Comparative Literature 313A (2198): Contemporary Cinema


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 six weeks, class will meet for four 100-minute meetings every week—two for screenings and two for lectures. Beginning in the seventh week, students will be required to attend SIFF screenings (at least 15), and weekly class meetings will be scheduled in conjunction with SIFF events.



Prerequisite: Students must have taken, or be taking during the same term, at least one of the following: C LIT 310, C LIT 311, or C LIT 312.


5 credits; W CREDIT



M 12:30-2:20 JHN 026
12:30-2:20 MGH 231

W 12:30-2:20 JHN 026
Th 12:30-2:20 JHN 026


Yomi Braester


office: C-504 Padelford


office hours: M 2:30-4 and 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 present the day’s readings and lead the discussion on the readings and on the film screened in conjunction with them, based on pre-meditated questions.

Written assignments:
Reading reports:
Nine 200-word reports, summarizing the respective readings.
Group paper: Due on the eighth week of class; ten pages long; each paper is prepared by a group of 3 students, on a particular area of cinema (Latin America / East Asia / South Asia / Africa / Europe / Documentary / ...). Students should read the relevant section in Nowell-Smith, The Oxford History of World Cinema or other preapproved sources.
Film reports: 24 critical reviews, each 200 words long, each on a different film watched in class or at SIFF (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.
Longer critical review: Integrating course themes together with two films watched at SIFF. 1000-1250 words; collaborative papers may be written with prior permission by instructor.

Report on "Cinema at the City's Edge" conference (bonus): 400 words.

Reading reports 9 x 3 points = 27 points
Group paper = 20 points
Short critical reviews 24 x 1 point (P/F basis for each; 20 for passing the course) = 24 points
Longer critical review = 30 points
Conference report = 10 bonus points


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)

week 1

The Films They Don’t Let Us See (And Who "They" Are)

3/27 Mon

Seminar: Introduction

3/28 Tue

Film screening: Patrice Leconte, The Man on the Train (2002) (90 mins)
Reading 1: Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, Introduction; chapters 1-5 (pp. 1-90); Lisa Downing, Patrice Leconte, chapter 1 (pp. 8-34) on E-reserve

3/29 Wed


Presentation: group #1 (Fagan, Nicole, Aimee) presents on Movie Wars and prepares questions on The Man on the Train
Reading report #1 due

3/30 Th

Film screening: Abbas Kiarostami, Ten (2002) (94 mins)
Reading 2:
Hamid Naficy, "Islamisizing Film Culture in Iran: A Post-Khatami Update"; Azadeh Farahmand, "Perspectives on Recent (International Acclaim for) Iranian Cinema"; Ali Reza Haghighi, "Politics and Cinema in Post-revolutionary Iran: An Uneasy Relationship"; Shahla Lahiji, "Chaste Dolls and Unchaste Dolls: Women in Iranian Cinema since 1979" on E-reserve


week 2

New Forms of Realism

4/3 Mon

Film screening: Lars Von Trier, Breaking the Waves (1996) (153 mins) (PART 1)
Reading 3: Mette Hjort, "Dogma 95: A Small Nation's Response to Globalisation; Scott MacKenzie, "Manifest Destinies: Dogma 95 and the Future of the Film Manifesto"; Mette Hjort, "The Globalisation of Dogma: The Dynamics of Metaculture and Counter-Publicity" on E-reserve

4/4 Tue

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

4/5 Wed

group #2 (Conor, Ben, Amanda, Tiffany) presents on Dogma and prepares questions on Breaking the Waves
Assignments: Reading reports #2&3 + 2 film reports (on The Man on the Train and Ten) due

4/6 Th

group #3 (Ayda, Sean, Zane) presents on Iranian cinema and prepares questions on Ten



week 3

Group paper planning meetings - no seminars

4/12 Wed

Film screening: Emir Kusturica, Underground (1995) (167/194 mins) PART I
Reading 4: Dina Iordanova, Cinema of Flames (chapters 1, 2, and 6); Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 89-108 on E-reserve

