Studies: Film: Postcolonial Narrative Cinema

Postocolonial Narrative Cinema from India and Africa

W and DH focus

India and Africa have some of the most exciting food, music, literature, dance and movies anywhere in the world. The cinema from these parts of the world range from pop entertainments with eye- and ear- seducing dance and music (Bollywood) to powerful political dramas (Ousmane Sembene). Some of the greatest filmmakers of the world hail from India and Africa—and some of the most influential. Check out this celebrated song-dance sequence from the Indian film Dil Se:

This song featuring the superstar Shahrukh Khan was composed by legendary music composer A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar for a film directed by equally legendary Indian director Mani Ratnam. And it was used by iconic African American filmmaker Spike Lee in his film Inside Man. This reuse by Spike Lee is just one example of the global influence of cinema from India and Africa.

This course, then, is an introduction to the vibrant film culture from these parts of the world–India and various African countries–and the filmmakers behind them. The film industry in India is 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. For a long time African cinema, led by Senegalese filmmakers, was more auteur driven, though this has changed in the last twenty years, especially with what is called Nollywood (based mainly in Nigeria). The objective of this course is to explore some examples of the diverse traditions of filmmaking in India and various African countries but within a linked socio-political postcolonial context—i.e. filmmaking after the ending of colonialism.

The films we watch will take us to discussions such as the following: the use of music and dance in cinema; nationalism in colonial situations; representations of the poor; the place of women in traditional societies; the reasons for the relative absence of women film directors (though we will watch films by several women directors); cinema as a mass entertainment industry; cinema as a quintessentially modern cultural form; language in cinema; cinema as political statement. To help us navigate these issues of postcolonial narrative cinema, we will read supplementary critical essays.

Films we will watch (tentative list):

  1. Charulata (India). Dir. Satyajit Ray.
  2. Guide (India). Dir. Vijay Anand.
  3. Deewar (India). Dir. Yash Chopra.
  4. Nizhalkuthu/Shadow Kill (India). Dir. Adoor Gopalakrishnan.
  5. Gully Boy (India). Dir. Zoya Akhtar.
  6. Water (India/Canada). Dir. Deepa Mehta.
  7. Yaaba (Mali). Dir. Idrissa Ouedraogo.
  8. Keita: The Heritage of the Griot (Burkina Faso). Dir. Dani Kouyate.
  9. Xala (Senegal). Dir. Ousmane Sembene.
  10. Cairo Station (Egypt). Dir. Youssef Chahine.
  11. Everyone’s Child (Zimbabwe). Dir. Tsitsi Dangaremba.
  12. Mami Wata (Nigeria). Dir. C. J. Obasi.


How to Read a Film, 4th Edition, James Monaco, (OUP, 2009)–we will read sections as needed

I will also provide critical essays as supplementary reading via Laulima.

Assignments and Class Work:

A 250 word response for each assigned movie. These will not be graded.

One oral presentation on a film and associated readings. This will also be turned in to me as a short paper (five pages).

Mid-term five-page prospectus for a final project.

An end-of-term twelve-page research paper complete with bibliography and proper citations. This will be a development of the mid-term five-page paper.

This is a W focus class and so we will spend time intensively working on writing, including research papers. The course also satisfies the DH requirement.