AMHERST COLLEGE

Five College Film & Video Course Guide

SPRING 2011

(updated 11/3/10)

(All courses 4 credits unless otherwise noted.  Course information may be subject to change.) 
           

ARHA 92-02 / FAMS 45.  WRITING THE WORLD WITH IMAGE, MOVEMENT AND SOUND.  
Artist in Residence Rivera Moret.
MW 1:00 pm-4:00 pm, location TBA
How does the physical weight of a video camera influence the emotional weight of the captured image?  What can we uncover as we explore a space through the broad, sensuous perspective of a stereo microphone or through the stark directionality of a shotgun microphone?  Conversely, what remains of a space that is slowly going out of focus?  What meanings are generated when a hand-held camera gesture crashes, through editing, against the stillness of an image captured on a tripod?  How can we generate ideas through film form?  Can we talk about the ethics of a tracking shot?  What cinematic stories can we tell?  This course is a hands-on, in-depth exploration of the expressive, narrative possibilities of moving image and sound.  We will work with video cameras to take advantage of the accessibility of this medium, always bearing in mind the differences with the filmic image.  We will begin with a study of the camera, and, through in-class projects and individual assignments, with an emphasis on inquiry, experimentation and discovery, we will explore framing and composition; light, color and texture; camera movement and rhythm; editing and relationships between image and sound.  We will approach set-up and documentary situations from a variety of formal and conceptual perspectives.  We will consider all equipment not simply as technology, but as powerful creative tools to be explored and manipulated, incorporating other equipment (tripods, lenses, filters, lighting kit, and sound recording equipment) as they relate to the topics explored.  At every step, we will consider the narrative potential of the formal elements studied:  narrative understood in a broad sense that goes beyond formulas or standard storytelling modes to include the abstract, the fragment, the open-ended structure and the small gesture.  During the semester, students will create a video diary, a motion picture sketchbook.  With entries on a daily basis, the diary will be a moving, changing record of formal reflections and intellectual, emotional and physical engagement with the environment.  The goal is to make the camera an extension of our eyes and minds, to learn to see and think the world around us through moving images and sound.  As source and counterpoint to our studio work, we will examine, from a maker’s point of view, the films and writings of international filmmakers from the classical period, underground and avant-garde cinema, the New Waves of the 1960s and 70s, and contemporary filmmakers.  An individual final video project will give students the opportunity to bring their approach to image, movement and sound explored throughout the term into a work with a expressive, cohesive cinematic language.  In rio du film Passion, Jean-Luc Godard expresses his desire to turn a camera movement into a prayer.  It is this profound engagement with the world and intense, thoughtful consideration of the medium that we seek to achieve.
Requisite:  Art 02, Art 04, or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 12 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  8

ASLA 34 / FAMS 32.  JAPAN ON SCREEN
Professor Van Compernolle.
TTh 2:00 pm-3:20 pm, location TBA
Is the concept of national cinema useful in the age of globalization?  Given the international nature of cinema at its inception, was it ever a valid concept?  In this course, we will consider how the nation is represented on screen as we survey the history of film culture in Japan, from the very first film footage shot in the country in 1897, through the golden age of studio cinema in the 1950s, to important independent filmmakers working today.  While testing different theories of national, local, and world cinema, we will investigate the Japanese film as a narrative art, as a formal construct, and as a participant in larger aesthetic and social contexts.  This course includes the major genres of Japanese film and influential schools and 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.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  5

ENGL 01-05 / FAMS 10.  FILM AND WRITING
Senior Lecturer von Schmidt.
TTh 11:30 am-12:50 pm, location TBA + film screening M and W 4:00 or 7:30, 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 80-minute class meetings and two screenings per week.
Limited to 25 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  I, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  1

ENGL 82 / FAMS 40.  PRODUCTION WORKSHOP IN THE MOVING IMAGE
Five College Professor Hillman.
M 2:00 pm-5:00 pm, location TBA + film screening M 6:30 pm-8:30 pm, location TBA
The topic changes each time this introductory workshop is taught.  In spring 2011 the topic will be “Narrative Cinema in a Global Context.”  This course will introduce students to a diverse range of approaches to narrative filmmaking.  Students will gain skills in videomaking and criticism through project assignments, readings and analysis of critical discourses that ground issues of production.  The course will include workshops in cinematography, sound recording, lighting and editing.  Screenings will include works by Jia Zhangke, Claire Denis, Charles Burnett, and Lucrecia Martel.  Students will complete three video projects.
Admission with consent of the instructor.  Limited to 12 students.  Please complete the Questionnaire for English 82. Spring semester.  Five College Professor Hillman.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  8