4/13 Th

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

week 4

Post-Cold War Cinema

4/17 Mon

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

4/18 Tue

group #4 (Brenna, Laura, Andrew, Kimhorn) presents on Cinema of Flames and prepares questions on Underground

Assignments: Reading report #4 + 2 film reports (on Breaking the Waves and Underground) + group paper prospectus due

4/19 Wed

Film screening: Tsai Ming-liang, The Hole (1998) (95 mins)

4/20 Th

Seminar with SIFF programmer (change of schedule possible)



week 5

Post-New Wave Chinese Cinemas

4/24 Mon

Film screening: Jia Zhangke, The World (2004) (143 mins) PART I
Reading 5: Sheldon Lu, “Chinese Cinemas (1896–1996) and Transnational Film Studies”; Chris Berry, “A Nation T(w/o)o: Chinese Cinema(s) and Nationhood(s)”; Yeh Yueh-yu and Darrell Davis, A Treasure Island, pp. 133-176; Michael Berry, interview with Jia Zhangke; David Desser, "Hong Kong Film and the New Cinephilia." on E-reserve

4/25 Tue

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

4/26 Wed

Seminar with Sean Axmaker, film critic (change of schedule possible)

4/27 Th

group #5 (Chris, Katrina, Xia) presents on readings and prepares questions on The World
Assignments: Reading report #5 + 2 film reports (on Good Bye Lenin and The Hole) due


International conference on East Asian Urban Cinema



week 6

Global Hollywood and Asia International

5/1 Mon

Film screening: ; Im Kwon-taek, Chunhyang (120 mins)
Reading 6: Michael Robinson, "Contemporary Cultural Production in South Korea"; Jeeyoung Shin, "Globalization and New Korean Cinema"; Hyangjin Lee, "Chunhyang: Marketing an Old Tradition in New Korean Cinema"; Soyoung Kim, "'Cine-Mania' or Cinephilia: Film Festivals and the Identity Question" on E-reserve

5/2 Tue

group #6 (Robert, Tristan, Paul) presents on readings and prepares questions on Chunhyang
Assignments: Reading report #6 + 1film report (on The World) due

5/3 Wed

group #7 (Michelle, David, Chris) presents on readings
Reading 7: Toby Miller et al., Global Hollywood, pp.1-82; Tom Shone, Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer, pp. 233-306 on E-reserve; Gary Xu, "Remaking East Asia, Outsourcing Hollywood"

5/4 Th

Seminar with Kathleen Murphy, film critic (change of schedule possible)



week 7

Diaspora and Exile; International Film Festivals

5/8 Mon

Film screening: Dipa Mehta, Bollywood/Hollywood (2002) (105 mins)
Reading 8: Jigna Desai, Beyond Bollywood, chapters 2, 8; Jyotika Virdi, "Nation and Its Discontents" (chapters 1 and 6) on E-reserve

5/9 Tue


Presentation: group #8 (Dan, Alexandra, Lo) presents on readings and prepares questions on Bolllywood/Hollywood
Assignments: Reading report #7&8 + 1 film report (on Chunhyang) + optional conference report due

5/10 Wed

Seminar: Preparation for SIFF
Reading 9:
Kenneth Turan, Sundance to Sarajevo, pp. 1-481, 72-180; Jonathan Rosenbaum, Movie Wars, Chapter 9 ("Trafficking in Movies: Festival Hopping in the Nineties); Julian Stringer, “Global Cities and the International Film Festival Economy” on E-reserve


Assignments: Reading report #9 + 1 film report (on Hollywood / Bollywood) due

5/11 Th

Seminar with SIFF director (change of schedule possible)



week 8



SIFF screenings



week 9



SIFF screenings and forums


Assignments: Group paper due Friday



week 10



SIFF screenings and forums



Exam week:

Assignments: Longer critical review due Wednesday; all remaining film reports due Friday