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Cinema and Politics

ENGL 0590.401
also offered as: ARTH 3890/CIMS 0590/COML 0590
MW 10:15-11:44am


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 connotation—as the dream of social change (and its failures). Another way of describing its subject matter is to say that the course 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 military coup in Indonesia, the Cuban Revolution, the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in Congo, the Vietnam War, the fall of the Soviet Block, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Iraq War and its aftermath, and contemporary concerns with immigration, corporate malfeasance, structural adjustment and privatization, and environmental catastrophe 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, science fiction and dystopia. Films will include: The Battle of Algiers, The Year of Living Dangerously, Memories of Underdevelopment, Lumumba and Lumumba: La Mort du Prophète, The Fog of War, The Lives of Others, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Even the Rain, The Constant Gardener, Syriana, Waltz with Bashir, Caché, Children of Men, and The Possibility of Hope. An archive of secondary readings will be provided on Canvas. Writing requirements: a midterm and a final paper of around 8-10 pages. 

Permission is required to enroll into this BFS course.  Seats are reserved for BFS students.  Please submit a request to Professor Barnard, and submit a permit request form in PATH@PENN, when adding, to your cart.

English Major Requirements
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 6 20th & 21st Centuries (AE20)
English Concentration Attributes
  • 20th-21st Century Concentration (AE21)
College Attributes
  • Sector III: Arts & Letters (AUAL)
  • Foundational Approach: Cultural Diversity in US (AUCD)