Summer 2024

Session I

FILM-ST  170 - Introduction to Film Analysis: Cinematic Time Travel

Instructor: Barry Spence
Credits: 4

This is an introduction to film studies and to the analysis of film. The course explores the complex nature and cultural function of cinema by focusing on time travel as both a central theme of a wide range of films and as a way of understanding how cinema works as a time-based medium. By studying films from various points in the global history of cinema - including films from nine countries and five continents - this course performs a transcultural introduction to the formal and stylistic aspects of cinematic storytelling. (Gen. Ed. AT)

FILM-ST  385 - Psycho Thrillers

Instructor: Daniel Pope
Credits: 3

Thrillers compel audiences even as they repel with their narratives of dark secrets and cryptic menace.  How can we understand the appeal of thriller movies?  Is it their suspense, which lures us with its promise of mysteries that might be revealed?  Is it their tales of transgression and violence, which horrify, tantalize, or spur catharsis?  This class explores the psychological thriller in (mostly contemporary) international cinema, the roots and characteristics of the genre as well as the ways these films offer critical portraits of hidden truths of the mind, of history, and of the inner workings of the social worlds around us. How is the thriller uniquely suited for critical treatments of issues such as gender inequality, race relations, wealth and class divides, sexuality, and age or ability?  We will also examine intersections between the psychological thriller and other thriller subgenres (political, erotic, action, supernatural, social, legal) as well as with such genres as horror and film noir.
Film Studies Major Through BDIC Category: D&G, E
Undergraduate Film Studies Certificate categories: III, V

FILM-ST  390M - Video Editing & Film Montage

Instructor: William Digravio
Credits: 3

An in-depth immersion into the practice of video editing and film montage. This course will offer a thorough understanding of video editing techniques. Students will gain skills in file management, importing footage, remixing footage, working with audio, recording one's screen, creating titles and more. Video exercises will be informed by montage theories and practices. Students will learn about various editing techniques employed by filmmakers and then recreate those techniques through practical exercises. The goal of this course is to learn by doing. This course will also offer a brief introduction to online remix culture through assignments. Readings and videos will offer students the opportunity to reflect on how the work they are creating corresponds to an existing creative and scholarly practice.

Session II

FILM-ST  284 - The Undead Souths: Southern Gothic and Francophone Mythologies in Film & Television

Instructor: Patrick Mensah
Credits: 4

This course will explore themes of the Southern Gothic in works of Cinema and  popular Televisual narratives. We will study the development of the lurid motifs of the Gothic that works affiliated with this genre often deploy to invoke a sense of horror and dread, moral corruption, and psychological abjection, all seemingly meant to assimilate the South and its citizens to the category of a degenerate and menacing otherness. The imagery of dismal landscapes, dark swamps, decaying architecture, fanatical and occult religious practices, and the often grotesque or monstrous figures and cultural tropes that aspire to associate the South with an imaginary medieval past, will be examined mostly as marks of an ambivalent ideological struggle surrounding the self-identity of America.  Thanks to this regime of gothic tropes and insignia,  America, on the one hand, heralds its own self-identity as culturally rich and historically continuous, and yet,  it is, at least partly thanks to this same regimen of gothic tropes (understood as figures of otherness), on the other hand, that America also typically (or stereotypically) deals with anxieties arising from its attempts to define its own modern identity, and its identity as modern and exceptional. Such anxieties give rise to instances of negative stereotyping, and practices of cultural exclusion that the course critically interrogates.  We also study several important ways in which the Gothic serves as an important voice for the marginalized, while enabling critical reflections on the social and cultural practices of exclusion we have alluded to.
The history of slavery, the civil war, and its aftermath, as well as literature produced by certain Southern writers (such as William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Katherine Anne Porter, and others) since the late 19th century, will be identified as important defining contexts of emergence for the Southern gothic, and as the indispensable conditions that have made its deployment into 20th century film and television possible.  Due attention will also be paid to the influence of French colonial adventures and interventions in shaping cultures and "gothic" mythologies of the American South, and the Caribbean, as well as the role played by America's own efforts to secure and maintain hegemonic influences on the region.
The course is conducted in English, and requires no prior knowledge of the field.  All films are streamed to your computer from the UMass library on demand.  Required readings are provided online, and no book purchases are necessary. (Gen. Ed. AT, DU)

FILM-ST  311 - Film Production: How the Craft Works

Instructor: Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki
Credits: 3

This course will focus on a diversity of challenges in the art of film production. It will cover the phases of project development, financing, pre-production, production design, and executive production, together with post-production and distribution/commercialization. Students will have the chance to interact with each other, making the course both practical and dynamic. Students will also have the opportunity to assess and share the issues they encountered -or may encounter!- on their own work and the projects they have worked on or will work on in the future, receiving personalized feedback both from me and from your peers.

FILM-ST  330 - Film Auteurs

Instructor: Barry Spence
Credits: 4

This class will focus on one or two specific filmmakers and will aim to highlight their cinematic models, distinctive style and recurrent themes, within the theoretical framework of the "auteur theory," thus offering students an introductory and comprehensive view of perhaps the most central concept in film studies.

This iteration of the course will focus on the works of Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, with particular attention to the resonances that connect them.

FILM-ST  353 - African Film

Instructor: Patrick Mensah
Credits: 4

This course offers an introduction to African film as an aesthetic and cultural practice. Students should expect to be familiarized with the key ideas and objectives that have inspired and driven that practice since the early 1960s, and be furnished with the technical tools and methodological skills that would permit them to understand, analyze, and think critically about the artistic and thematic aspects of the films that are screened. They should also expect the course to provide them with a critical peek into several cardinal issues of social and cultural relevance in contemporary Africa and its history. Issues of interest typically include, the nationstate and its declining status, imperatives of decolonization, economic dependency and structural adjustment programs, orality and changing traditional cultures, diasporic migrations, urbanization and its problems, gender relations, civil wars, child soldiers, gangs, and related themes. Filmmakers studied include, but are not limited to, Abderrahmane Sissako, Gillo Pontecorvo, Ousmane Sembene, Raoul Peck, Jean-Marie Teno, Dani Kouyate, Mweze Ngangura, Gavin Hood, Neill Blomkamp, Moufida Tlatli, Djibril Diop Mambety (please note that this list is
subject to change, and shall be updated as future changes are made). The course is conducted in English, and requires no prior knowledge of the field. All films are
streamed to your computer from the UMass library on demand. Required readings are provided online, and no book purchases are necessary. (Gen.Ed. AT, DG)

FILM-ST  390T - Writing for the Screen

Instructor: Tom Benedek
Credits: 3

We will study TV/Streaming pilot scripts to learn how they are constructed and how successful series are developed. Students will work on their own TV/Streaming projects. As students work through a series of assignments/writing prompts, they will address plot, character development, story structure to enunciate required elements for original script projects.