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Birkbeck College, University of London

School of Art History, Film and Visual Media

Case Study Report, September 2003

Dr Michael Allen:


Background Report 1
Background Report 2
Perspectives on World Cinema Course Outline Part 1
Perspectives on World Cinema Course Outline Part 2
Summer Term Series of Invited Speaker Talks, 2003
Perspectives on World Cinema Bibliography
Perspectives on World Cinema Reading List
Perspectives on World Cinema Filmography
Course Feedback

NB. For pdf versions of the course outlines and bibliographies please go to the GLAADH Resources section and then choose Initiatives Course Materials or Initiatives Bibliographies and scroll down the index.



The GLAADH-assisted World Cinema project has initially been developed as a component of the MA in History of Film and Visual Media within the School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media at Birkbeck College, University of London. Birkbeck College as a whole is committed to offering educational opportunities to those who might not ordinarily be able to study at graduate and post-graduate level, and to provide opportunities to study new and innovative subject areas.

The MA has run for the past twelve years, initially by the British Film Institute in association with Birkbeck, and then, from 1999, within Birkbeck College itself. The GLAADH funding has helped to purchase videos and DVDs in support of two programmes of study: the Perspectives in World Cinema option module course which forms part of the MA in History of Film and Visual Media, and an invited speaker series which runs during the summer term and which this year has primarily focused on aspects of World Cinema. The two programmes have been designed to run both as a related pair, with the summer talks series expanding aspects of the taught course, and as separate entities so that the invited speaker talks could address, and be satisfactory to, a more general audience which had not attended the taught course.

The Perspectives in World Cinema option course has been running since October 2002, and is co-taught by Professor Laura Mulvey and Visiting Leverhulme Professor Lucia Nagib. The course, which currently attracts approximately 12-15 students, was introduced in response to a perceived lack of coverage of non-Western cinemas on the MA History of Film and Visual Media. The invited speaker series has looked, in the first instance, at Brazilian, Iranian, and Far Eastern cinemas, and has been well attended, with some talks attracting over 60 people.

Poster advertsising a summer talk at Birkbeck College by Lucia Nagib entitled Talking BUllets - The language of violence in the City and God

Poster advertising a lecture from the Summer Talks Series

The already available resources for both initiatives was a small collection of non-Western films on VHS and DVD within a larger collection which was overwhelmingly Western in bias. This small collection has now been substantially enlarged through the GLAADH funding.


The first step to take was to design the Perspectives in World Cinema course and to formulate the list of desired speakers for the summer term series of talks. Professors Laura Mulvey and Lucia Nagib designed the MA module course outline, while Professor Mulvey formulated the list of speakers. From these documents, a list of desired film titles was drawn up and Dr. Mike Allen was principally assigned to find and purchase them, with Professors Mulvey and Nagib purchasing individual titles as required. The principal method was to use an already functioning account with the Oxford Circus branch of HMV. This provided most of the desired titles, with others purchased individually through other online sites such as, as well as some rare and obscure titles being obtained from their native countries. The main purchasing route via the HMV account, supplemented by more specialist acquisitions, seemed to us the best way to provide both coverage and quality of titles. Constraints included the usual difficulty of finding certain titles, and the occasional non-availability of some titles on either VHS or DVD. Support came from both the team of film lecturers and the administration staff of the School, who all made strenuous efforts to find the desired titles.

Lucia Nagib teaching at Birkbeck College

Professor Lucia Nagib

Time spent on the enterprise varied from person to person. Professors Mulvey and Nagib spent some 15-20 hours designing the course outline and timetable, 25-30 hours each teaching it during the Spring term 2003, and 10-15 hours marking the final coursework essays. In addition Professor Mulvey spent perhaps 20-30 hours contacting speakers for the invited talks series, and 30 hours chairing the weekly sessions. Professor Nagib spent several days writing and preparing her Leverhulme Lecture on 'City of God', and two hours presenting it and conducting the subsequent discussion with the audience. Dr. Mike Allen spent between 10-20 hours tracing and purchasing films on VHS and DVD, and making them available for viewing through the School's special collection service.


Response to both the Perspectives on World Cinema course and the invited speaker talks on aspects of non-Western film have been very positive (please see attached questionnaires). Indeed, students have found them amongst the most enjoyable and stimulating elements of their studies at Birkbeck. Their comments in the returned questionnaires will help to adjust the content of both initiatives for next academic year. The presence of both the Perspectives in World Cinema course unit and the invited talks on non-Western cinemas have demonstrably broadened the scope of the subject areas offered to the students taking the MA in History of Film and Visual Media, as well as other interested students within the School, ex-students of the film programme, and other interested parties. This broadening of scope has had the effect of making students, many of whom had no previous knowledge of non-Western cinema, aware of the rich diversity of these other filmmaking traditions.

In terms of what would have been done differently: student feedback suggested both a reduction in the number of countries covered in both the Perspectives in World Cinema course and the invited speaker talks, and the reversal of the two halves of the Perspectives course to allow the multi-country unit to come first, followed by the specific study of Brazilian cinema. These changes will be effected for next academic year. Perhaps, also, more focused advertising and notification would have brought even bigger audiences to some talks.

Both the Perspectives in World Cinema option module and the summer series of invited speakers were very successful, justifying the efforts taken to design, resource and conduct them. Both will therefore continue next academic year. The Perspectives on World Cinema module will shift focus slightly to offer students a two-five week block structure, the first five weeks concentrating, as with this year, on Brazilian cinema while the second five weeks will look at aspects of Asian cinema. Both will be taught by Professor Lucia Nagib while Professor Laura Mulvey is on sabbatical leave.

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