Prospectus Draft


The reflexive properties serve anthropological and psycho-sociological purposes; film producers and consumers reflect upon their realities. The realist tendency of cinema is interesting because due to its many facets, thus complicating our understandings of film, as theorists. If reality is a complex concept then the cinema may have the potential to address the complexities.

The documentary form may potentially reveal our realities through its representative qualities that it may possess. However, this form, traditionally has served many elitist(and modernist) interest. To illustrate, other societies that are unlike our own can be a slippery slope.

Cinema as an educative tool has been implied through theories of Kuleshov, Astruc, Bazin and Kracauer and Baudry. How do films express our realities through narrativized screen events? What does cinematic photography do for its viewers through its reflexive properties? How do the ideas of spectators become disseminated?

Cinema can illustrate an ocular-centric reality and leads us to further understands of our realities. Yet, this  grandiose ideal of film as ‘global artistic language’ is falsely misleading. Why should cinema feel a responsibility to represent all cultures/people/ideologies ? Cinema in its mass commercialized form is more entertainment-dominant. Furthermore, the belief in film as ‘universal language’ is preposterous and points to this lofty optimism felt by World War II stratified European cinematic landscape. This model of unifying film is absurd.


Annotated Bibliography

Kracauer, Siegfried. “Basic Concepts” “Inherent Affinities.” (Critical Visions 289-308).

He advocates cinematic realism on the basis of ocular-centric knowledge-making done on behalf of the spectator. Analyzes how films express our realities through fictional, studio-staged events.

Bazin, Andre. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” (Critical Visions 309-314).

Humanist approach to the cinematic medium. Cinematic photography has the abilitiy ’embalm ‘time for us; this property is beneficial to the understanding how the  modern spectator makes sense of their reality, when it is presented on filmic screens.

Baudry, Jean-Louis. “Ideological Effects.” (Critical Visions 34-44).

Trying to understand the functions of the cinema to understand its ideologies. The body of the spectator is not reflected within the cinema yet its reflexive properties remain on an ideological standpoint. Audiences can potentially learn about their realities through the film’s representative properties.

Elsaesser, Thomas and Malte Haegner. “Chapter Seven: Cinema as Mirror–Face and Close-up.” (Film Theory Through The Senses 63-90).

Addresses the self-reflexive, psychoanalytical influence of the European cinema of the 40s/50s(German Expression) and 60s/70s(French Nouvelle Vague, Italian Neo-Realism).


Dyer, Richard. Excerpt from Stars(1980). (Critical Visions 401-416).

Stars are products. They are consumed within the system of signification available to  film-goers. Star personas are utilized within the Hollywood system in order to become anthropomorphic symbols that humans can relate their reality to the one’s presented by media industrialists.

Kuleshov, Lev. “The Principles of Montage.” (Critical Visions 135-144).

addresses the concepts of associative montage(the juxtaposition of face/object suggests an emotive response) and ideological montage(audience’s are aware of the ideologies suggested by a film, depending on a film’s cultural origin).

Astruc, Alexandre. “The Birth of a New Avant-Garde.” (Critical Visions 350-354).

Addresses inclusive spectatorship and film as language. How can spectators decipher meaning on their own? Looks forward to a future where an unspecified avant-garde will address all of our individualized modern issues.


4 thoughts on “Prospectus Draft

  1. Hey Amani, I can clearly see a critical perspective in your arguments, which I think can be very interesting and productive. And the way you use “realist tendency” as a starting point to develop your ideas into three parts makes the proposal well and clearly structured.
    For the first and third part, you’ve already presented your main standing points, clearly and strongly. I like the idea that documentary serves elitist interest and want to know what theories and examples you are going to use for this part.
    But for the second one, mostly are some questions you posed. I hope I can see more about how you will approach them and what your own standing points are. And for the whole paper, is there a main argument that can connect these three parts and make them more coherent? Or make claim of “cinema may have the potential to address the complexities” more specific?


  2. Hi Amani,

    1. Your draft asks trenchant questions about the alleged universality of the film language and how realist modes can help us understand our realities. I’m looking forward to seeing how you draw connections between those two questions and their implications. You also have a comprehensive grasp over your sources and seek to challenge them in provocative ways.

    2. For the final draft, you may want to attempt to answer at least one of the questions you have raised here and build a thesis out of that answer. There are a lot of fertile provocations you have made and by articulating a nuanced response to them you should be able to narrow things down. That should in turn point to more sources you can use. If cinema isn’t a universal language, how do we understand its indexical ontology? How do spectators’ responses shift across cultures? Isn’t there still something near-universal in the filmed images’ immediate intelligibility (As Metz said, cinema is hard to explain because it is easy to understand)? How do we account for that, given cultural specificities? The final paper is only 10 pages, so picking one area of interest and attempting to reevaluate film ontology in solely that regard may be a way forward. If you choose to focus on documentaries, you may want to explore the work of Michael Renov, Bill Nichols, Erik Barnow, Jane Gaines, and NYU’s own Faye Ginsburg as potential sources.

  3. Hello-

    I think your thesis is bold and I applaud you for taking this position. I was a little unsure though about the relationship between realism and the idea that film should be all encompassing so you might want to think about how to bridge those two ideas a bit more. I was unsure what point you were making about the two things in general. Were you saying realism cannot accomplish this or that film in general (irrespective of whether it is formalistic or classical) can never accomplish this or that it should not burden itself with trying? I think you have something here for sure and I would try to think about what film can or should do and not juts what it can’t do. I like that you mention entertainment as that seems to get lost in a lot of film school conversations, when a love of film and the endless enjoyment we get from it is what brought most of us to the program.

  4. I agree with your criticism of film’s responsibility to represent many cultures/people/ideologies. Films typically do not express a universal language and I agree that it is absurd to assume they do. I really like the idea of working with documentaries
    I do feel that this topic is quite broad however and I would urge you to answer the questions you pose (How do films express our realities through narrativized screen events? What does cinematic photography do for its viewers through its reflexive properties? How do the ideas of spectators become disseminated?) and then formulate your thesis based on what you come up with. The prospectus as it is currently requires some narrowing down.

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