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Cinema and Politics

ENGL 392.401
also offered as: CINE 392, COML 391
TR 3-4:30 pm


This seminar has a bold aim: it seeks to understand better what has happened in our world since the era of decolonization, by considering the term “politics” in its very broadest and most dramatic connotations: as the dream of social change and its failures.  Another way of describing its subject matter is to say that it is about revolution and counterrevolution since the Bandung Conference.  Together we will investigate the way in which major historical events, including the struggle for Algerian independence, the coup in Indonesia, the Cuban Revolution, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, the Vietnam War, Latin American and African dictatorships, the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the Iranian revolution, the fall of the Soviet Union, the end of apartheid in South Africa, 9/11, the Iraq War, and its aftermath, have been represented in some of the most innovative and moving films of our time. Attention will therefore be paid to a variety of genres: including cinema verité, documentary, the thriller, the biopic, animation, the global conspiracy film, hyperlink cinema, and dystopian science fiction.  The ongoing and fraught question of race in America, as well as the American fixation on elections (which sometimes seems the be all and end all of politics here) may also come under scrutiny; but the idea is to have a more global reach. We will study 12 to 15 of the following titles (here grouped in terms of thematic connections), along with a rich collection of critical essays: Battle of Algiers, The Year of Living Dangerously/The Act of Killing, The Motor Cycle Diaries/Y Tu Mama Tambien, Lumumba/The Last King of Scotland, The Official Story/Missing/!No, The Lives of Others/Goodbye, Lenin, Persepolis, A Very British Coup, Invictus/ Endgame/ More than Just a Game, Mississippi Burning/American History X/ Crash, Caché, The Fog of War/W, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Ghost Writer, In the Valley of Elah, Waltz with Bashir, The Edukators/Die Welle/ Election, Children of Men. Note also that this course will be taught in a way quite similar to my earlier seminar on Cinema and Globalization: students will view the set film on their own in advance and read the accompanying critical articles; occasional and voluntary in-class presentations are possible.  Requirements: a midterm paper of around 8-10 pages and a final paper of around 8-12.

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major