Film Department

Chair: Mia Mask; Professors: Sarah R. Kozloff, Kenneth M. RobinsonaAssociate Professors: Kathleen J. Man, Mia Mask; Assistant Professor: Sophia HarveyaAdjunct Assistant Professor: Jeffery M Fligelman; Adjunct Instructors: Jason Thomas Fox, Derek Kane-Meddock; Post Doctoral Fellow: Tarik Ahmed Elseewi.

Requirements for Concentration in Film:

1) 11 units required.

2) Film 210, Film 211, Film 392 required. Film 392 must be taken senior year.

3) 2 additional Film Department units in cinema studies at the 200-level or above. These units must be completed before enrolling in Film 392.

4) 1 film history unit in a national cinema that is not American. This course, which must be at the 200-level or above, may be taken within the Department of Film or another Vassar Department. With prior approval, a film history course taken while a student is attending a JYA or Exchange Program may satisfy this requirement.

5) 5 additional Film Department units in film. These may be any combination of courses at the 200-level or above in cinema studies, film, and video production, dramatic writing and screenwriting. With prior approval from the department, two units of Junior Year Away coursework may be used to satisfy a portion of this requirement.

I. Introductory

175b. The Art of Film (1)

An introductory exploration of central features of film aesthetics, including formal and stylistic elements: color, lighting, editing, sound, etc. Exposure to a wide spectrum of types of films, including: silent, abstract, non-narrative, documentary and genre films, and the artistic choices manifested by each. Subjects are treated topically rather than historically, and emphasis is placed on mastering key vocabulary. The department.

May not be used toward the Major requirements.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

II. Intermediate

210a. World Cinema to 1945 (1)

An international history of film from its invention through the silent era and the coming of sound to mid-century. The course focuses on major directors, technological change, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course introduces students to the major issues of classical film theory. The department.

Prerequisite: Film 175 strongly suggested but not required.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

211b. World Cinema After 1945 (1)

An international history of film from mid-century to the present day. The course focuses on major directors, technological changes, industrial organization, and the contributions of various national movements. In addition to the historical survey, this course explores the major schools of contemporary film theory, e.g., semiology, Marxist theory, feminism. The department.

Prerequisite: Film 210, and permission from the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

212. Genre: The Musical (1)

Examines the development of American film musicals from The Jazz Singer to the present day. The course looks at major stars such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, and Judy Garland, and the contributions of directors such as Vincente Minnelli and Bob Fosse. Students examine the interrelationships between Broadway and Hollywood, the influence of the rise and fall of the Production Code, the shaping hand of different studios, the tensions between narrative and spectacle, sincerity and camp. Reading assignments expose students to a wide range of literature about film, from production histories to feminist theory. Ms. Kozloff.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

214. Genre: The War Film (1)

An examination of how American films have represented World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. Films chosen include both those made while the conflicts rages (Bataan, 1942), and those made many years later (Saving Private Ryan, 1998, and Three Kings, 1999). This class focuses on such issues as: propaganda and patriotism, pacifism and sensationalism, the reliance on genre conventions and the role of changing film technologies. For comparison, we look also at documentaries, at film focusing on the "home front," and at war-time poetry, posters, and music. Reading assignments cover topics such as the government's Office of War Information, the influence of John Wayne, the racism of the Vietnam films, the ways in which the Iraq war movies have been influenced by the genre. Ms Kozloff.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

215. Genre: Science Fiction (1)

The course surveys the history of science fiction film from its beginnings in the silent period to the advent of digital technologies. The "golden age" of the 50s, the emergence of a new kind of science-fiction film at the end of the 60s (Kubrick's 2001), and the "resurgence/revival" of science-fiction film in the late 70s-early 80s (Blade Runner, Alien) are given special attention. Topics include subgenres (end of the world, time travel, space exploration, robots, atomic energy), the relation of science-fiction films to their social context and their function in popular culture, the place of science in science-fiction, and the role of women in science fiction literature is read. While passing mention is made of television science fiction, the course focuses on film.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus required weekly evening screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

216b. Genre: Romantic Comedy (1)

