Richard Pena

This professor has earned a CULPA silver nugget

Jan 2021

Pena's classes, I've taken two now, are head-bashingly boring. He simply reads off slides, with a bunch of useless facts and figures that you will never use again. He always takes role call, which is fine but does so on average 3-4 minutes before class, which is incredibly frustrating as lectures have been in Lenfest (if classes ever go back to in-person). He often pauses for questions or comments but gets annoyed when the student actually asks a question that does not afford him to show off his vast amounts of film knowledge and anecdotes, and god forbid if the comment does not fully corresponds to his interpretations. Personally, I believe he wants to be less of a professor with actual discourse, and more he just wants an audience to be amazed by him. (Also, the man signed that Polanski petition back in 2009, so let's ruminate on that.)

Dec 2020

I took 2 Pena classes this semester and NEVER AGAIN. I had 24 papers due over the course of the semester and they were the most dreadful things to write (and literally the biggest pain of my semester). I liked how his PowerPoints were organized, but as a lecturer, I didn't think he was particularly stand-out. I felt that lectures included so much more history than necessary (like geopolitical history) in both courses I took and even as a film major, I just wanted them to end. If you don't mind always being plagued with a paper, then this class will be OK. I don't think it's as standout as many of these reviews say (and pretty sure everyone who agrees just hasn't written CULPA reviews because I don't know anyone else in my classes who say they love him).

Oct 2020

Not totally sure why this guy has a silver nugget — he is extremely knowledgeable, and maybe it's because I took this class over Zoom, but isn't an astounding professor in any sense of the word. He has a huge huge focus on Chinese history, that honestly has very little relevance to the films themselves. He also repeats slides many times and his classes are just unnecessarily long. I also found the writing one paper a week extremely brutal, especially since I was taking 2 of his classes in the semester, and not really conducive to better learning anyways.

Sep 2020

The most amazing professor I've ever had. I've taken several film classes with him, and they have all been amazing. He is extremely knowledgable, which makes his lectures fascinating.

Sep 2020

The most amazing professor I've ever had. I've taken several film classes with him, and they have all been amazing. He is extremely knowledgable, which makes his lectures fascinating.

Nov 2019

Professor Pena is one of the most interesting and knowledgable professors I have ever had. He is extremely passionate about what he teaches, and it shines through in his lectures.

Oct 2019

Richard Pena is a really knowledgeable professor to be sure. However, the course is poorly constructed. Each lecture feels like a random set of facts about a certain film or director with a few historical facts thrown in there. I also hate to say this but the auditors in this class, who make up surprisingly half of the class, are super distracting. Most of them are older, which isn’t fundamentally an issue, but they treat the course like a FILM CLUB. To their credit, they aren’t that far off. This class feels less like a film history class due to the content of the course and how it’s presented. However, they frequently make irrelevant comments in class and ask pointless questions. All this being said, the class is fairly straightforward (easy if you will). There’s only four sets of papers/film responses. Show up for every class and screening and you’re okay. TLDR: This class doesn’t feel like a real history class but it’s pretty easy to get a good grade if you show up to everything and turn in your work on time.

May 2018

AVOID THIS CLASS IF YOU ARE NOT A FILM MAJOR!!!! To be honest, Pena did okay as a lecturer, but the weekly lecture seems to be almost useless when you are writing the paper. If you are taking this course for the global core and know little about film techniques(camera work, mise-en-scene, etc. ), you will definitely be frustrated in class. Pena does not tell you how to write about a film or offers any film essays/critics that you can study. The instruction he gave on assignments is vague, but he is extremely strict and crazy about the due date of the assignment. (he will write the due date in bold several times in a single prompt and emphasize again and again that there is absolutely no extensions). My TA of this class (Grace Swee) is even worse. I think she totally lacks the ability to hold a discussion session. She looks very unprepared as a discussion leader. I was astonished when she forgot the names of the main characters in the film which we are about to discuss in class. During the discussion, she just reads the questions on a list and seldom delves into a specific topic worth discussing. It seems that she does not want to hold the discussion since she keeps checking her phone during class time to make sure that she can leave as soon as possible. The workload of this class is ridiculous for a non-film major. Pena does not offer any specific instructions on the assignments and he claims that you can write anything you want on the film you watched. However, if you focus on any aspects rather than the analysis of the film technique, you will definitely receive a very low grade for your paper.

Jun 2008

Like the other reviews said, this is primarily a history class. Not just a history of films or style, but literally a history of the country or culture that produced each film and the effects that they may have had on the filmmaker. Some people may find that interesting, but others will find it very tedious. Strangely, all of the papers and the final focus on more traditional aspects of film. So unless you go out of your way to incorporate history and culture into your work, the lecture will have very little relevance on the rest of the course. Still, the films were well chosen and Pena is truly encyclopedic in his knowledge of film. Not a class I would take if I wasn't a film major, but it's manageable.

Apr 2006

Pena is an interesting character. He is VERY knowledgable about historical facts and filmmaking in general, however does not teach his class like a film class. He teaches it like a history class, going on for two hours about the history of the respective country and relates that back to the film industry. You will learn more information about the history of a country than that of its filmmaking. Pena does not focus on the aspects of filmmaking that make a film class interesting, rather the mundane details that could bore anyone. This is not to mention his film selection for class. He chooses to see films that are not necessarily the most popular, but have a political message. He is more interested in the political aspect than the aesthetic qualities of the film that so many film majors want to know about and learn in other class. Oh and by the way be prepared to stay EXTRA LATE in his class. When a class is scheduled to go from 6:10-10:00 it goes from 6:20-10:30 or later, so watch out. He never starts on time and has no regard for his students. With this said, however, he is a nice guy and is a wealth of information that seems endless.

Jul 2005

I enjoyed his lectures. He shows GREAT films and shuts up overzealous students during discussion. he's not too warm & fuzzy, but i appreciated that. grading depends on the TA, but he assigns the final grade (doesn't like to give out too many A's)

Apr 2005

Prof. Pena is one of the most knowledgable and experienced film professors I have ever taken a class with. He is very passionate about what he teaches, and has a lot fo personal insight to offer about Chinese film. He has personally met a lof of Chinese film directors and recounts his meetings with them, which I found absolutely entertaining. He seems to have a life outside of academia, which is very admirable. My only criticism of the class would be that he assigns way too much unneccesary reading, and the books cost you an arm and a leg.

Feb 2005

I disagree with some of the previous reviews. He is definitely NOT boring and he seems to be extremely excited about his classes. He tries to give you a full picture of cinema and he does not impose his views on the students. He is also extremely patient, and he respects everybody's opinions. Nonetheless, he does not lose control over his huge classes. I really loved this class.

May 2003

He assigns a lot of unnecessary readings, for one session which are unrealistic to be read in a week's time, in addition to a workload of papers: 12 1000 word essays(3 for every 4 sets of fims you view each month in class) and a 4000-5000 final paper. The discussions are insightful but tends to concentrate too much on off-camera bios and infos about each film and its creators. Therefore, one gets a load of information about who married who or who divorced who while yhe film is made, or who was the grip, blah blah. On the other hand, Pena is very knowledgeable on film analysis but tends to be bookish. Your grades depend entirely on one TA even though he has two. Pena never reads a single student paper in this clss. If you are an international student and you happen to be graded by his TA who is unforgiving of grammatical or syntax irregularities be prepared to get Cs or B minuses even though you have excellent and original analysis for a film. The films screened are excellent and well picked for the topic. You'll enjoy the screenings and the discussions in this class. The latter you'll enjoy more if you plan to win first place in a film trivia contest.

May 2003

This course fulfills an intermediate-level films studies major requirement in international cinema, and it also fulfills a B-level Latin American major cultures requirement. This makes for an interesting group of students--you've got the film majors who have to take it (some "substitutions" can be made) as well as those students who have already taken an A-level Latin American major cultures course and have chosen then to take this course. Within the latter group there are some students who probably consider that taking a film course to complete the major cultures requirement sounds like a pretty great deal, and there are other students, many of whom are Latin American, who are much more passionate about this course and the issues that it raises. So basically, this class, at least from my observations, seems like it means different things to people based on who you are, where you're from, and what requirement it is fulfilling for you (if any). As a film major who didn't fulfill the major cultures requirement in Latin American studies, I must say I was rather disappointed with this course and with Pena. Considering that it is at least partly a film major requirement, there was definitely a paucity of formal analysis for the films screened in Pena's lectures. About 90% of each lecture was devoted to the political history of the country from which a specific film or director hailed, leaving about 10% (or in some cases about five minutes of brief lecturing just before the screening of the film) for information about the film's content, its formal characteristics, or anything really of cinematic interest. Essentially, each four hour (somehow Pena can stretch it to four hours +) class was composed of an hour and a half lecture on the political context of the country from which the film was produced, a screening, and then a discussion (When every film class requires discussion sections in which the TA's diligently take roll, and the lecture seats 50 to 70 students, I have no idea why film professors leave time for discussions at the end of screenings.). The most interesting thing about the course, however, are the films that Pena selects; they are often quite obscure, and you would never have the chance to see them anywhere else. The films often have overt political agendas that are quite evident in their narratives, and this would naturally seem to me to lead to questions about the the convergence of art and politics. However, I don't think Pena touched on this area even once. Instead, in lectures Pena ruminates on his 1975 tour of most all of Latin America, and, with each class, a different Latin American country is focused on, which encourages the students, who are from the country studied that week, to rant on the political climate of the country and (often) on the shortcomings of the country's political leaders of the past and present. Plus, Pena isn't all that interesting to listen to--he lacks the savvy of a James Schamus and the broad range of knowledge of a David Sterritt. Think of the bordeom inspired by an Annette Insdorf but with greater cultural knowledge. All in all a poor class given its potential, at least from a film major's perspective.

May 2002

Peña is an interesting character. What he lacks for in his creativity he makes up for with his insight. Boring. Ennui. But knowledgeable, and gifted. Likes his snacks. Beware his punctuality. Overall, quite a plucky professor.