Michigan State University
Michigan State University
Film Studies Program
Course Descriptions
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Fall 2019

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Joshua Yumibe 
FLM 211 | Documentary History and Theory | Professor Alexandra Hidalgo 
FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Jordan Schonig
FLM 255 | Stars and Directors | Professor Bill Vincent 
FLM 260 | 001 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Ling Hsu 
FLM 300 | History of Film to Midcentury | Professor Joshua Yumibe
FLM 334.001 | Introduction to Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 334.002 | Introduction to Screenwriting | Professor Rick Blackwood
FLM 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM337 | Topics in Film Form: Cinematography | Pete Johnston
FLM 355 | Studies in Film Genres | Professor Swarnavel Pillai 
FLM 380 | Classical Film & Media Theory | Professor Jordan Schonig
FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professors Swarnavel Pillai and John Valadez
FLM 435A | Creating the Fiction Film A | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 452 | Studies in Film, Gender, and Sexuality | Professor Jordan Schonig
FLM 480 | Seminar in Film Theory: Film Music | Professor Lyn Goeringer

Spring 2020

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Jeff Wray 
FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Jordan Schonig 
FLM 260.001 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Pete Johnston
FLM 301 | History of Film after Mid-Century | Professor Jordan Schonig 
FLM 311 | Introduction to Documentary Production | Professor Ling Hsu 
FLM 334.001 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Swarnavel Pillai
FLM 334.002 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Jeff Wray 
FLM 337.001 | Topics in Film Form: Documentary Traditions | Professor John Valadez
FLM 337.002 | Topics in Film Form: Sex and Violence in Film, TV, and Digital Media | Professor Rick Blackwood
FLM 381 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor Jordan Schonig
FLM 400 | Seminar in Film History: War & Cinema | Professor Robert Burgoyne
FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professors Swarnavel Pillai and John Valadez
FLM 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
FLM 435B | Creating the Fiction Film B | Professor Jeff Wray
FLM 450 | Studies in Ethnic Cinema: Italian and Italian-American Cinema & Comparative Race Studies | Professor Juliet Guzzetta
FLM 480 | Seminar in Film Theory: Hitchcock and Theory | Professor Bill VIncent

FALL 2019

FLM 200 | MSU Film Collective | Professor Joshua Yumibe 
Thursday, 7:00pm, B122 Wells

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester.

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FLM 211 | Documentary History and Theory | Professor Alexandra Hidalgo
Monday 9:10–12:00; Wednesday 9:10–11:00, 307 Bessey

From early cinema actualities to contemporary television and film, documentary film structure has had a deep influence on both cinema and on culture. This class explores documentary as a formal structure of societal critique and question, one that allows the viewer a glimpse into the lives and situations that we live in. We will look at the the historical trajectory of the genre, considering along the way the methods of distribution and reception of the films studied. Along the way, we will consider the relationship between the directors and the subject, as this is an often troubled and complex relationship that is often set aside when reviewed for public distribution. Coursework will include written analysis of films, weekly screenings, and in class discussion.

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FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Jordan Schonig
Tuesday 9:10-12:00, Thursday 9:10-11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section), B122 Wells

This course introduces core concepts of film analysis, which are discussed through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial œuvres. The coursework covers a wide range of styles and historical periods in order to assess the multitude of possible film techniques (camera techniques, editing, shot selection, etc.) and principles of narrative structuring. Along with questions of film technique and style, we consider the notion of the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Success in the course demands rigorous attention to both the films and the readings and requires students to watch, analyze, and write about film in new ways. Throughout the semester, students will learn different methods of viewing, analysis, exposition, and criticism and will have the opportunity to write extensively about the films seen in class. Films discussed include works by Brakhage, Burnett, Deren, Griffith, Eisenstein, Hitchcock, Sembene, Sternberg, and Welles.

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FLM 255 | Stars and Directors | TBA 

Tuesday 4:10–7:00, Thursday 4:10–6:00, B122 Wells

TBA

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FLM 260 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Professor Ling Hsu

Tuesday, Thursday 12:40–2:30

What's changed in filmmaking technology in the past 20 years, and what impact does that have on the stories we tell? Have digital image-making tools, editing software, and distribution channels fundamentally changed the types of stories being told and the types of artists telling them? In this hybrid course we introduce students to a variety of emerging filmmaking technologies and give them a grounding in technical skills necessary to then move on to higher order concerns of storytelling. We screen, analyze and discuss new works and look over the evolution of filmmaking technology and how it relates to this historical moment. And students produce a variety of work in documentary, fiction, and experimental forms, focusing on iteration and repetition to hone filmmaking skills. 

