SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Film and Screen Studies: Past and Present

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Taught in:
Term 1

This module is designed as an overview of Film and Screen Studies for MA Global Cinemas students who may or may not have a background in Film Studies. The module will focus on the close reading of specific films – from the early days of cinema, just after its invention in 1895, to the present – so as to deconstruct and analyse their technical, visual, aural and spatial features. While it will be inevitable that we look at certain European and North American films – particularly when analysing ‘mainstream’ film language – we will put the emphasis on our regional film expertise to introduce students to important films from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and also the Soviet Union and Latin America. At the same time as engaging with film language, the module will cover key moments in film history and important concepts and ideas in film theory which will give students a firm grounding in order to ground their work in regional film studies modules, and prepare them for writing their MA dissertations. At every moment in the module we will be self-reflective in a decolonial way i.e. while we have to acknowledge the importance of certain canonical texts in Film Studies, we will subject these to critique via the help of films, thinking, and writing by marginalised groups. The module convenor will draw on her background as a filmmaker wherever possible to demonstrate and explain concepts to students in more practical ways. Where possible, guest lectures or excursions will also take place so that students can talk to different filmmakers about how they construct the language of film within their own work. Assessment will be constituted of both formal essays and more creative options (e.g. audiovisual essays, films etc).

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  • Closely analyse films and use the correct vocabulary when doing so
  • Understand the history of cinema in the 20th century
  • Understand the main theories of cinema
  • Understand different contemporary methodologies for writing and thinking about film, including new “creative” research methodologies such as audiovisual criticism


One two-hour seminar and two-hour class screening per week

Scope and syllabus

  1. Form/Content
  2. Film – An Aural and Visual Language
  3. The Myth of Realism in Cinema
  4. What is Mainstream Film?
  5. How did Mainstream Film Emerge?
  6. Subversive cinema: avant-gardes and alternative modernities
  7. Film as a Cultural Language
  8. Films in Circulation
  9. Towards a Comparative & Creative Film Studies
  10. Class Presentations

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word essay (worth 20%)
  • One 3,000-word essay (worth 60%)
  • One class presentation (worth 20%)

Suggested reading

  • Bazin, Andre, “The Evolution of the Language of Cinema” [1950-55] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Comolli and Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” in Movies and Methods: An Anthology, ed Bill Nichols (1976)
  • Metz, Christian, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema” [1975] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Bordwell and Thompson, “Glossary” in Film Art: An Introduction (1979)
  • Giannetti, Louis, Understanding Movies (1972)
  • Bolgar Smith, Kate, Soundtracks of the City: Listening to the Film Music of the Black Diaspora in London and Paris (SOAS PhD, 2016)
  • Cham, Mbye, “Oral Traditions, Literature and Cinema in Africa”, in Literature and Film: A guide to the theory and practice of film adaptation, eds Stam and Raengo (2005)
  • Chion, Michel Film, A Sound Art (2009)
  • Chion, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (1994/1990)
  • Doane, Mary Ann, “The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space” [1980] in Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, eds Braudy and Cohen (1999)
  • Dovey, Lindiwe and Angela Impey, “African Jim: sound, politics, and pleasure in early ‘black’ South African cinema.’ Journal of African Cultural Studies 22.1: 57-73.
  • Razlogova, Elena. “The politics of translation at Soviet Film Festivals during the Cold War. SubStance 137 – 44.2 (2015)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules