Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Cinema, Realism, and Social Justice: the Social Problem Film Genre and Cinematic Politics

ENGL 291.401
crosslisted as: CINE 201
instructor(s):
W 2-5
fulfills requirements:
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

Throughout the history of the cinema, the medium has held—simultaneously—the potential to be a means of promoting fantasy and of creating a palpably powerful representation of reality.  How and when does the cinema become a part of the broader discourse on social problems? This course will use the “Social Problem film” genre to discuss those moments in which film most directly represents politics and questions of social justice.  The course will also address other films that use alternative strategies for representing social problems.  It will ask students to think about the construction of the social problem and its evasions in cinematic material.  It will also address questions of censorship and reception pertaining to these films: when and where is their representation deemed “too real” for the screen and therefore censored?  What does reception tell us about the phenomenology of this particular set of films?  (When) do they incite to social action?