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Smash the Screen: Cinemas of Protest - ENG00105H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Melissa Oliver-Powell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
    • See module specification for other years: 2022-23

Module summary

‘Be realistic – demand the impossible.’ This was one of many revolutionary slogans graffitied across the streets of Paris in the labour strikes and student uprisings of 1968, which has been echoed in strikes, protests and youth movements across the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Like many dissident political movements, the events of 1968 sparked new energies in filmmaking, creative expression and critical thought. In the global protest movements of the 1960s and throughout the history of cinema and screen cultures, radical filmmakers have seen film not simply as a commercial medium used to entertain or to document ‘reality’, but also as a vital political tool that informs – and can be used to remake – that reality. Dissident film movements don’t just seek to approach new subject matter, they destabilise the forms and ideology of film itself, and the world it both reflects and creates.

This module invites students to explore the cultures and contexts of radical film movements from across the 20th century, looking across a range of countries, languages and periods. We will consider the uses of filmmaking and spectatorship as forms of activist engagement, and think through the relationships between formal and political disruption. Students will be encouraged to delve into the intricate and volatile interconnections between cinema and ideology, thinking about the aesthetics of film and its industrial practices. We will also discuss the stylistic revolutions produced by various film movements, and their influence on global filmmaking more broadly. Each week will focus on a different film movement, accompanied by analysis of its manifestos and key theoretical texts. Movements studied may include the French New Wave, Surrealism, New Queer Cinema, the L.A. Rebellion, Third Cinema, Neo-Realism and feminist counter-cinema. Students will also be encouraged to pursue their own interests in relation to a historical film movement of their choice.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aim of this module is to equip you with the skills to analyse film aesthetics at and advance level and discuss a range of world cinemas within their social and historical contexts. The module will encourage you to develop an understanding of a range of film theories and film writing in order to engage with discussions on the politics and ideological stakes of film. Finally, the module will aim to give you, in your final year, the confidence to conduct independent research on topics in film studies.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with methods of aesthetic or formal film analysis, including some understanding of how this is affected by industrial practices in different filmmaking contexts.

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with historically situated analysis of film movements, developing an ability to understand particular texts and bodies of film within relevant cultural and political moments.

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the politics of film form and filmmaking, engaging with critical writing on ideology, identity and representation.

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
3000-word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000-word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000-word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks.

You will submit your summative essay via the VLE during the revision and assessment weeks at the end of the teaching semester (weeks 13-15). Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to e:Vision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


Task Length % of module mark
3000-word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

Films studied may include:

Germaine Dulac, The Seashell and the Clergyman

Luis Buñuel, Un chien andalou

Maya Deren, Meshes of the Afternoon

Roberto Rossellini, Roma, Città Aperta

Jean-Luc Godard, À bout de souffle

Sara Gómez, De Cierta Mañera

Med Hondo, Soleil Ô

Agnès Varda, L’Une chante l’autre pas

Vera Chytilová, Daisies

Tom Kalin, Swoon

Cheryl Dunye, The Watermelon Woman

Haile Gerima, Bush Mama

Zeinabu irene Davis, Compensation

Glauber Rocha, Black God, White Devil

Fernando Mereilles and Katia Lund, City of God

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.