Social Science / Media Essay


Special Topics in Cinema and Media Studies

The study of cinema and media is designed to help students learn how to engage visual media across diverse cultures critically. It focuses on the examination of media and film and how they reflect or influence culture, art, entertainment, and politics. With various courses covering film history and analysis, media criticism, television analysis, directorial authorship, etc. – students learn how to investigate the way visual media has shaped our perceptions and experience of and in the world. Visual media's significance to multiple academic disciplines means this course is not only for those studying theater, art, or cinema. Even those in social sciences, STEM, and pre-professional fields can benefit greatly. Beyond the regular topics that a student will be exposed to, there are special ones of which we have discussed some here.

Oppositional Cinema

The term, oppositional cinema, refers to alternative media that has been a social justice tool for ages. The creation is premised on the belief that mainstream media such as Hollywood, large broadcasting companies, major print media companies, etc. have a large amount of power in their hands. They use this power arbitrarily to shape perception, usually in a racist, sexist, and anti-democratic manner. In order to counter the wave of their power, social justice advocates establish alternative media of which oppositional cinema is one.

In reality, there is no inherently oppositional cinema. Instead, it arises and will be defined as oppositional based on certain factors that point to history, such as shifting political, economic, or sociocultural contexts. Thus, oppositional cinema is characterized by being counterculture at that point in history. It is once considered oppositional cinema at one historical point that may become the mainstream cinema in another.

This topic explores the various film movements and genres whose mode of production and/or stylistic system deviates from what is perceived as the dominant cinema at that point in time and, in some instances, directly challenges the status quo as espoused by the dominant cinema. The topic focuses on how the oppositional cinema challenges the dominant/mainstream cinema and how it is a cultural critique and sometimes leads to social transformation.

In the words of Christian Metz, it is difficult to explain a film because it is so easy to understand. Here, Metz was talking about the conventional way that most people watch films, which does not give room for proper analysis of what we are seeing. For instance, while seeing a movie, only a few people think about the movies' production process; we are so focused on the story, plot, and narrative that we do not have time to think about the conventions and codes at work in the movie. Oppositional cinemas seek to draw our attention to these things so we can see a movie beyond an avenue for entertainment but as a reflection of cultural or social standards. It achieves this by constructing films differently and thus, forcing us to understand the reality as it is represented.

This topic focuses on cinematic representation, which is subdivided into – how the story is told and how the audience is addressed. It de-familiarizes the conventions and structures that underpin the mainstream cinematic representation and considers all the likely consequences of an alternative cinema.

Documentary Films and Narrative Structure

The subject matter of a documentary film is what determines the narrative structure. However, it is generally a three-act structure of beginning, middle, and ending. The beginning is where we have the introduction of the hero and the conflict. The middle focuses on the setbacks and obstacles, i.e. the general problems resulting from the conflict. The ending is the resolution.

The narrative structure is what a story relies on. For a documentary, it is essential to have a well-crafted story that portrays the conflict's development and transformation while keeping the audience in the loop all through. The narrative structure for a documentary is usually in five steps structure.

Identification of The Problem: The story, which is set in the everyday world of the character, starts by introducing the character and the problem that s/he is facing as well as how such problem matters.

A Possible Solution: What follows is a likely solution to the problem that has been identified. This solution may or may not work and usually comes through the effort of a change-maker partner.

How It Works: The solution is presented and its effects on the protagonist's everyday world are shown. We see here how the idea is changing the protagonist world.

Why It Matters: Here, the reason the success of that idea is necessary is presented to the audience. The problem is restarted so the audience can have a clue of how much is at stake here.

Solution: The story reaches its denouement and closes with the audience discovering whether the solution worked or not. This is the most important question in the whole story and determines a documentary film's success or failure.

Philosophy of Film

This subfield of philosophy of art did not achieve its growth and significance until the 1980s. The reason for this can be traced to the important place that film now occupy in our society and its cultural role and influence, which has made philosophers now consider it as an art form like other traditional ones such as painting, theatre, and dance.

The philosophy of film has two notable features that are worth pointing out. First, film scholars' contribution who are not professional philosophers to the field is such that it makes it quite different from all other branches of philosophy. Secondly, film studies itself has a subfield of film theory that significantly overlaps the philosophy of film, although most researchers in that subfield work under a set of philosophical assumptions that are substantially different from what operates in the philosophy of film.


All these topics and various others have become areas of significant aestheticsMedia_Studies, theoretical and critical research.


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