What Does a Film Studies Major Know?

A student graduating with a major in Film Studies should be fluent in reading and analyzing cinematic texts using the terminology particular to the discipline. In addition, students should be aware of and should have seen most of the films that are definitive of the field. The canon of Film Studies has been traditionally made up of feature length fiction films from Europe, the United States, and select other cinemas due primarily to the vagaries of distribution and preservation. However, we ask students to become acquainted with non-western traditions as well, focusing on the ways in which cinema is a global medium of expression with direct connection to contemporary issues of immigration, diaspora, and national and transnational identity. We also encourage students to become aware of film traditions that deviate from the Hollywood model, such as experimental and documentary film.

In order to have a full grasp of the field, students should be familiar with the essential theoretical texts that have defined the medium and the study of the medium as it has developed over the course of the 20th century. As a result of this knowledge, students should be able to intelligently engage any film as an aesthetic object and/or as a cultural product. Although Film Studies differentiates between film as art and film as entertainment (as do the studies of books or physical movement, for example), Film Studies has a particular interest in the cultural role of certain films because of the ramifications of their industrial means of production and their enormous influence. Finally, a student majoring in Film Studies should take one course in film production in order to understand the specificity and demands of the medium.