Students are required to take two foundational courses. Film Analysis focuses on close textual analysis of individual films, the systematic orchestration of formal elements in relation to meaning in films, and key critical and theoretical approaches including dialectical montage, realism, and structuralist analysis of genre as frameworks the significance of formal analysis. Film Theory extends this textual and conceptual approach to focus on contemporary theories of narrative, classical Hollywood film, ideology, film semiotics, spectatorship, feminism, and psychoanalysis as well as recent revisions of these debates on the theory/history relationship, the nature of historical film, and digital cinema. An extensive analytical journal required of all students in both classes reinforces core skills. Film Analysis also serves as a core course for the Communication major.
Students are also required to take a capstone seminar course, which integrates formal and critical/theoretical approaches to analyzing films studied in the core. Capstones focus on new theoretical problems about cinema, reassessments of earlier debates in film studies and related fields, and new topics in national cinema. Current capstones are offered in two key areas:
- The relationship between theory and history: including historical spectatorship and experience associated with "cultural technologies" from 19th century screen practices and photography to the computer; the archive and cinema, which focuses on the archive as representation, film-making practice, theoretical problematic, and site of transformation from a physical repository to digital databases; and spectacular cinema, which interrogates cinema history from the perspectives of film-philosophy and media theory by studying theories of spectacle which utilize concepts of the gaze, the sublime, the uncanny, commodity fetishism, and attention economy.
- National cinemas: including film movements, such as Italian Neorealism; the work of European auteurs such as Pasolini and Antonioni as an alternative to the classical Hollywood style; the dialogue between European thinkers representing diverse theories on film and mass culture; and a historical, critical, and theoretical survey of Cuban cinema, which serves as an introduction to Cuban culture and society and interrogates the notion of a "national cinema" from theoretical perspectives including how the term has been used and how its nature has changed over time.
Faculty teaching electives are from Communication and other departments and programs, namely, English, French and Italian, German, History, Spanish and Portuguese as well as Africana Studies, Asian Studies, and Digital Media Practices. Electives focus on film movements and various filmmaking traditions, film and social issues, topics in genre and authorship, topics in Politics and Cinema, the history of film industry in the U.S. including Hollywood, focusing on production, distribution, and exhibition of films, the critical study of film and its connection to film production. The international reach of national cinemas taught in the program has been particularly strong with courses on Latin American, Cuban, Argentine, African, Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Moroccan, Taiwanese, Hong Kong, Nigerian, and Malaysian cinema. Electives also span a broad history of cinema including19th century precinematic visual culture, early cinema, silent cinema, early sound, historical avant garde, classical Hollywood cinema, art cinema, new wave cinemas, "New Hollywood," contemporary cinema, fan films, contemporary experimental cinema, and 21st century digital culture.