Comparative Literature 313A: Contemporary Cinema
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 postsocialist ideology and form, new forms of realism, transnational trends, the role of international film festivals, and the conscious revision of cinematic traditions.

During weeks 2-9, class will meet for four meetings every week—two for screenings (up to 2 hours) and two for lectures (90 minutes). The tenth week is free; students are required to attend by the end of the course at least 8 SIFF screenings.

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 3:30-5:20 MGH 295

T 3:30-5:20 MGH 295

W 3:30-5:20 JHN 075
Th 3:30-5:20 MGH 295


Yomi Braester


office: C-504 Padelford


office hours: by appointment








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


Reading reports:
Seventeen 200-word reports, summarizing the respective readings.
Film reports: Twenty-one critical reviews, each 200 words long, each on a different film watched in class (13) or at SIFF (8) (students will choose the SIFF films based on their preferences). Submission of at least 18 reports is a condition for passing the course

Best film reports and best reading reports: the six film reports and five reading reports you deem best should be resubmitted at the end of the term (you may also revise them). These reports need to be well thought out and argued.

Paper #1: Due on May 6.; at least 850 words long. Paper topic will be announced in class.
Paper #2: Due June 3; at least 1,000 words long. Paper topic will be announced in class.


Reading reports 16 x 1 point (P/F basis for each) = 16 points
Film reports (13+8) x 1 point (P/F basis for each; 18 a prerequisite for passing the course) = 21 points

Best film reports 5 x 2.5 = 12.5 points

Best reading reports 4 x 2.5 = 10 points

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

Failure to submit 18 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. Please use Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced.
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

3/30 Mon

Procedural meeting

3/31 Tue

No class meeting

4/1 Wed

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

4/2 Th

Film screening: Emir Kusturica, Underground (1995) (167/194 mins) PART II
Reading 1: Dina Iordanova, Cinema of Flames (Introduction and chapters 2 and 6); Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 89-108

week 2

4/6 Mon

Seminar: What is "contemporary cinema"?
Reading 2: Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, (pp. 1-62)

4/7 Tue

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

4/8 Wed

End screening: Jiang Wen, In the Heat of the Sun
Seminar: Scars and nostalgia
Reading 3:
Yomi Braester, “Memory at a Standstill: Postsocialist China and Hooligan History”

4/9 Th

Seminar: post-socialist cinema from a comparative view
Reading 4:


week 3


4/13 Mon

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

4/14 Tue

End screening: Wolfgang Becker, Good Bye Lenin
Seminar: The televised revolution
Reading 5: Anthony Enns, "The politics of Ostalgie: post-socialist nostalgia in recent German film"

4/15 Wed

Screening: Nightwatch (2004) (114 mins)

4/16 Th

End screening: Nightwatch (2004) (114 mins)
Seminar: Silent apocalypse
Reading 6: Norris, "In the Gloom"; Campbell, "Five Theses"


week 4

4/20 Mon

Screening: Welcome to Dongmakgol (2005) (133)

4/21 Tue

End screening: Welcome to Dongmakgol
post-socialism outside the socialist block
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"

4/22 Wed

Film screening: Sweet Mud (2006) (90 mins)

4/23 Th

Seminar: post-socialism and post-Zionism
Reading 8: Adi Ophir, "The identity of the victims and the victims of identity: a critique of Zionist ideology for a Postzionist age


week 5

4/27 Mon

Film screening: Jia Zhangke, The World (2004) (143 mins) PART I

4/28 Tue

Film screening: Jia Zhangke, The World (2004) (143 mins) PART II

4/29 Wed

Seminar: The new Chinese cinemas; the post-spatial and post-cinematic
Reading 9: Jason McGrath, "'Independent' Cinema"

4/30 Th

No class meeting


week 6


5/4 Mon

Screening: Mathieu Kassovitz, Hate (1995) (96 mins)

5/5 Tue

Seminar: The Cinéma du cool and the new global order
Reading 10: Dana Thomas, "Crashing The New Wave"; Amy Siciliano, "La Haine: Framing the ‘Urban Outcasts’"

5/6 Wed

Film screening: Paradise Now

5/7 Th


Meeting with SIFF programmers; Seminar: Post-9/11

Reading 11: Zizek "Welcome to the Desert of the Real" (selection)


week 7



5/11 Mon

Film screening: Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (1996) (153 mins) (PART 1)

5/12 Tue

Film screening: Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (1996) (153 mins) (PART 1)

5/13 Wed

Reading 12:
Mette Hjort, "Dogma 95: A Small Nation's Response to Globalisation"; "The Globalisation of Dogma: The Dynamics of Metaculture and Counter-Publicity"

5/14 Th

Seminar: The Blockbuster; transnational film

Reading 13: Toby Miller et al., Global Hollywood, pp.34-82; Gary Xu, "Remaking East Asia, Outsourcing Hollywood."


week 8

5/18 Mon

Film screening: Abbas Kiarostami, Ten (2002) (94 mins)

5/19 Tu

Reading 14: Hamid Naficy, "Islamisizing Film Culture in Iran: A Post-Khatami Update"; Azadeh Farahmand, "Perspectives on Recent (International Acclaim for) Iranian Cinema"

5/20 Wed

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

5/21 Th

Reading 15:
"Between Exile and Homeland: The Films of Elia Suleiman," in Gertz and Khleifi, Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma, and Memory


week 9

5/25 Mon


5/26 Tu

Film screenings: The Red Balloon (1956) (34 mins); Flight of the Red Balloon (2007) (115 mins)

5/27 Wed

End screening: Flight of the Red Balloon

5/28 Th

Seminar: Translating the cinematic experience
Reading 16:
Mark Nornes, "Toward an Abusive Subtitling: Illuminating Cinema's Apparatus of Translation"


week 10

Reading 17:
Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 13-48; Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, "Trafficking in Movies," 143-162.



Exam week:

Assignments: Paper#2, best film reports, and all remaining film reports due Wednesday, June 3.
With prior notice, film reports for SIFF screenings can be turned in up until 6/10.