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SCMC 3001W History of Cinema and Media Culture
University of Minnesota
Reflection Essay Prompt
Length: 750-850 words
Format: Double Space, Times New Roman font, Title Page With Your Own Title, and Staple.
Citations: Sources Are Not required: please use in-class texts and films. For in-class texts, page numbers only in parentheses after quotations is enough to include. No bibliographies necessary. NO NEED TO CITE FILMS OF FILM SCENES: no date, director, actors etc.!
Prompt: Two Options...Choose One of Them as your Topic
During the first two weeks of this course, we have read Tom Gunning's essay about the cinema as attraction, Charlie Musser's piece on the "color line" in American cinema and we have seen several early cinema clips and Oscar Micheaux's "Race Cinema" classic, Within Our Gates.
Clearly, these may not represent examples of entertainment that we enjoy in, at least most of, our everyday lives. So for this initial essay, let's address this directly.
Remember that this essay is a compelling DISCUSSION, not a research paper! Do stick to the course reading and film that you choose and from there explain, give opinion, and have fun. This essay should be readable and also intesting...think of a super blog, like Grantland, article that you know that other people will read and comment on.
Get to your point quickly and add detail to support what you say. There are VERY short essays and everyone, including you, loves specifics and gets bored with generalities!
Please discuss what you found the most interesting aspects of Musser's "Race Cinema and the Color Line." What does it say to you about film and race today that there were two separate, but very unequal, industries at work in the start of american film, and that "race cinema" is rarely if ever discussed today, even in University classrooms? Within your discussion, please include one or two (one is always best) examples of the representation of race, particularly of descendants of the Atlantic Slave Trade, in ONE of your favorite African-American directed films as opposed to Micheaux's representation in Within Our Gates. What are one or two (one is always best) aspects of African-American representation in cinema directed by AfricanAmericans that has changed since 1920? This is tricky, but the interplay between race, representation, and audience is a complex one, as we have discussed in class.
Tom Gunning's famous article discussed the cinema of attractions as something somehow separate from narrative cinema, and this distinction is clear! The denial of "backstory" and "psychological interiority," the absurdity of viewers "sinking into a narrative," the pointlessness of plot, and "plot twists"....pre-1915 film audiences "got" all of this, and somehow we have lost it. Within your discussion, please discuss Gunning's premises and then offer your own view concerning this argument in film today. Do we still have a sort of cinema of attractions (this is a difficult question)? Is embracing narrative really such a disempowering practice? You may choose ONE of your favorite films to help you make your point.