Programs / Graduate Program

Designated Emphasis

The Designated Emphasis in Film & Media Studies provides curricular and research resources for students who want to concentrate on Film & Media within their respective disciplines and have their work formally recognized in their degree designation. Designed to bring together faculty and students from different departments, the D.E. is administered by the Graduate Group in Film & Media Studies and provides a unique context for rigorous cross-disciplinary research. Students applying to the D.E. must be prepared to integrate high-level Film & Media research into their coursework, qualifying exam, and dissertation.

Requirements for Admission

Any UC Berkeley Ph.D student in good standing may apply after completing either the Film Theory seminar (Film & Media 200) offered each fall semester, or the Film Historiography seminar (Film & Media 201) offered each spring semester. Students must be admitted to the D.E. prior to taking their Qualifying Exams.

Requirements for the Designation

Students admitted to the Designated Emphasis Program must complete the following requirements before completion of their degree:

  1. A minimum of three graduate seminars in Film & Media must be taken at Berkeley:
  • Film & Media 200;
  • Film & Media 201;
  • Film & Media 240 or a graduate seminar cross-listed with Film & Media.

Note: Independent study courses are not acceptable to fulfill this requirement.

  1. A member of the Graduate Group in Film & Media must be a formal member of the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination committee. Under most circumstances, the Film Graduate Group member in the student’s home department will serve in this function. A member of the Graduate Group may also serve as the outside member of the qualifying exam committee.
  2. A Film & Media topic must be included as a subject on the Qualifying Examination.
  3. A member of the Graduate Group in Film and Media must be a formal member of the dissertation committee.
  4. The dissertation must contribute to the study of film and moving-image media.

Upon completion of these requirements and the dissertation, the student will receive a designation on their transcript to state that they have completed a “Ph.D. in (…) with an Emphasis in Film & Media.”


Please note that descriptions will vary according to the instructor. Additional seminars with substantial film or visual culture components are offered by various departments each semester.

Film & Media 200: Film Theory

This course will provide an advanced introduction to the by-now substantial field of Film Theory. Equal attention will be given to the classic texts of early and of contemporary Film Theory, and to the theoretical issues raised in each. It will not be the governing assumption of this course that an implicit teleology underpins the development of Film Theory, leading from primitive to ever more sophisticated formulations; consequently, while we will of course read that discipline’s founding texts through the prism of the late twentieth century, we will also complicate its contemporary debates through the work of figures like Benjamin, Eisenstein and Kracauer. Although the theoretical category to which we will most insistently return will be spectatorship, it will be formally as well as narratively and ideologically specified, and complicated through the related notions of “race,” “gender,” “class,” “nation” and “history.” We will read texts by Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Bela Belazs, Andre Bazin, Sergei Eisenstein, Jean-Louis Baudry, Christian Metz, Laura Mulvey, Stephen Heath, Linda Williams, Thomas Elsaesser, Tom Gunning, Mary Ann Doane, Kaja Silverman, and Gilles Deleuze.

Film & Media 201: Film Historiography

The seminar provides both a theoretical overview of film historiography and an introduction to specific examples and methods of historically oriented film research. One focus of the seminar will be an introduction to methodological aspects to film-archival research. Students will become familiar with campus libraries, film collections, and archival resources, especially Pacific Film Archive. The seminar’ s theoretical project will be to develop a repertoire of historiographical questions that can help shape research information into historical narrative. On the one hand, we will examine metahistorical writings on film history from the past two decades for an understanding of the questions undergirding various kinds of investigations. On the other, we will examine interesting case-historical examples dealing with film technology, style, studio history, exhibition, spectatorship, and cultural history.

Film 240: Special Topics (selected titles):

Sample titles from recent seminars:

Silent Film Comedy, Horror Film, Film Noir, The Courtroom Film, Racial Melodrama, Griffith, Eisenstein, Resnais/Renoir, Fellini, The Dialectical Image, Weimar Cinema, Italian Neo-Realism and Marxism, Caravaggio: Film and Painting, Narrative Theory in Literature and Cinema, Film and Modernism, Avant- garde, Psychoanalysis and the Socio-Political, Theory of Cultural Studies, Feminist Film Theory, Cinema, Nation, Memory, Third Cinema

Applying for the Film Designated Emphasis

Applications to the Designated Emphasis program are accepted in fall and spring semesters for admission in the following semester. Please email the Graduate Assistant to request the current application. The deadlines are April 15 for admission the following fall semester, and November 15 for the following spring semester. Only a limited number of students will be admitted. Please submit the following materials to the Film DE Graduate Advisor at Check back approximately one month after the deadline to check your status if you have not been notified.

  • A Completed application form.
  • A succinct one-page statement about your research interests and background in film.
  • A writing sample (maximum 25 pages), ideally relating to a film topic.
  • A current, unofficial copy of your UC Berkeley transcript.
  • At least one letter of recommendation from a faculty member from your home department.
  • Graduate Petition for Change of Major or Degree Goal.This is now an online petition that is submitted through CalCentral. If you are admitted into the DE the Graduate Assistant will notify you and let you know that you can now submit the online petition.

Film & Media Graduate Group Faculty

Weihong Bao

PhD, University of Chicago, Assistant Professor of East Asian Languages & Cultures and Film & Media 
Prof. Bao’s teaching and research interests cover late Qing visual and performance culture, Chinese language cinema of all periods and regions, contemporary screen and exhibition practice as well as transnational genre cinema, international film theory, and the intersection between film and media.

Natalia Brizuela

PhD, New York University; Assistant Professor of Spanish and Portuguese
Prof. Brizuela has areas of research that lie at the intersection of Latin American literature and visual technologies new media, specializing in Argentine, Brazilian and Chilean literature and culture.

Mary Ann Doane

PhD, University of Iowa; Class of 1937 Professor of Film & Media Prof. Doane teaches courses on film theory, psychoanalytic theory, technology and media, cultural theory, feminist theory, the avant-garde, and film and modernity. Doane works in the areas of film theory, feminist film studies, cultural theory, and semiotics, and has also written on photography, television, and digital media.

Deniz Göktürk

PhD, Free University of Berlin; Associate Professor of German
Prof. Göktürk has taught courses on transnational cinema, world cinema/global cities, and German cinema.

Anton Kaes

PhD, Stanford University; Class of 1939 Professor of German Literature; Film and Media
Prof. Kaes teaches courses in film theory, silent cinema, film noir, modernism and cinema, and German cinema.

D.A. Miller

PhD, Yale, Professor of English
Prof. Miller’s teaching and research fall in the areas of nineteenth-century British and French fiction, gay and cultural studies, and film.

Gavriel Moses

PhD, Brown University; Graduate, London School of Film Technique; Associate Professor of Italian; Film & Media
Prof. Moses teaches courses in Italian cinema, literature in film, film theory, and Renaissance roots of the cinematic apparatus.

Anne Nesbet

PhD, Berkeley; Associate Professor of Slavic; Film & Media
Prof. Nesbet teaches courses in Film Theory and Russian and European cinema before WWII. Her research interests include Eisenstein, Soviet cinema, and European experiments in the “dialectical image.”

Greg Niemeyer

MFA, Stanford University; Associate Professor of Art Practice
Prof. Niemeyer teaches new media and creates digital media installations.

Linda Rugg

PhD, Harvard; Associate Professor of Scandinavian
Prof. Rugg has teaching and research interests that include Swedish literature and culture, 1870 to the present; August Strindberg; Ingmar Bergman; autobiography, including visual autobiography, and literature and the visual arts.

Mark Sandberg

PhD, Berkeley; Professor of Scandinavian; Film & Media
Prof. Sandberg works on silent cinema, Scandinavian film history, Carl Dreyer, and pre-cinematic visual culture. He teaches courses on film historiography, location and place in cinema, cinema and architecture, silent comedy, and Scandinavian film.

Miryam Sas

PhD, Yale University; Associate Professor of Comparative Literature; Film & Media
Prof. Sas is interested in experimental film, Japanese film, critical theory, twentieth century Japanese, French, and English literature, and the visual and material cultures of modern Japan.

Jeffrey Skoller

PhD, Northwestern; Associate Professor of Film & Media
Prof. Skoller teaches film/video production and the theory and practice of counter-cinemas. His work focuses on experimental/avant-garde film and video art, documentary/non-fiction film, Third Cinema, and tactical and activist media practices.

Kristen Whissel

PhD, Brown University; Associate Professor of Film & Media
Prof. Whissel works on American modernity in early cinema, including representations of the Spanish-American wars, new technologies at World’s Fairs and expositions, and the “white slavery” scandals.

Linda Williams

PhD, University of Colorado; Professor of Film & Media; Rhetoric
Prof. Williams works on popular moving-image genres (pornography, melodrama, and “body genres” of all sorts) visual culture, and feminist theory.