SOAS University of London

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

Cinemas of the Middle East and North Africa 2

Module Code:
155905001
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 2

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. Whereas its companion course, 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, 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:

Narrative Identities and their De/Construction

We will look at films that problematise constructions of religious, ethnic, national, or sexual identity through the use of specific narrative techniques and devices relating to perspective, voice, and sequencing that destabilise the stance of the protagonist/s. Explorations of these films will focus on the political implications of these destabilised identities in their specific societal contexts.

Gendered Chronotopes

Films articulating concerns about women’s rights and questioning patriarchal values run the gamut from those that are conventional and formulaic to those that are highly experimental. In this topic we will examine contrasting examples of feminist films, with a special emphasis on cinematic elaborations of time and space and whether and how the films relate women’s experiences to historical chronologies.

Religious Discourses and Cinematic Aesthetics

This topic will investigate a variety of films exploiting aspects of religious heritage, broadly interpreted, for the purpose of artistic innovation: from the direct engagement with contemporary religious perspectives, to symbolic manifestations of Sufi Philosophy, to the strategic treatment of the religious icon, to the narrative implications of the cinematic privileging of Word over Image, to the circumvention of what are seen as religious proscriptions on screen representations.

Method of assessment

A screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 4, term 2 (20%); a screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7, term 2 (20%); a screening report of 750 words to be submitted on day 5, week 10, term 2 (20%); an essay of 1500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (40%).

Suggested reading

  • Roy Armes, African Filmmaking North and South of the Sahara (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006).
  • Savaş Arslan, Cinema in Turkey: a New Critical History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 237-73.
  • Hamid Dabashi (ed.), Dreams of a Nation: on Palestinian Cinema (London/New York: Verso, 2006).
  • Gönül Dönmez-Colin, Turkish Cinema: Identity, Distance and Belonging (London: Reaktion Books, 2008).
  • Nurit Gertz and George Khleifi, Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008.
  • Hamid Reza Sadr, Iranian Cinema: a Political History (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006).
  • Rasha Salti (ed.), Insights into Syrian Cinema: Essays and Conversations with Contemporary Filmmakers (New York: ArteEast, 2006)
  • Miri Talmon and Yaron Peleg (eds.), Israeli Cinema: Identities in Motion (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011),
  • Richard Tapper (ed.), The New Iranian Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2001).
  • Saeed Zeydabadi-Nejad, The Politics of Iranian Cinema: Film and Society in the Islamic Republic, (London: Routledge, 2010).

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules