Cinema and Society in Asia and Africa

Apr 2004

Professor Dabashi is hardly a brilliant thinker and rarely a good professor. Before enrolling in this course, i heard alot of positive hype surrounding Professor Dabashi. Most of it however seems to be associated with his controversial political views. The course itself, while offering an excellent screening list, is inadequate to provide students with the necessary analytical tools for critiquing film. Professor Dabashi is indeed colorful and dramatic and the course is from afar, a good idea, but his syllabus needs to be revamped and so do his lecture notes. It didn't help that he decided to take three whole weeks off and let his TAs, who did their best to substitute for him, run the course. I was put off by his personality (very haughty) and by his sweeping generalizations about american and european films. i will admit that he did (twice) deliver excellent lectures, but these were exceptions, and when he is in a good mood (again, hardly a trend) he can be approachable and even supportive.

Mar 2004

Professor Dabashi is by far the absolute worst professor i've had during my graduate career at Columbia, and that he manages to garner teaching accolades, attract groupies comprised of nubile undergraduates, and remains the chair of two departments despite sheer incompetence, arrogance, total lack of organization and general smarminess, I'm sure are signs that the four horsemen of the Apocolypse have just touched down, and will be galloping among us quite soon. For all his dramatics and colorful metaphors, Dabashi is really himself what he enjoys calling his critics, "a failed academic". Dabashi not only manages to avoid discussing intelligently or coherently the films he screens , he completely neglects to mention anything from any of the books he's assigned. Instead he rambles incoherently about Hegel, Nietzsche and a host of other German philosophers who have nothing to do with this class. As a previous reviewer noted, Robert Stam's "Subversive Pleasures", was the only book worth buying, and frankly it was the only book from which i learned anything about film!! Dabashi's assigns his own book (i wouldn't call it a book, actually- it's more like a large, badly written brochure) on Iranian cinema, entitled "Close-Up" ( the cover of which Orientalizes/exoticizes Muslim women by repeating the cliche of one in full burka, standing in a beam of light no less). If you are unfortunate enough to shell over $ for a copy and spend time reading it, you just confirm what you already knew before buying it: Dabashi doesn't really know much about Iranian cinema(or any cinema). He's just friends with alot of Iranians who happen to be world renown filmmakers and he enjoys cooing about them. I could put up with all the patronizing and indignity in the world from any professor as long as i learned SOMETHING from him or her! Dabashi, however, is incapable of either formulating or inspiring any original thought, though he's quite fluent at speaking out of his 'arse'. If you catch him doing this, he will bring the full force of his tongue bearing down upon your sorry head. He has no respect or patience for opinions contradicting his own, no matter how well and respectfully articulated, and he has no time for his students outside the classroom. It would be quite apt for him to one day screen "The Wizard of Oz" as he shares so much in common with the title character: flashy, moody, and full of hot air. Do not waste your money or time taking this class or any class by him.

Feb 2004

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 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.

May 2003

Fabulous class- great works of art and a great Professor. The structure of the class is malleable, thus the input of each student counts. I don't recommend it to those who like their thoughts and ideas spoon fed to them; otherwise it's an absolute blast! Suffice it to say that you will actually get something out of this class; don't miss out!