingly transnational since its centenary in 1995.  This course examines contradictory national and transnational impulses within French cinema across four overlapping moments:  (1) a “pre-national” moment when French companies dominated the world market, including Pathé films shot in New Jersey (USA) and colonial films shot within la plus grande France of the empire; (2) a “national” moment when sound films, ciné-clubs, and magazines began to codify categories of high art and mass media, through the complexities of French-Italian co-productions and the New Wave; (3) a “post-national” moment defined via le cinéma du look, heritage cinema, and English-language super-productions, whilst advocating for the “cultural exception” via culturally specific films in jeune, beur, banlieue, and women’s cinemas; and (4) a “global” moment of “cultural diversity” that includes poplar genre films that draw upon Hong Kong action and Hollywood digital effects for domestic consumption, alongside festival support and financing of international art films by filmmakers from Iran and Taiwan, as well as proactive investment in world-wide French film festivals and selective inclusion of postcolonial francophone cinemas.  We will examine historical and strategic shifts in definitions as to when a film is officially “French” due to its site of production, the citizenships of its filmmakers, its sources of financing, or its style and content.  Films produced in, or financed by, Algeria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada (Québec), Congo, France, Haiti, Italy, Iran, Mali, Martinique, Morocco, Sénégal, Taiwan, Tunisia, USA, Viet Nam, and West Germany will be screened.  Weekly film screenings.  Course conducted in English; students may submit written work in French or English.  French majors are required to enroll for this course through French.              Requisite: an introductory course to cinema studies or equivalent.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  5 (core)



Visiting Lecturer Vachani.                                             Cap 12

MW 12:30-1:50 + Wed lab 2-4, location TBA

The course combines theoretical/analytical approaches to the political documentary film with a production component where students will research, develop, film, edit, and exhibit their own political documentary short films.  This theory/analysis component of the course explores the forms and practices of the contemporary international political documentary film.  What makes a film a “political documentary”–is it the subject of the film, the political ideology of the filmmaker, the distinctive form or style of filmmaking, or the context of its production and reception?  We will address these debates through an intensive engagement with diverse political documentaries from different parts of the world.  Some of the filmmakers whose work the course might showcase include:  Robert Drew, Fred Wiseman, Barbara Kopple, Michael Moore, Alex Gibney, Nina Davenport, Chris Marker, Avi Mograbi, Viktor Kossakovsky, Jean Rouch, and Anand Patwardhan.  The aim of the theory/analysis component of the course is designed to give students an overview of the different modes of political documentary production, and to enable them to develop a preferred form or stylistic approach for making their own short political documentary films.      

            For the production component, students will research and develop their own political documentary projects drawing from themes and subjects in the Five College area.  Class discussions will focus on the different stages of the film-making process, from research and pre-production, to the filming, editing, and final post-production.  Students will also be expected to attend technical workshops and training sessions on the use of digital video camera, sound, and editing.          Limited to 12 students. 

UMass Film Studies Certificate category: IIB, V

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  4, 8  (core)



Professor Cameron.                                                      Cap 15

MW 2-3:20, location TBA

A study in depth of the filmwork of Alfred Hitchcock, taking account of his status as a master auteur and as the classic, meta-classic and post-classic Hollywood filmmaker par excellence.  In addition to discussion of key films, serious consideration will be given to readings drawn from the extensive secondary literature about Hitchcock and the significance of his work.  Three class hours per week and weekly screenings. Open only to juniors and seniors.  Limited to 15 students.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category: IIB, IV

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  4 (core)



Professor Wolfson.

TTh 10-11:20, location TBA

Lenin declared “For us, cinema is the most important art,” and the young Bolshevik regime threw its support behind a brilliant group of film pioneers (Eisenstein, Vertov, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Dovzhenko) who worked out the fundamentals of film language.  Under Stalin, historical epics and musical comedies, not unlike those produced in 1930s Hollywood, became the favored genres.  The innovative Soviet directors of the 1960s and 1970s (Tarkovsky, Parajanov, Abuladze, Muratova) moved away from politics and even narrative toward “film poetry.”  Post-Soviet Russian cinema has struggled to define a new identity, and may finally be succeeding.  This course will introduce the student to the great Russian and Soviet film tradition. Frequent short writing assignments.  Conducted in English.  Two class meetings and one or two required screenings a week.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  5 (core)



Professor Woodson.                                         Cap 12

F 1-4, location TBA

This studio production class will focus on multiple ways of tracking, viewing, and capturing bodies in motion.  The emphasis will be working with the camera as an extension of one’s body to explore radically different points of view and senses of focus.  We will experiment with different techniques and different kinds of bodies (human, animal, and object “bodies”) to bring a heightened sense of kinesthetic involvement, animation and emotional immediacy to the bodies on screen and behind the camera.  In addition we will interject and follow bodies into different senses of time, progressions, place and relationship.  In the process we will express different experiences and theories of embodiment and question what constitutes a body.  Depending on student interests, final projects can range from choreographies for the camera to fictional narratives to documentary studies.  The class will alternate between camera sessions, both in the studio and on location, and sessions in the editing suite working with Final Cut Pro.

            Limited to 12 students.  Admission with consent of the instructor.  Final class list will be decided after the first meeting.

UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  V, IV

5College Film Studies Major requirement:  8 (core)