Although World Film Studies (WFS) is still a relatively new minor (the program is only in its third year), it has become a popular addition to the WLC curriculum. We have asked WFS faculty and students to tell us more about the various world cinema courses in the department: What do students learn in the many cinema classes that the department offers? How can a minor in world cinema contribute to one’s academic and professional career? Find out what students and faculty have to say below (and make sure to check out the many world cinema courses offered next year!).
Ouma Amadou, World Film Studies Minor:
My interest in cinema studies began in high school and I decided to pursue the minor after conducting cinema research with Dr. Weber-Feve through the Honors Program my freshmen year. I have taken Intro to Global Film (WLC 278x) and I am currently in French Film Studies in English (FRNCH 378) and Russian Film Studies in English (RUS 378). I am interested in going to graduate school to further study cinema, so being in this minor will provide me with the foundational knowledge of cinema studies from a unique perspective, since it is primarily focused on World cinema. My film classes at Iowa State have been some of my favorite due to the class format and of course watching great cinema!
Mark Rectanus, Professor of German:
In German Film and Media Studies (German 378) you learn how film can expand our understanding of German history and identity through an exploration of Germany’s visual landscapes, both past and present. For example, the futuristic images of classic films like Fritz Lang’s Metropolis have become part of our visual vocabulary and influenced popular art and culture, ranging from Ridley Scott’s film Blade Runner to Madonna’s video Express Yourself. German films like The Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders) or Good Bye, Lenin! (Wolfgang Becker) provide a portal for exploring Berlin as a divided city and the divided identities of two German nations, while others like Run Lola Run (Tom Tykwer) literally race through the urban landscape of post-unification Berlin.
In German Film and Media Studies, like other courses in the WFS minor, you will learn how to better “see” and understand the world by deciphering both the visible and the invisible images of everyday life and culture. In doing so, we discover new ways of seeing and develop analytical tools that enable us to negotiate the challenges of living and working in a world in which global and local cultures have become inextricably linked.
Brenda Tyrrell, Senior, World Film Studies minor:
Along with the core class (Global Film), I’ve also taken films classes in French, German, and Russian. (Side note: the wonderful thing about taking a world films class is that you don’t have to speak the language-thanks to the miracle of subtitles!) All of these classes have not only taught me about cinema studies but also about historical, cultural, and societal aspects of each country that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. Film is only one way of viewing the world but, in my experience through the World Film Studies program, the knowledge that I take away from film is something I can transfer to my own personal and professional life. I would encourage other students to take courses in world cinema for not only this reason but also because it is just plain fun!
Stacey Weber-Fève, Associate Professor of French:
As unique and powerful artistic, cultural, and linguistic artifacts, French and Francophone cinemas – as well as all foreign cinemas – provide great insight into how diverse groups of people envision and interpret this world that we all share. Studying film with the faculty of WLC allows you to see how culture and society shape cinema but also how cinema helps to shape culture and society. You discover similar and divergent points of comparison and develop a working knowledge of other cultures’ “central (artistic, literary, religious, etc.) traditions.” In French 326 and French 378, you develop critical-thinking, visual literacy, and close-reading skills by learning “how to read a film text” and how to analyze contemporary special topics such as Genre in Theory and Practice, Stars and Ideology, Cinematic Representations of Food or Crime and their Implications, or Comedy and the Human Condition in Film. You gain cross-cultural perspectives that allow you to look back onto your own original culture, and in that process learn a lot more about your own individual ways of seeing, believing, and interacting with others. Not only are these valuable professional skills, a critical opportunity for self-reflection, or an important common cultural knowledge base that can you help you connect with people from other cultures, after any one of our film courses, your friends will be in envy of your “coolness” and impressive “insider knowledge!”
Olga Mesropova, Associate Professor of Russian:
I usually teach two cinema courses in the department, RUS 378 (Masterpieces of Russian Cinema) and WLC 278 (Introduction to Global Film). Both courses survey the remarkable richness and complexity of cinema around the globe, giving you an introduction to a range of international films, artistic movements and aesthetic traditions. As the course title suggests, RUS 378 focuses on important “players” and trends of Russian and Soviet cinema; in this class we discuss such Soviet classics as Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears and The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of Bolsheviks; as well as post-Soviet blockbusters like Brother and Burnt by the Sun. Film screenings in WLC 278 are structured around a broad range of cinematic “case studies:” from Scandinavian Lars von Trier’s Dogme ’95 to the Color trilogy of the Polish film director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, to the art of Japanese anime. I must admit that both courses are, hands down, my favorite classes to teach. Every year I look forward to Monday night film screenings, followed by stimulating discussions online and in class.
Grace Kuehne, Genetics Major:
I have taken Introduction to Global Film and I am currently taking Russian Cinema. These classes are a great opportunity to widen the diversity of my current class load as a Genetics student. These classes are a fun way to allow students to open their minds about film and how it is influenced by culture and political history.
Tonglu Li, Assistant Professor of Chinese:
The past century of China witnessed dramatic social changes in every aspect. Endless wars, famines, social crisis, revolutions, intellectual and social reforms, all became part of the everyday life experiences of the Chinese people. Through a survey of the classic literary and filmic texts, CHIN 370 (Modern Chinese Film and Fiction) covers these major historical issues to provide students with a deep understanding of the nightmares and dreams of the Chinese people in seeking ways of building a modern nation.
Thomas Waldemer, Senior Lecturer of Spanish:
After a multi-year hiatus, WLC has revived Spanish 326, a course that explores contemporary Spanish language cinema as artistic medium, ideological tool, and means of entertainment. As we view and analyze such award-winning films as La historia official, Todo sobre mi madre, El laberinto del fauno and No, you get a sense of the broad scope, tremendous diversity, and excellent quality of Hispanic cinema. By studying films produced throughout the Spanish-speaking word from countries such as Argentina, Spain, Mexico, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Chile you will engage questions of history, film theory and aesthetics, while exploring how Spanish-speaking film directors have responded to many profound changes in their societies.
William Ash, Advertising major:
I’ve taken German 378, WLC 278, and RUS 378. I’ve always loved movies since I was kid, so in high school I took a film course that covered some classics. In college I had to fulfill my international requirement so I took German Film because I had taken German courses all throughout high school. To me it was a logical decision to take it. I only considered the minor after I realized how much film studies can really help my major, advertising. For me a dream job would be to make trailers and advertisements for films, because to me, even if the movie is terrible, a trailer can really bring me in. I would always encourage students to take at least one film course because it will dramatically change how they view movies, often times appreciating them more.