This class studies the genre of romantic comedy in American film from the "screwball comedies" of the 1930s (It Happened One Night, Bringing Up Baby) to the resurgence of the genre in the 1990s (You've Got Mail). The course focuses on the work of major stars such as Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and Meg Ryan, as well as the contribution of such directors as Ernst Lubitsch, George Cukor, Preston Sturges, Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, or Nora Ephron. We place these films in the context of other representations of romance—such as Shakespeare's comedies—and in the context of the changes in American culture, particularly in the role of women. Readings lead students to a deeper understanding of the history of American film, genre, and the star system. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2010-11

218. Genre: The Western (1)

A historical and cultural exploration of the Western film genre, with emphasis on the relationship between the Western and the central myths of American experience and such themes as masculinity, violence and the role of women. Specifically, the course examines Westerns directed by filmmakers D. W. Griffith, Tom Mix, William S. Hart, John Ford, Howard Hawks, George Stevens, John Huston, Anthony Mann, Fred Zinnemann, Sam Peckinpah, and Clint Eastwood among others.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

219. Genre: Film Noir (1)

The term "film noir" was coined by French critics at the end of WWII to describe Hollywood adaptations of hard-boiled crime fiction. In this course we first consider "film noir" as an American genre, defined historically (from Huston's 1941 The Maltese Falcon to Welles' 1958 Touch of Evil) and stylistically (hard- edged chiaroscuro, flashbacks, voice-over). In order to account for its broad and lasting appeal, however, we discuss film noir's antecedent in French poetic realism in the 1930s, its influence on New Wave (e.g. Truffaut's 1960 Shoot the Piano Player, Melville's 1967 The Samourai), and on Japanese cinema (Yositaro Nomura's 1957 The Chase, Akira Kurosawa's 1963 High and Low), as well as its later return as "neo-noir" (Polanski's 1974 Chinatown, Takeshi Kitano's 1990 Boiling Point, Claire Denis' 1997 I Can't Sleep). We observe the transformation of recurrent themes, such as urban violence, corruption, the blurring of moral and social distinctions, the pathology of the divided self, and the femme fatale. Readings in film history and theory, including feminist theory.

Prerequisite: Film 175 and 210 or French 244, 252, or 262 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

230. Women in Film (1)

(Same as Women's Studies 230) This course both examines the representation of women on film from an international perspective, and explores the works of key international women directors. Issues addressed include: constructions of femininity, masculinity, and sexuality, and the mapping of intersections between gender, power, race, class, and nation. We then study women directors of feature films such as Kathryn Bigelow (USA), Julie Dash (USA), Mingmonkul Sonakul (Thailand), Deepa Mehta (India), Nan Triveni Achnas (Indonesia), Jane Campion (New Zealand), Chantal Akerman (Belgium), and Yasmin Ahmad (Malaysia). Readings are drawn from feminist (film) theory, post-colonial theory, genre theory, and cultural studies. Screenings may include Sweetie, Sepet, The Photograph, Fire, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, and Near Dark.

Prerequisite: One course in Film or Women's Studies.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

231. Minorities in the Media (1)

This course examines various texts (written and visual) in which the dynamics of race, gender, class, and sexuality in American life are represented. Throughout the semester, we analyze films, television programs, videos and advertisements, as well as other mediated discourse, to assess the way categories of minority identity were constructed in mainstream society. In addition to examining images of those persons collective known as "minorities," we consider the representation of those defined as majority Americans. Identity formation is a central theme. In addition to scholarship by black British cultural theorists, African American scholars, critical race theorists and sociologists, this course enlists scholarship from the emerging field of "whiteness studies." Issues and topics may include "model" minorities (Tiger Woods, Ellen DeGeneres, Barak Obama), "Wiggers," the representation of women of color in National Geographic, global advertising, racial profiling, police brutality (Rodney King, Abner Louima, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell), the WNBA, Gays and Lesbians in the military, Arabs and the Middle East. Screenings may include La Haine, Our Song, Hide & Seek, Traffic and Requiem for a Dream. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Not offered in 2010-11

232. African American Cinema (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 232) This course provides a survey of the history and theory of African American representation in cinema. It begins with the silent films of Oscar Micheaux and examines early Black cast westerns (Harlem Rides the Range, The Bronze Buckaroo, Harlem on the Prairie) and musicals (St. Louis Blues, Black and Tan, Hi De Ho, Sweethearts of Rhythm). Political debate circulating around cross over stars (Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt, and Harry Belafonte) are central to the course. Special consideration is given to Blaxploitation cinema of the seventies (Shaft, Coffy, Foxy Brown, Cleopatra Jones) in an attempt to understand its impact on filmmakers and the historical contexts for contemporary filmmaking. Realist cinema of the 80's and 90's is examined before the transition to Black romantic comedies and genre pictures (Coming to America, The Best Man, Brown Sugar, Deliver Us from Eva, The Pursuit of Happyness). Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

233. The McCarthy Era and Film (1)

This class focuses both on the history of anti-communist involvement with the American film industry and on the reflection of this troubled era in post-war films. We trace the factors that led to The House on Un-American Activities Committee's investigation of communist influence in Hollywood, the case of the Hollywood Ten, the operation of the blacklist and its final demise at the end of the 1950s. We look at films overtly taking sides in this ideological conflict, such as the anti-Communist I Was a Communist for the FBI and the pro-labor Salt of the Earth, as well as the indirect allegories in film noirs and science fiction. Reading assignments are drawn from a wide range of sources, including HUAC transcripts, government documents, production histories, and genre studies. The course concludes with a look at how more contemporary films such as Good Night and Good Luck, have sought to frame our understanding of this era. Ms. Kozloff.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2010-11

235. Celebrity and Power: Stardom in Contemporary Culture (1)

Celebrity fascinates Americans. It informs popular culture, professional sport and national politics. Yet what defines celebrity? How are stars manufactured by the Culture Industry? Why is the ubiquitous cult of celebrity so important in contemporary Western culture and across global mediascapes? Through classic and contemporary writings, the course examines stardom and various brands of star charisma. We interrogate conventional forms of celebrity power as well as the conversion of entertainment industry charisma into forms of political charisma (i.e., the careers of Ronald Reagan, Clint Eastwood, Arnold Schwarzenegger). As intertextual signs, stars reveal the instabilities, ambiguities and contradictions within a given culture. The changing configuration of American society is revealed in an examination of celebrity and stardom as social phenomena. This course transverses from Mary Pickford to Oprah Winfrey and beyond. Readings, screenings and writing assignments required. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2010-11

236. African Cinema: A Continental Survey (1)

(Same as Africana Studies 236) African national cinemas reflect the rich, complex history of the continent. These films from lands as diverse as Chad, Senegal, and South Africa reveal the various ways filmmakers have challenged the representation of Africa and Africans while simultaneously revising conventional cinematic syntax. This survey course examines the internal gaze of African-born auteurs like Ousmane Sembene (La Noir De, Xala, Mandabi), Djbril Diop Mambety (Hyenes), Desire Ecare (Faces of Women), Manthia Diawara (Conakry Kas), and Mahmat-Saleh Haroun (Bye-Bye Africa). It places these films alongside the external gaze of practitioners Euzan Palcy (A Dry White Season), Jean-Jacques Annaud (Noir et Blancs en Couleur) and Raoul Peck (Lumumba). The films of documentary filmmakers Anne Laure Folly, Ngozi Onwurah and Pratibah Parmaar are also examined. This course utilizes the post-colonial film theory and scholarship of Imruh Bakari, Mbye Cham, Nwachukwu Frank Ukadike and Manthia Diawara. Screenings, readings and papers required. Ms. Mask.

Two 75-minute periods plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2010-11

237. Indian National Cinema (1)

(Same as Asia 237a) This course provides a critical overview of the popular cinema of Bollywood. Bollywood, with its prolific output and international appeal, also serves to project a certain construction of the Indian national imaginary. The course both explores and problematizes this imaginary through a variety of perspectives. These perspectives include: the star system, genre, the representation of women, caste, religion, and ethnicity, the politics of history and memory, the play of linguistic difference, the tension between tradition and modernity, and the influence of literary epics, music, and folk theater on the narrative structure and aesthetics of Bollywood cinema. Readings are drawn from contemporary film theory, post-colonial theory, and Indian cultural studies. Screenings may include Awaara / The Vagabond (Raj Kapoor, 1951), Mother India (Mehboob Khan, 1957), Satya / Truth (Ram Gopal Varma, 1998), Sholay(Ramesh Sippy, 1975), Bombay (Mani Ratnam, 1995), Pyaasa / The Thirsty One (Guru Dutt, 1957), Bride and Prejudice (Gurinder Chadha, 2004), and Mission Kashmir (Vidhu Vinod Chopra, 2000). Ms. Harvey.

Two 75- minute periods plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or Film 210 and permission of the instructor.

Not offered in 2010-11

238a. Music in Film (1)

(Same as Music 238) A study of music in sound cinema from the 1920s to the present. The course focuses on the expressive, formal, and semiotic functions that film music serves, either as sound experienced by the protagonists, or as another layer of commentary to be heard only by the viewer, or some mixture of the two. Composers studied include Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, Danny Elfman and others as well as film scores that rely upon a range of musical resources including classical, popular, and non-Western music. Specific topics to be considered this semester include music in film noir and the movie musical. Mr. Mann.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

Prerequisite: one course in music (not performance) or film.

239. Contemporary Southeast Asian Cinemas (1)

(Same as Asian Studies 239) This survey course is designed to introduce students to the dynamic and diverse film texts emerging from and about Southeast Asia. It examines how these texts imagine and image Southeast Asia and/or particular nations within the region. More specifically, the course focuses on the themes of urban spaces and memory/trauma as they operate within texts about Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Timor-Leste. The course reading material is designed to provide (1) theoretical insights, (2) general socio-cultural and/or political overviews, and (3) more specific analyses of film texts and/or filmmakers. Ms. Harvey. 

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

260. Documentary: History and Aesthetics (1)

Beginning with an exploration of film pioneers such as Robert Flaherty and Margaret Mead, the course also examines the impact of John Grierson on documentary production in both Great Britain and Canada. In addition, the development of cinema verité is traced through the work of such filmmakers as Jean Rouch, Richard Leacock, Robert Drew, D. A. Pennebaker, Frederick Wiseman, and the Maysles Brothers. Other topics might include propaganda films, the lyrical documentary, and the personal essay film. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film 175 or 210 and permission of the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods, plus outside screenings.

286a. TV History and Criticism (1)

(Same as Media Studies 286). This course is a survey of the history, technology, regulation, audience, and economics of television and related electronic media from the 1920s until the present. This class focuses on both the historical development of the medium and its texts as well as on the theoretical frameworks scholars have used to study television. The course approach television primarily through the lens of its relationship with American culture with an ongoing focus on issues of race, gender, class and the political process.

Film 210 and permission from the instructor.

Two 75-minute periods.

290a or b. Field Work (1/2 or 2)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser and the Office of Field Work.

298a or b. Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.

III. Advanced

300a or b. Film Research Thesis (1)

An academic thesis in film history or theory, written under the supervision of a member of the department. Since writing a thesis during fall semester is preferable, film majors should talk to their advisers spring of junior year. In Film, a research thesis is recommended, especially for those students not writing a Screenplay Thesis or enrolled in Documentary workshop, but it is not required. Ms. Kozloff, Ms. Mask. Ms. Harvey.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, two additional courses in film history and theory, and permission of the instructor.

301a or b. Film Screenplay Thesis (1)

The creation of a feature-length original screenplay. Open only to students electing the concentration in film. Senior status required. Students wishing to write a screenplay instead of a research thesis must have produced work of distinction in Film 317 (Intro to Screenwriting) and Film 319 (Screenwriting).

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Film 317 or Drama 317, Film 319, and permission of instructor.

317a. Introduction to Screenwriting (1)

(Same as Drama 317a) Study of dramatic construction as it applies to film, plus practice in story development and screenwriting. Mr. Fligelman.

Prerequisites: Drama 102 or Film 210 and permission of instructor.

Writing sample required two weeks before pre-registration.

Open only to juniors and seniors.

One 2-hour period.

319b. Screenwriting (1)

An in-depth exploration of the screenplay as a dramatic form and a workshop aimed at the development, writing, and rewriting of a feature-length screenplay. Students study the work of noted screenwriters and are required to complete a feature-length screenplay as their final project in the course. Open only to students who have produced work of distinction in Film 317. TBA.

One 2-hour period plus outside screenings.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211, Drama or Film 317, and permission of the instructor.

320a. Filmmaking (1)

This course concentrates on a theoretical and practical examination of the art of visual communication on 16 mm. film. Assignments emphasize developing, visualizing, and editing narratives from original ideas. Instructors may emphasize narrative projects or explore a wider range of modes of filmmaking.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 210/211 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

321b. Narrative Filmmaking (1)

Exploration of a variety of narrative structures from original ideas. Includes working in a partnership with divided responsibilities to develop, visualize and execute films. Emphasis is placed on writing and production planning as well as how lighting and sound contribute to the overall meaning of films. Editing is in Final Cut Pro. May not be taken concurrently with Film 322. Mr. Robinson.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

322b. Modes of Filmmaking (1)

In this intensive course, students explore innovative approaches to cinema-making through a series of 16mm. and digital short projects, engaging experimental, documentary, and narrative modes. Students shoot black and white and color negative 16mm. film, and 24P digital video, and utilize advanced editing techniques in Final Cut Pro. May not be taken concurrently with Film 321. Ms. Man.

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

325a. Writing and Directing the Short Film (1)

Students explore the development of the short narrative film through the processes of writing, directing, and acting. They write two short scripts and direct two short digital videos. Students who complete this course are eligible to compete for writing and directing positions in Film 327. Mr. Robinson

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320 plus Film 321 or 322 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

326a. Documentary Workshop (1)

This course addresses the aesthetic, ethical and theoretical issues specific to the documentary genre as students explore a variety of documentary styles. Student crews make fifteen-minute documentary videos about a person, place, event, or an issue. Students learn advanced video and sound-recording techniques, using professional grade digital cameras, field lights, microphones and tripods. Post-production is done on digital non-linear editing systems. May not be taken concurrently with Film 325. Mr. Robinson

Fees: see section on fees.

Prerequisites: Film 320, plus Film 321 or 322 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3-hour lab.

327b. Narrative Workshop (1)

In this course student crews create short 16mm sync/sound narrative films from original student scripts. Individual members of each crew are responsible for the major areas of production and post- production: direction, camera, editing, and sound. The projects are shot on 16mm. negative film and edited digitally using Final Cut Pro. Students wishing to compete for writing or directing positions in Film 327 must have completed Film 325. The department.

Fees: See sections of fees.

Prerequisite: Film 326 and permission of the instructor.

One 2-hour period, plus 3- hour lab.

392a or b. Research Seminar in Film History and Theory (1)

This course is designed as an in-depth exploration of either a given author or a theoretical topic. Students contribute to the class through research projects and oral presentations. Their work culminates in lengthy research papers. Because topics change, students are permitted (encouraged) to take this course more than once. Preference is given to film majors who must take this class during their senior year; junior majors and others admitted if space permits.

Topic for 2010/11a: Artist, Auteur: David Cronenberg. This senior seminar explores the expansive oeuvre of Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg (1943-). It examines Cronenberg's macabre fascination with the mutability of the body and identity. The seminar will situate his films within discourses of psychoanalysis, feminism, and post-modernism. Selected films include: Stereo (1969), Shivers (1975), Scanners (1981), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), Dead Ringers (1988), Naked Lunch (1991), Crash (1996), eXistenZ (1999), Spider (2002), A History of Violence (2005), and Eastern Promises(2007). Ms. Harvey.

Topic for 2010/11a: American Horror Cinema. An advanced seminar in American horror cinema. It facilitates in-depth analysis and close readings of classic horror movies. This course explores the production, reception, aesthetics and politics or an evolving genre. We begin with the classic 1930's studio monster movies like Dracula, Frankenstein and Cat People. Next, we examine Cold War politics and its influence on films like, I Married a Monster from Outer Space. Landmark movies responsible for shifts in the genre's paradigm (like Psycho) are contextualized. We trace the genealogy of zombie movies from the Vietnam era to the present - considering their relationship to the military industrial complex. Teen slasher pictures reached their apex in the Seventies, only to be re-invented in the 1990s Scream franchise. Television also exploits the popularity of teen horror with programs like True Blood. The course concludes with post-apocalyptic horror and its expression of millenarian anxiety in films Avatar and Legion. The work of Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski, Brian DePalma, David Cronenberg and Mary Harron, among others, will be studied. Ms. Mask.

Prerequisite: Film 210/211, two additional units in film history and theory, and permission of instructor.

One 3-hour period plus film screenings.

399a or b. Senior Independent Work (1/2 or 1)

To be elected in consultation with the adviser.