UC Berkeley Department of Film and Media

Department of Film & Media UC Berkeley

Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2018

140-001 | English 173 | CCN: 25123

Special Topics in Film - The Film Essay: James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag

Damon Young and Stephen Best

4 Units

T/Th 3:30-5:00pm; Th 5:00-8:00pm, Dwinelle 142

This course offers an in-depth study of three of the most influential public intellectuals of the twentieth century: James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag. Working in the postwar period between France and the United States, and grappling in different ways with their own minority experience, each of these writers was passionately engaged with the cinema, which provided the occasion for some of their most provocative reflections on race, sex, art, and culture. As well as offering brilliant insights into cinema as art form and medium, their writing provides a map of the intellectual, political, and cultural history of the past fifty years, posing questions that are more relevant than ever today. We will analyze the way these (and some other) authors make their arguments, how they think and write about film and art, and, especially, how they bring to light the relation between film aesthetics and the politics of race, class, gender, sexuality, and national identity. We will follow their lead in watching and responding to provocative films that challenge our taken-for-granted assumptions. We will also approach the essay as an art in its own right, exploring how great cultural criticism not only comments on but also creates the world. Students will work through a series of writing exercises to produce innovative cultural criticism of their own, or a longer research paper.

This course will cover a variety of 16mm filmmaking techniques, including hand-painted film, cinematography, and digital transfer with an emphasis on the avant-garde. Through readings, hands-on workshops, and individual projects, students will learn about exposure, the photochemical process, various film stocks, and digital editing. This course is intended to provide an historical perspective of film technology before the invention of video, a foundational understanding of cinematography as it is still used in video today, and an introduction to motion picture film as a professional medium of choice for contemporary filmmakers. Students will shoot and edit traditional 16mm film as well as digital transfers of film to video. This is a studio-based film production course that will utilize a range of equipment including: 16mm film cameras, video cameras and software, and audio and lighting instruments. The work created in class will culminate in a final screening/performance of individual and group assignments.