February 05, 2004

Dabashi, Hamid
[CLME W4031] Cinema and Society in Asia and Africa

Please keep in mind that this review is more than 5 years old.

This class is my first Dabashi experience - and I have to say that despite the excellent screening list, I am sorely dissapointed. While I have no problem admitting that he may indeed have a great knowledge of issues pertaining to colonialism (I hear that class is good)- when it comes to film, this professor is sorely lacking. He throws about the term "auteur" with regard to the directors/films we are discussing - but if you begin a sentence with "the director's intention could be..." he shoots you down most contemptuously. His goal in the course is to create a "collective mind" and has stated that even if your paper is of publishable material, if there is no evidence of the collective mind, "you will not get a good grade." Does this mean he is against individual thought? I assume what he requires is to see his own misreadings and misinformed ideas on film regurgitated back to him in any paper we happen to produce - in order to get a "good grade." His overarching argument is that society is codified and that film is not. Has he never heard of the term "cinematic codes?" If cinema was not codefied, how would we be able to "read" films? He makes sweeping statements such as, "the sign of a true master director is when you don't notice the camera..." Kubrick and Godard are turning in their graves right now. He patronizes the huge number of college students in this class, through comments like "Foreign films have long shots and subtitles, and you will think them boring - there is no Hollywood/Swartzenneger action in them.." He makes his mind up about what is the be screened weekly - on a whim almost, on his way to class - even then...it may be a few days after class that we find out what next week's screening or reading is! If you know absolutely nothing about film, you will still be in the dark after taking this class - other than the fact that you will see some great films that you might not have exposure to otherwise. (but again - this class will try and force you to "read" these films in the "Dabashi way" - as if you interpret them in an alternate way - he won't want to hear about it!) If you have only a mild interest in film, you may do ok - but you HAVE to have some sort of prior knowledge to be able to realize that most of his film-related comments are misinformed. My heart goes out to the TAs who, due to the class size, are forced to have to deal with all the complaints about the disorganization - which really has nothing to do with them.

Workload:

Only 3 books to buy - Robert Stam's book SUBVERSIVE PLEASURES is excellent - but don't expect to get anything out of the discussion sections. 2 required papers - 5-8 pages - not one word over 8 pages will be read (a shame - but probably due to enormous size of class) Response paper due to TA before every class on the film viewed that week. (as of yet, no feedback on them)