Realism & World Cinema
The question of “what is real?” permeates audiovisual media on all levels, and realism is one of the most persistent as well as most contested concepts in the history of cinema. On the one hand, film has always boasted of intimate relationship with objective reality. On the other hand, this relationship has been critiqued as an artificially produced “reality effect,” represented most powerfully by Hollywood cinema. Much of world cinema has defined itself against Hollywood on the basis of greater realism, whether it is Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, or contemporary movements such as the Danish Dogme, New Iranian Cinema, New Mexican Cinema, or New Taiwanese cinema. The emergence and rise of computer generated, digital images doesn’t diminish but actually gives a boost to realist-based audiovisual forms such as documentary film, reality TV, or virtual reality gaming, all of which try to address the perennial questions of realism: What is presence? What is evidence? What is authenticity? This course is a broad attempt to map the changing notion of realism by tracing several cinematic traditions and movements— the Danish Dogme, Iranian New Wave, American Mumblecore, among others—that all deploy realism but do so differently, with diverse aesthetic, social and political goals.