SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa 1

Module Code:
155905000
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 1

The module will offer a survey of films from the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel, as well as an overview of the historical development of film in the region and a grounding in the socio-cultural contexts in which films have been produced.  Films will be analysed aesthetically, with an awareness of multiple aspects of film technique, and meanings will be interrogated through a number of interdisciplinary and theoretical prisms.  Students will be taught the basics of film language and to support their interpretations of films with aural, visual, and narrative evidence.  Secondary readings are drawn from films studies, anthropology, sociology, religion, and literary theory and will enable the students to situate the perspectives expressed in the films within contemporary artistic, cultural and political debates. Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa 1 focuses on earlier periods of cinematic production in the region, surveying films produced between the 1930s and the 1980s, while its companion module, Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa 2, concentrates on more contemporary film production.  

This module is available as an open option.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

  1. synthesize analytical approaches to films of the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel as both artistic products and cultural artefacts, achieving a methodological balance between primary and secondary sources and between scholarship, theory and interpretation
  2. originate and substantiate an argument drawing on multiple aspects of film technique (involving film’s textual/narrative, visual and aural components) as well as secondary literature from a variety of academic disciplines
  3. situate Middle Eastern and North African filmmaking, its themes, its forms, and its industries within local, regional and international contexts and discourses

Workload

Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.  In addition there will also be a two-hour film screening each week.

Scope and syllabus

The module will be divided into thematic units, such as the following:

The Musical: Mimicry and Authenticity

Mainstream cinematic industries in the region emerged alongside the introduction of sound technology to film production. We will explore the ways in which film-makers blended imported visual idioms with local aural idioms to create works which were perceived as both ‘modern’ and ‘traditional’ or culturally authentic.

Melodrama and the Politics of Articulation

Melodrama will be explored, after Peter Brooks, as a mode of overt expression where moral dilemmas are treated explicitly and the repressed is brought to the surface.  Techniques associated with this expressive mode will be explored, and the dilemmas being articulated will be related to contesting notions of civic society and the ideal citizen.

Realism, Ethnography and Revolution

This topic will engage with the arthouse cinema of the 1960s and 70s that emerged in the Middle East and North Africa as part of a global, left-wing, artistic and cultural movement that embraced common themes and techniques which were often influenced by Italian neo-realism and manifested certain characteristics which came to be known as ‘third cinema’ or ‘third-world cinema’.

Method of assessment

A screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 4, term 1 (20%); a screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7, term 1 (20%); a screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 10, term 1 (20%); an essay of 1500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 2 (40%).

Suggested reading

  • Walter Armbrust, Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996)
  • Roy Armes, Postcolonial Images: Studies in North African Film (Bloomington/Indianapolis: Indiana University Press (2005).
  • SavaƟ Arslan, Cinema in Turkey: a New Critical History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 237-73.
  • Gönül Dönmez-Colin, Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging (London: Reaktion Books, 2
  • Lizbeth Malkmus and Roy Armes, Arab & African Film Making (Zed: London, 1991).
  • Hamid Reza Sadr, Iranian Cinema: a Political History (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006).
  • Viola Shafik, Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity (Cairo/New York: American University in Cairo Press, 1988).
  • Viola Shafik, Popular Egyptian Cinema: Gender, Class, and Nation (Cairo/New York: American University in Cairo Press, 2007).
  • Ella Shohat, Israeli Cinema: East/West and the Politics of Representation (Austin: Univ. of Texas Press, 1989).
  • Richard Tapper (ed.), The New Iranian Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001).

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules