Comparative Literature 313: Contemporary Cinema
11225 A
5 credits; W credit


Contemporary Cinema
and the International Film Festival Circuit

The course explores the cinematographic, industrial, and ideological conditions of recent filmmaking, with an emphasis on transnational trends, diasporic cinema, the role of international film festivals, and the conscious revision of generic conventions and cinematic traditions.

During the first eight weeks, class will meet for four meetings every week—two for screenings (up to 2 hours) and two for lectures (90 minutes). Beginning in the ninth week, students will be required to attend SIFF screenings (at least 13).

This is a core course in the film studies track. Students are expected to be familiar with basic terms in film history and criticism.




M T W Th 3:30-5:20 JHN 111


Yomi Braester


office: C-504 Padelford


office hours: by appointment




course website:






Readings and film viewings:
All readings must be completed on time. Students are required to attend the screenings.


In-class presentations:
Students, in groups of 3, will prepare questions on the day’s readings and initiate the discussion on the readings and on the film screened in conjunction with them.

Written assignments:
Reading reports:
Eleven 200-word reports, summarizing the respective readings.
Film reports: 24 critical reviews, each 200 words long, each on a different film watched in class (11) or at SIFF (13) (students will choose the films based on their preferences, as long as they write on at least two films from each of five different regional or generic designated groups). Submission of at least 20 reports is a condition for passing the course

Best film reports and best reading reports: the ten film reports and four reading reports you deem best should be resubmitted at the end of the term. These reports need to be well thought out and argued.

Paper #1: Due on May 3.; 750-1,000 words long; the paper should introduce a particular field--either a national cinema or a genre that has acquired particular characteristics in the past 17 years (documentary / martial arts / gangster ...). The paper should identify at least three scholarly sources that discuss the subject and raise an argument that will be developed in paper #2
Paper #2: Due during exam week. Integrating course themes and the issues raised in the short paper together with two films watched at SIFF. 1,000-1,250 words; collaborative papers may be written with prior permission by instructor.

Bonus report: on Hamid Naficy's lecture (5/11): 450-550 words long, summarizing the main points of the lecture and tying them to issued discussed in class.

Reading reports 11 x 1 points = 11 points
Film reports 24 x 0.75 point (P/F basis for each; 20 a prerequisite for passing the course) = 18 points

Best film reports 10 x 2 = 20 points

Best reading reports 5 x 2 = 10 points

Paper#1 = 20 points
Paper#2 = 23 points

Bonus report = 5 points

Failure to submit 20 film reports on time will result in an F grade for the course


Policies and Procedures

Late submissions must be pre-approved by the instructor or they will not be accepted. Extensions for reading responses, make-up classes, and extra screenings will be available only in very special cases, where the students can demonstrate circumstances beyond their control.
All assignments, except in-class commentary, must be typed. To ensure a standard length, please make sure to use Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced, with page margins not exceeding 1.25 inches on each side.

The course strictly adheres to UWs rules on plagiarism.

Students with disabilities are encouraged to inform the instructor, who will do his best to provide the relevant accommodations.

CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change)

NOTE: Readings are available on electronic reserve, at

week 1

The films they don’t let us see (and who "they" are)

3/26 Mon

Seminar: Introduction

3/27 Tue

Film screening: Patrice Leconte, The Man on the Train (2002) (90 mins)
Reading 1.1: Lisa Downing, Patrice Leconte, chapter 1 (pp. 8-27)

3/28 Wed


Presentation: group #1 (Yasi, Jennifer, Alex) prepares questions on The Man on the Train

3/29 Th

group #1 presents on Movie Wars
Reading 1.2:
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, (pp. 1-62)
Reading report #1 due

week 2

Post-socialist cinema (1)

4/2 Mon

Film screening: Emir Kusturica, Underground (1995) (167/194 mins) PART I
Reading 2: Dina Iordanova, Cinema of Flames (Introduction and chapters 2, and 6); Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 89-108

4/3 Tue

Film screening: Emir Kusturica, Underground (1995) (167/194 mins) PART II

4/4 Wed

Seminar with Maryna Ajaja

4/5 Th

group #2 (Leanne, Andrew, Lo) prepares questions on Underground

week 3

Post-socialist cinema (2)


4/9 Mon

Film screening: Wolfgang Becker, Good Bye Lenin (2003) (121 mins)

4/10 Tue



Film screening: Jiang Wen, In the Heat of the Sun (1994) (128 mins) (Part I)
Reading 3: Yomi Braester, “Memory at a Standstill: Postsocialist China and Hooligan History”; Yingjin Zhang, "My Camera Doesn't Lie? Truth, Subjectivity, and Audience in Chinese Independent Film and Video"; Paul G. Pickowicz, "Social and Political Dynamics of Underground Filmmaking in China"

4/11 Wed

Film screening: Jiang Wen, In the Heat of the Sun (1994) (128 mins) (Part II)

4/12 Th

Presentation: group #3 (Niles, Dane, Tim, Tianyue) presents on readings and prepares questions on Good Bye, Lenin and In the Heat of the Sun
Assignments: Reading report #3 + film reports on Good Bye, Lenin and In the Heat of the Sun due

week 4

New forms of realism (1)

4/16 Mon

Film screening: Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (1996) (153 mins) (PART 1)
Reading 4: Mette Hjort, "Dogma 95: A Small Nation's Response to Globalisation; "The Globalisation of Dogma: The Dynamics of Metaculture and Counter-Publicity"
Assignments: Reading report #4 due

4/17 Tue

Film screening: Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (1996) (153 mins) (PART II)

4/18 Wed

Presentation: group #4 (Yo Chung, Tran) prepares questions on Breaking the Waves
Assignments: film report on Breaking the Waves due

4/19 Th

Film screening: Jia Zhangke, The World (2004) (143 mins) PART I
Reading 5: Michael Berry, interview with Jia Zhangke; review Zhang and Pickowicz in Reading #3.

week 5

New forms of realism (2)

4/23 Mon

Film screening: Jia Zhangke, The World (2004) (143 mins) PART II
Assignments: Reading report #5 due

4/24 Tue

Film screening: Abbas Kiarostami, Ten (2002) (94 mins)
Reading 6:
Hamid Naficy, "Islamisizing Film Culture in Iran: A Post-Khatami Update"; Azadeh Farahmand, "Perspectives on Recent (International Acclaim for) Iranian Cinema"

4/25 Wed

Presentation: group #6 (Sama, Justin, Joseph) presents on Iranian cinema and prepares questions on Ten and The World
Assignments: Reading report #6 + film reports on Ten and The World due

4/26 Th

Writing workshop

week 6

Emergent Asian cinemas


4/30 Mon

Film screening: Jun-ik Lee, The King and the Clown (119 mins)
Reading 7:
Michael Robinson, "Contemporary Cultural Production in South Korea"; Darcy Paquet, "The Korean Film Industry:
1992 to the Present"; Jeeyoung Shin, "Globalization and New Korean Cinema"

5/1 Tue

Presentation: group #7 (Jillian, Anthony, Becky) presents on readings and prepares questions on The King and the Clown
Assignments: Reading report #7 + film report on The King and the Clown due

5/2 Wed

Film Screening: Gore Verbinski, The Ring (2002) (115 mins)
Reading 8: Toby Miller et al., Global Hollywood, pp.34-82; Gary Xu, "Remaking East Asia, Outsourcing Hollywood"

5/3 Th




Presentation: group #8 (Joel, Mike, Shawn) presents on readings and prepares questions on The Ring
Reading report #8 + film report on The Ring due

week 7

Diaspora and exile


5/4 Mon

Film screening: Elia Suleiman, Divine Intervention (2002) (92 mins)

5/5 Tue

Discussion of Divine Intervention
(no group presentation today)
film report on Divine Intervention dueSeminar

5/6 Wed

Reading 10: Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, pp. 233-306
Presentation: group #10 (Drew, Bryan, Katelyn) presents on readings
Assignments: Reading report #10 due

5/10 Th

PAPER #1 DUE in Yomi's box (Padelford B-536)

5/11 Fr

Lecture by Hamid Naficy (optional)

week 8

The festival circuit


5/14 Mon

Film screening: Shiyam Benegal, Mammo (1994) (124 mins)
Reading 9: Background files on Shiyam Benegal; Jyotika Virdi, Nation and Its Discontents, Chapter 1

5/15 Tu

Seminar with film director Shiyam Benegal
Presentation: group #9 (Parm, Jacob, Steven) presents on readings and prepares questions on Bolllywood/Hollywood
Assignments: Reading report #9 + film report on Mammo due

5/16 Wed

group #11 (Christine, Jeff) presents on readings
Assignments: Reading report #11 due
Reading 11: Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 13-48; Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, "Trafficking in Movies," 143-162.

5/17 Th

Seminar with Kathleen Murphy


week 9

SIFF (5/24 - 6/17) NO CLASSES



week 10

SIFF (5/24 - 6/17) NO CLASSES



Exam week:

Assignments: Paper#2, best film reports, and all remaining film reports due Wednesday