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FLM 300 | History of Film to Midcentury | Professor Joshua Yumibe

Monday 12:40-3:30, Wednesday 12:40-2:30, B122 Wells

This course surveys the history of cinema from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Moving chronologically, we will track a variety of national schools and international trends of filmmaking in order to analyze the global development of film exhibition practices, the emergence of film audiences, and more broadly cinema’s role within the public sphere. We will examine the formal, industrial, and cultural changes of the medium from cinema’s emergence through the conversion to sound in the late 1920s. We will also explore the variety of national and international movements form the 1930s to the 1940s—including German and French cinemas, classical Hollywood cinema, and Japanese studio productions pre- and postwar. Through taking a broad and comparative approach to the history of cinema, we will gain critical perspective on the forces that shape the medium’s profoundly transnational character. To assist in this process, we will engage with a variety of primary and secondary textual sources in order to assess and cultivate theoretical methods for researching and writing film history.

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FLM 334.001 | Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday, Wednesday 7:00–8:50

Screenwriting. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, it can be, but mostly it’s learning proper formatting, plot structure, characterization, good dialogue. Weekly workshops, ten to fifteen pages per week. Yes, hard work. But by December you will have a full-length script and you will know that you can do it.

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FLM 334.002 | Screenwriting | Professor Rick Blackwood
Tuesday, Thursday 4:10–6:00

Screenwriting. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Well, it can be, but mostly it’s learning proper formatting, plot structure, characterization, good dialogue. Weekly workshops, ten to fifteen pages per week. Yes, hard work. But by December you will have a full-length script and you will know that you can do it.

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FLM 335 | Film Directing | Professor Jeff Wray 

Tuesday 12:40–3:30, Thursday 12:40–2:30, 307 Bessey

Part of the Fiction Film Specialization, Film Directing immerses students in the job of the director through a combination of film screenings and production projects. By studying the works of great directors, and working through a series of filmmaking projects which culminates in the creation of a 3-minute short, students learn first hand the challenges and triumphs of Film Directing. See examples of previous student work.

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FLM 337 | Cinematography | Pete Johnston 

Monday 9:10-12, Wednesday 9:10-11, 307 Bessey

Topics and practice in cinematography. What is the role of the cinematographer or DP, and how has their work shaped the canon? How do elements like lighting, lenses, the camera sensor (or film stock), filtration, and movement create cinematic meaning? Through analysis and practice students will grow to understand the unique role the cinematographer plays.  

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FLM 355 | Studies in Film Genres: the Gangster film | Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Monday, 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00, 307 Bessey

TBA

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FLM 380 | Classical Film and Media Theory | Professor Jordan Schonig
Tuesday, 12:40-3:30, Thursday 12:40-2:30

Film theory examines how cinema uses all the means at its disposal—including images, sound, words, and narrative—to engage us emotionally and phenomenologically. Film theory takes up fundamental questions about representation in cinema, including what film is, how it represents, how it innovates aesthetically and evolves different styles. Film theory is concerned with individual films as well as how the cinema works as a system that has social, political, and cultural significance. Film theory also considers how movies fit into a broader context of media, art, and storytelling. As a mode of intellectual inquiry, this course in film theory builds upon the skills for analyzing film that you learned in English 230, but pushes you to refine and complicate how you watch films, even as some of the texts we will consider push the limits of filmmaking or of thinking about film. This course draws on the work of key film theorists from the first part of the twentieth century; our primary focus will be on film, although the role of other media—particularly theatre and photography—will come into play. 

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FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professors Swarnavel Pillai & John Valadez 
Time TBA

Design and development of documentaries in a team setting using video and audio, still photography, web design, and print media. Participation in a production cycle including idea generation, research, design, production, and distribution. Capstone course for the Documentary Production Minor.

Cross listed with MI411. Enroll in MI411.

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FLM 435A | Creating the Fiction Film  | Professor Jeff Wray 

Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30

The capstone class of the Fiction Film Specialization tasks students with writing, producing, finishing and distributing a short film over two semesters. In the first semester, students must form a production team, create and polish a short script, and move through the processes of pre-production and principle photography--no small feat. The professors are there to act as guidance and councel, but make no mistake: students are truly thrust into the independent filmmaking world. Past productions have gone on to screen and win awards at film festivals in Michigan and beyond.

