SOAS University of London

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

Cinemas of of the Middle East and North Africa 1

Module Code:
15PNMH048
Credits:
15
FHEQ Level:
7
Year of study:
Any
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.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

By the end of the module, students will be able to: 

  • Demonstrate an awareness of film language, narrative, and structure as it relates to the cinematic cultures of the Middle East and North Africa
  • Situate national and linguistic cinematic traditions within their local, regional, and international contexts
  • Synthesise theory, scholarship and analytical approaches from a number of academic disciplines in relation to the study of the film from the region
  • Treat films as artistic expressions cultural artefacts that engage both directly and indirectly in social polemics
  • Advance and substantiate an original argument with evidence from primary and secondary sources and achieving a balance between abstract theoretical concerns and practical applied criticism

Workload

The module is taught over 10 weeks 

Scope and syllabus

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.
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. This unit 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 unit 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

  • 1 x film analysis (1000 words) submitted day 5, week 3, term 1 (25%)
  • 1 x essay (2500 words) submitted day 5, week 11, term 1 (50%)
  • 1 x 20 min virtual presentation (narrated powerpoint) (25%)

Disclaimer

Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules