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Unit information: Political Film in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Political Film
Unit code FATV30018
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Massoumi
Open unit status Not open

DRAM11007 Production Skills or FATV10001 Film Fundamentals



School/department Department of Film and Television
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will explore the formal, aesthetic, thematic, historical and institutional concerns of cinema from a distinctly political standpoint. It begins with the principle that all films can be defined, in one way or another, as political. Through a political examination of a selection of films the unit will explore issues such as the emancipatory potential and ideological function/s of cinema; its historical links to political power and social change; the role and affects of film as propaganda; theoretical debates concerning the relationship between politics and aesthetics; the differing intellectual and artistic responses to dominant film forms and institutional practices. The unit will engage a variety of political theories (e.g. Marxism, post/modernism, post-colonialism and feminism) and their implications for film practice, touching on the politics of Hollywood cinema, European art house, avant-garde film, Third Cinema and activist/community video. Students will develop and produce their own film engaging with the issues raised in the unit.

The Unit aims:

1. To examine the political, historical, social and ideological role of cinema;

2. To explore the relationship between politics and aesthetics in film;

3. To consider the theoretical perspectives and approaches to the politics of film;

4. To develop skills in critical analysis of films in their social and political contexts;

5. To enhance critically-engaged, practical skills in filmmaking.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate an understanding of political possibilities and limitations of film form;

2. Situate and analyse films politically in terms of their context, function, aesthetics and/or approach;

3. Identify and use politically informed methods of film practice;

4. Employ advanced practice-based skills in the making of a short film;

5. Communicate an understanding of aesthetic/formal decisions and their underlying political implications.

Teaching details

Weekly 2-hour screening plus 3-hour workshop/seminar, production tutorials and practical work (both independent and partially supervised).

Assessment Details

10 minute film or related audiovisual work (50%) ILO 1-4

2500 word reflexive account of practical work (50%) ILO 1-3, 5

Reading and References

Adorno, T., Benjamin, W., Bloch, E., Brecht, B., & Lukás, G. (1977 [2007]). Aesthetics and Politics. London: Verso.

Orr, J., (2000). The Art and Politics of Film. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Rancière, J., (2014). The Emancipated Spectator. London: Verso Books.

Rushton, R., (2016). The Politics of Hollywood Cinema: Popular film and Contemporary Political Theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Thornham, S., ed. (1999). Feminist Film Theory: A Reader. New York: New York University Press.

Wayne, M., (2001). Political Film: The Dialectics of Third C'inema. London: Pluto Press.