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FLM 452 | Film, Gender and Sexuality | Professor Jordan Schonig 

Tuesday 4:10-7:00, Thursday 4:10-6:00

TBA

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FLM 480 | Seminar in Film Theory: Film Music | Professor Lyn Goeringer 

Tuesday 9:10-12:00, Thursday 9:10-11:00

TBA

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SPRING 2019

FLM 200 | Film Collective | Professor Jeff Wray
Thursday, 7:00pm 

This one-credit screening course is available to Film Studies students. Regular attendance and participation is required throughout the semester.

Back to top.


FLM 230 | Introduction to Film | Professor Jordan Schonig 
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, Friday 50 min. (varies by section)

This course introduces core concepts of film analysis, which are discussed through examples from different national cinemas, genres, and directorial œuvres. The coursework covers a wide range of styles and historical periods in order to assess the multitude of possible film techniques (camera techniques, editing, shot selection, etc.) and principles of narrative structuring. Along with questions of film technique and style, we consider the notion of the cinema as an institution that comprises an industrial system of production, social and aesthetic norms and codes, and particular modes of reception. Success in the course demands rigorous attention to both the films and the readings and requires students to watch, analyze, and write about film in new ways. Throughout the semester, students will learn different methods of viewing, analysis, exposition, and criticism and will have the opportunity to write extensively about the films seen in class. Films discussed include works by Brakhage, Burnett, Deren, Griffith, Eisenstein, Hitchcock, Sembene, Sternberg, and Welles. 

Back to top.


FLM 260.001 | Introduction to Digital Film and Media | Pete Johnston
Tuesday 12:40-3:30, Thursday 12:40-2:30

What's changed in filmmaking technology in the past 20 years, and what impact does that have on the stories we tell? Have digital image-making tools, editing software, and distribution channels fundamentally changed the types of stories being told and the types of artists telling them? In this hybrid course we introduce students to a variety of emerging filmmaking technologies and give them a grounding in technical skills necessary to then move on to higher order concerns of storytelling. We screen, analyze and discuss new works and look over the evolution of filmmaking technology and how it relates to this historical moment. And students produce a variety of work in documentary, fiction, and experimental forms, focusing on iteration and repetition to hone filmmaking skills. 

Back to top


FLM 301 | History of Film after Mid-Century | Professor Jordan Schonig 
Tuesday 9:10–12:00, Thursday 9:10–11:00

This course surveys the history of cinema from the middle of the twentieth century to the present. Moving chronologically, we will track a variety of national schools and international trends of filmmaking in order to analyze the global development of film exhibition practices, production cycles and trends, and the changing landscape of distribution. We will examine the formal, industrial, and cultural changes of the medium from neorealism and film noir to the blockbuster franchise cinema of Michael Bay. Putting Hollywood in dialogue with its various “others,” we will engage a variety of national and international film movements:  global new waves, auteur and art cinemas, Third Cinema, experimental film, exploitation cinema, contemporary “slow cinema,” and more. We will also discuss key moments in the transformations of Hollywood since 1948: its postwar boom, the blacklist, the decline of the studio system, the rise of independent production, the demise of the production code, the New Hollywood of the 1970s, and the film industry’s gradual conglomeration. The course’s final weeks will be devoted to exploring the so-called “death” of film in the digital domain, from the rise of computer animation and digital 3-D to revolutionary changes in the distribution and consumption of cinema. This broad and comparative approach to the history of cinema will engage with a variety of primary and secondary textual sources in order to assess and cultivate theoretical methods for researching and writing film history. 

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FLM/MI 311 | Intro to Documentary Production | Professor Ling Hsu 
Tuesday, Thursday, 4:10-6:00

This course offers an exploration of the documentary film as a category on its own, with an implicit opposition between nonfiction and fiction films. Starting with the early silent films (actualities) we will study the opposition between “fiction” and “document.” Through the different theories of the documentary form, and by studying various forms of the documentary film, we will explore how a filmmaker mediates between the viewer and the subject as he tries to represent or reconstruct reality. We will analyze the different styles of the documentary films and their content to discuss the fundamental issues concerning the documentary form: What is the “voice” of documentary? Is it possible to film an event objectively? How does persuasion inflect a documentary? How does a documentary persuade its viewers? What is the role of narration in documentaries?

This course has an equally significant production component to it, and it will introduce the students to the basics of production like shooting with a camcorder or a DSLR still/video camera. The semester will be divided equally between learning history, theory, and production, and the students are encouraged to shoot with easily accessible technology like the cell phone or the DSLR cameras and edit their footage with the basic editing software installed in their computer or in our editing lab. The focus will be on informed narration and creativity.

This is an interdepartmental course that is required for the Minor in Documentary Production. Students should register for MI 311.

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FLM 334.001 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Swarnavel Pillai
Monday, Wednesday 4:10-6:00 

This course introduces students to significant discourses surrounding ‘acts’ in a screenplay. Starting with the foundational “three-act” screenplay, it interrogates the strengths and weaknesses of formulating rigid structures. Students in this class will learn conventional as well as alternative ways of thinking about the structure of screenplay through analysis of mainstream, art as well as independent categories of films. The aim is to enable students to look critically at the screenplay of seminal and significant films so that they can work out a structure for the story they want to tell. The students in this course are expected to engage with the creative process of writing a screenplay by watching, analyzing, and discussing films, while at the same time pitch their ideas, and observe the transformation these ideas undergo as they work toward the final goal of writing 1/3rd of their story in a chosen screenplay format—in the conventional sense it could be the act-1 and the beginning of act-2, or the end of act-2, and the act-3, but one could opt for an episodic, or a short film, or other unconventional format as well.

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FLM 334.002 | Intro to Screenwriting | Professor Jeff Wray
Monday, Wednesday 12:40-2:30 

This course introduces students to significant discourses surrounding ‘acts’ in a screenplay. Starting with the foundational “three-act” screenplay, it interrogates the strengths and weaknesses of formulating rigid structures. Students in this class will learn conventional as well as alternative ways of thinking about the structure of screenplay through analysis of mainstream, art as well as independent categories of films. The aim is to enable students to look critically at the screenplay of seminal and significant films so that they can work out a structure for the story they want to tell. The students in this course are expected to engage with the creative process of writing a screenplay by watching, analyzing, and discussing films, while at the same time pitch their ideas, and observe the transformation these ideas undergo as they work toward the final goal of writing 1/3rd of their story in a chosen screenplay format—in the conventional sense it could be the act-1 and the beginning of act-2, or the end of act-2, and the act-3, but one could opt for an episodic, or a short film, or other unconventional format as well.

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FLM 337.001 | Topics in Film Form: Documentary Traditions | Professor John Valadez
Monday 4:10-7, Wednesday 4:10-6, 307 Bessey

TBA

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FLM 337.002 | Topics in Film Form: Sex and Violence in Film, TV, and Digital Media | Professor Rick Blackwood
Tuesday 4:10-7, Thursday 4:10-6, B122 Wells Hall

TBA

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FLM 381 | Contemporary Film and Media Theory | Professor Jordan Schonig 
Monday 4:10-7:00, Wednesday 4:10-6:00

Film theory addresses fundamental questions about the possibilities and limitations of the medium of film, and about the nature of representation, technology, aesthetics, subjectivity, politics, and culture that have gone into film as a cultural phenomena as well as the way that film itself has made contributions to these aspects of our lives. Starting from the late 1960s, contemporary film and media theory explores the development of thinking in and around the cinema and its related arts into the present-day. We will be following the development of film theory chronologically, looking at technological, aesthetic, and political changes in film as it moves from an analog medium into the digital age. We will also move thematically, looking at major trends of thinking in and around film including (but not limited to) psychoanalysis, Marxism, feminism, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and other relevant schools of thought. The purpose of this course is to give you a working understanding of how film theory has developed over the course of the twentieth century, leading to questions of film and its status as a technology, medium, and cultural form today. The central approach of this class is that both films and readings illustrate important conceptual and theoretical problems of the medium of cinema and, thus, both films and readings will be treated with equal importance. This course relies upon your active participation in readings, screenings, and class discussion and so it is vital that you come to class prepared with questions and concerns from the theoretical texts as well as specific formal details from the films.

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FLM 400 / FLM 820 | Seminar in Film History: War & Cinema | Professor Robert Burgoyne 
Tuesday 9:10-12:00, Thursday 9:10-11:00, 307 Bessey

In this seminar, we will explore the war film -- the first great genre of cinema -- with a view to better understanding the critical relationship between film and the cultural imaginaries that have taken shape around the history of collective violence.  Films of war have played a central role in both fortifying images of an ascendant nation, united in an aggressive communal cause, and in contesting narratives of nation and historical purpose that have resulted in disasters such as the Vietnam War.  In several of the films we will study, the imagery and themes of earlier war films are placed in immediate dialogue with more contemporary ideas and techniques, a case in which the genre memory of past representations is called up and explicitly revised.  One such example is the recent remediation of World War I documentary footage by Peter Jackson, They Shall Not Grow Old(2018), in which silent, black and white, scratched and darkened films from the Imperial War Museum collection are renovated through advanced digital tools and techniques. By grafting in color, brightness, and the sounds of the actual past, the meaning of WWI, as it has been widely understood, is effectively changed.

The seminar will center on films that have played a consequential historical and cultural role, that have become defining cultural touchpoints, and that have provoked controversy and in some cases, a rethinking of the past. Among the films we will study are All Quiet on the Western Front(1930), Apocalypse Now(1979), Zero Dark Thirty(2012), Dunkirk(2017), and Letters From Iwo Jima(2006). As the seminar progresses, we will consider how the language of genre has changed with the "new wars" of the 21st century, marked by the erosion of the distinction between civilians and combatants, by the erasure of the spatial boundaries of the battlezone, and by the emergence of new types of protagonists whose consummate warfare skills are matched by their pathological tendencies.

The reading for the seminar will be drawn from major works on war and the representation of violence, including Fredric Jameson's "War and Representation;" Yuval Noah Harari's The Ultimate Experience; Sarah Cole's, At The Violet Hour; Derek Gregory's "The Natures of War;" and Hermann Kappelhoff's, The Front Lines of Community. 

The screenings may include:

Edison War "Actualities"(1897), Thomas Edison
All Quiet on the Western Front(1930), Lewis Milestone
They Shall Not Grow Old(2018), Peter Jackson
Saving Private Ryan(1998), Steven Spielberg
Letters from Iwo Jima(2006), Clint Eastwood
Dunkirk(2017), Christopher Nolan
Apocalypse Now(1979), Francis Coppola
Paradise Now(2005), Hany Abu-Assad
Waltz With Bashir (2008), Ari Folman
The Hurt Locker(2008), Kathryn Bigelow
Zero Dark Thirty(2012), Kathryn Bigelow
Eye in the Sky(2016), Gavin Hood
A Private War(2018) Matthew Heineman

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FLM 411 | Documentary Design and Production | Professors Swarnavel Pillai and John Valadez 
Time TBA

Design and development of documentaries in a team setting using video and audio, still photography, web design, and print media. Participation in a production cycle including idea generation, research, design, production, and distribution. Capstone course for the Documentary Production Minor.

Cross listed with MI411. Enroll in MI411.

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FLM 434 | Advanced Screenwriting | Professor Bill Vincent
Monday, Wednesday 7:00-8:50

Okay, you’ve written a script, now what? Revision, tightening, polishing. Workshopping. Another full- length script, better than the first one. Pitching. Treatments. Log lines. Tag lines. After all, you want to know how to sell it. 

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FLM 435B | Creating the Fiction Film II | Professor Jeff Wray
Tuesday, Thursday 12:40-2:30 

The capstone class of the Fiction Film Specialization tasks students with writing, producing, finishing and distributing a short film over two semesters. In the second semester, students pick up right where they left off by moving the film into post-production and distribution. Over the course of 16 weeks they must form a post-production team and complete picture editing, sound sweetening, visual FX and color grading, then take the film into distribution and organize and execute premiere and additional screenings. Past productions have gone on to sell-out screenings at Celebration Cinemas's Studio C and win awards at film festivals in Michigan and beyond.

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FLM 450 | Studies in Ethnic Cinema | Italian-American Cinema & Comparative Race Studies | Professor Juliet Guzzetta 
Monday 9:10–12:00, Wednesday 9:10–11:00, 307 Bessey

This course focuses on Italian and Italian-American cinema to comparatively explore issues of race, ethnicity, and immigration, in the United States, Italy, and the Italian diaspora. We will also examines parallels and differences with other ethnic cinemas, including African-American and Latinx cinemas.

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FLM 480 | Seminar in Film Theory: Hitchcock and Theory | Professor Bill Vincent 
Monday 4:10–7:00, Wednesday 4:10–6:00

TBA

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