Cinema from India and Africa
*Honors course but
open to non-Honors students; W focus class.
This course is an introduction to questions and issues of
postcolonial narrative cinema as articulated by filmmakers working in Africa
and India. Some of the most exciting filmmaking in the last half-century has
emerged from these two spaces. The film industry in India is of course the
largest in the world and has a huge viewership both inside the country and
outside. It is largely dominated by commercial compulsions. The situation with
regard to African cinema is very different, commercially much more precarious.
African cinema has been more auteur driven. The objective of this course is to
explore some examples of these two traditions of filmmaking within their
Cinema within postcolonial spaces like Africa and India
share similar political and social obligations. Whether viewing cinema as a
mass entertainment medium or as a niche artistic enterprise, African and Indian
filmmakers have had to confront widespread anxieties regarding such issues as
colonial oppression and postcolonial development. In the context of these
anxieties, we will explore during the semester both specific issues of
cinematic form (the specific ways in which filmmakers exploit the audio-visual
resources of cinema) and the urgent social and historical questions that the
films take up. Thus, the course will be an exploration of both film criticism
and postcolonial studies. Students will be expected to engage with some of the
basic aspects of cinematic form (for example, scene composition and editing) as
well as fundamental concepts in postcolonial studies (such as “decolonization”
The films we watch will take us to discussions such as the
following: nationalism in colonial situations; representations of the poor; the
place of women in traditional societies; cinema as a mass entertainment
industry; cinema as a quintessentially modern cultural form; the use of music
and dance in cinema; language in cinema. To help us navigate these issues of
postcolonial narrative cinema, we will do some supplemental reading of critical
essays and books.
Films we will watch
(India). Dir. Satyajit Ray.
(India). Dir Vijay Anand.
(India). Dir. Yash Chopra.
Kill (India). Dir. Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
(India). Dir. Mani Ratnam.
(India). Dir. Deepa Mehta.
(Senegal). Dir. Ousmane Sembene.
(Mali). Dir. Idrissa Ouedraogo.
Station (Egypt). Dir. Youssef Chahine.
The Heritage of the Griot (Burkina Faso). Dir. Dani Kouyate.
(South Africa). Dir. Gavin Hood.
(Nigeria). Dir. Kunle Afolayan
Books/Essays we will read:
- R. K.
Narayan, The Guide (novel)
Sembene, Xala (novel)
Dissanayake, from Indian Popular Cinema
Monaco, How to Read a Film (3rd Edition)
Diawara, selections from African Cinema.
Ahmad, “Bombay Films: The Cinema as Metaphor for Indian Society”
Kakkar, “Lovers in the Dark.”
Mishra, “Towards a Theoretical Critique of Bombay Cinema.”
Thomas, “Indian Cinema: Pleasures and popularity.”
Cham, “Oral Traditions, literature and film in Africa: the dynamics of
Thackway, “African Women and Film: On Screen and Behind the Camera.”
Sacks, “The Race for Representation: new viewsites for change in South
Taylor, “Searching for the post-modern in African cinema.”
Rice, “A Scorsese in Lagos.”
Class Requirements and Procedures: Students will
write short analyses of the films that they watch on a regular basis. These
will be posted online on Laulima as well as turned in to me as hard copy. In
addition they will make an oral presentation on the readings once in the
semester, also turned in to me as a short paper (four pages). The bulk of the
written work of the class will however be a long research paper (about 10 pages),
for which students will be able to pursue a project of their own choice. They
will prepare a brief proposal and an annotated bibliography for this paper a
month before the paper is due. The grade for the research project will be based
on the bibliography and the paper. This is a W focus class and so we will also
spend time intensively working on writing.