The film studies aspect in SCMC

Cesare Casarino, Professor and Chair Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature

write in response to the Minnesota Daily Editorial Board’s Sept. 25 editorial, “Meet film students halfway,” about the interdepartmental Studies in Cinema and Media Culture major, housed in the Department of Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

First, there seems to be some basic confusion about the SCMC major. SCMC is a film studies program, not a film production program; it has never pretended to be otherwise. SCMC is — like many other college programs, like at Brown, Yale and Colgate — a film studies program that includes the option to take production courses.

In all of these programs, including ours, there is the implicit philosophy that to be a good filmmaker, you need to be familiar with film and media history and theory, as well as fields far beyond film and media. It’s not enough to know how to use a camera, edit, write a screenplay and so on. Thus, a liberal arts context is an ideal space in which to develop as an artist. For example, the French New Wave filmmakers started out as critics, and American directors Terrence Malick and Errol Morris are well-versed in philosophy.

Nonetheless, the College of Liberal Arts offers a number of production courses through the communication studies, journalism, art, and cultural studies and comparative literature departments. If a student seeks more than what CLA already offers, they can take advantage of a partnership we have with Higher Education Consortium in Urban Affairs in their “Making Media, Making Change” program. Students in that course gain hands-on film-making skills while improving their media literacy in a social justice framework.

As a department in a liberal arts college, we are committed to interdisciplinarity and pride ourselves on providing a program that examines a topic through the lenses of feminism, Marxism, post-colonial studies, critical race theory, pop culture, film theory and many other paradigms. To study the same film or filmmaker in a course on feminism and later in a film theory course, for example, is not redundant — it will lead to very different interpretations and understandings. Students who are concerned about redundancy among SCMC course offerings can consult with their adviser, who will help them choose a range of courses that will both fulfill major requirements and their intellectual curiosity.