ENGL 84 / FAMS 37.  TOPICS IN FILM STUDY.  A DECADE UNDER THE INFLUENCE:  U.S. FILM OF THE 1970S.
Professor Hastie.  [Pending faculty approval.]
TTh 10:00 am-11:20 am + film screening M 5:00 pm-9:00 pm
The topic changes each time the course is taught.  In spring 2011 the topic will be “A Decade Under the Influence:  U.S. Film of the 1970s.”  U.S. film in the 1970s was evident of tremendous aesthetic and economic innovation.  Rife with but not limited to conspiracy, disaster, love and war, 1970s popular films range from the counter-cultural to the commercial, the independent to the industrial.  Thus, while American cinema of the first half of the decade is known as the work of groundbreaking independent “auteurs,” the second half of the decade witnessed an industrial transformation through the emergence of the giant blockbuster hit.  With a focus on cultural and historical factors shaping filmmaking and film-going practices and with close attention to film form, this course will explore thematic threads, directors, stars, and genres that emerged and developed during the decade.  While the course will largely focus on mainstream film, we will set this work in some relation to other movements of the era:  blaxploitation, comic parodies, documentary, and New American Cinema.  Two class meetings and one screening per week. Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is recommended, but not required.  Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 25 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  5, 6

ENGL 95-06 / FAMS 72 : TELEVISION, CRIMINALITY, SERIALITY
Professor. Hastie            [Pending faculty approval.]
TTh 2:00 pm-3:20 pm
As an upper-division seminar in television studies, this course will offer an in-depth examination of television textuality through the rubric of the crime and detective series.  Focusing on the serial as one of the definitive forms of television, we will consider how the detective series utilizes that form to engage viewers in their own processes of investigation of television itself and of criminality.  Grounding the course will be U.S. and British television series; we will look at entire seasons of almost each of the series we study in order to best understand serial form.  Included in our exploration will be U.K. series Edge of Darkness, Prime Suspect, and Cracker and U.S. series The Sunday Night Mystery Movie, Hill Street Blues, The Wire, and Damages.  We will also consider the U.K. series Life on Mars and its U.S. remake.  Engaged in theoretical and interdisciplinary readings, throughout the course we will ask how might murder be a delivery platform for television and how is television a delivery system for murder.  Two class meetings per week. Prior coursework in Film and Media Studies is required, with prior coursework in Television Studies highly recommended.  Limited to 15 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, IV, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  7

LJST 52 / FAMS 51.  FILM, MYTH, AND THE LAW
Professors Sarat and Umphrey.
W 8:30 am-10:30 am, location TBA
 (Analytic Seminar)  The proliferation of law in film and on television has expanded the sphere of legal life itself.  Law lives in images that today saturate our culture and have a power all their own, and the moving image provides a domain in which legal power operates independently of law’s formal institutions.  This course will consider what happens when legal events are re-narrated in film and examine film’s treatment of legal officials, events, and institutions (e.g., police, lawyers, judges, trials, executions, prisons).  Does film open up new possibilities of judgment, model new modes of interpretation, and provide new insights into law’s violence?  We will discuss ways in which myths about law are reproduced and contested in film.  Moreover, attending to the visual dimensions of law’s imagined lives, we ask whether law provides a template for film spectatorship, positioning viewers as detectives and as jurors, and whether film, in turn, sponsors a distinctive visual aesthetics of law.  Among the films we may consider are Inherit the Wind, Call Northside 777, Judgment at Nuremberg, Rear Window, Silence of the Lambs, A Question of Silence, The Sweet Hereafter, Dead Man Walking, Basic Instinct, and Unforgiven.  Throughout we will draw upon film theory and criticism as well as the scholarly literature on law, myth, and film.
Requisite:  LJST 01 or 10 or consent of the instructor.  Limited to 15 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, IV, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  7

RUSS 29 / FAMS 39.  RUSSIAN AND SOVIET FILM.
Professor Wolfson.
TTh 11:30 am-12:50 pm, 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. Conducted in English.  Two class meetings and one or two required screenings a week.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  5

WAGS 69 / ASLC 52 [SA] / FAMS 58.  SOUTH ASIAN FEMINIST CINEMA. 
Professor Shandilya.
W 2:00 pm-4:30 pm, location TBA
How do we define the word “feminism”?  Can the term be used to define cinematic texts outside the Euro-American world?  In this course we will study a range of issues that have been integral to feminist theory–the body, domesticity, same sex desire, gendered constructions of the nation, feminist utopias and dystopias–through a range of South Asian cinematic texts.  Through our viewings and readings we will consider whether the term “feminist” can be applied to these texts, and we will experiment with new theoretical lenses for exploring these films.  Films will range from Satyajit Ray’s classic masterpiece Charulata to Gurinder Chadha’s trendy diasporic film, Bend It Like Beckham.  Attendance for screenings on Monday is compulsory.
Limited to 20 students.
Undergraduate UMass Film Studies Certificate category:  IIB, V
Five College Film Studies Major category:  5