Slavic R5B, Section 3: World Cinema from the Soviet Avant-Garde to the End of History

TuTh 8-9:30, Remote. Instructor: Zachary Hicks.

Units: 4

How does film form respond to, represent, and help construct a political imaginary over the course of its history? When, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Francis Fukuyama triumphantly declared the “end of history” he attempted to mark a definite historical break, after which ideological and political struggle gives way to the universal triumph of Western liberal capitalism. Taking our contemporary “post-historical” moment as a starting point, this class will chart a course through the history of an artistic medium that for many is explicitly connected with the kind of struggle that notions of the “end of history” assign to a bygone era. Following a more or less chronological historical trajectory, we will move from the revolutionary cinema of the Soviet Avant-Garde, through to mid-century European interventions that build upon Soviet models, and then to anti-colonial and New Left films from around the world, before returning to our contemporary moment. Film as a medium has long been thought to sit at the intersection of theory and practice, and as such we will consider films and filmmakers who intended their cinema to be interventionist in nature—seeking to transform the world, not merely represent or distract from it. In tracking this history we will look closely at how different films make use of the form/content distinction and consider what aesthetic strategies are at play in each. We will ask how filmic practice has figured into both representing and constructing a radical political imaginary.


This course will work within this broad problematic, seeking to practice and the develop some of the fundamentals of college-level writing—such as close reading, tracking concepts, and developing arguments. This course fulfils the second half of the UC Reading & Composition requirement; together with our critical inquiry into modes of reading and film viewing, we will practice our writing and research skills. We will devote plenty of time to critical thinking and essay-writing skills, paying particular attention to argumentation, analysis, engaging with sources, and other fundamentals of writing at the college level.



Required Text:

Timothy Corrigan – A Short Guide to Writing About Film 8th Edition (ISBN: 020523639)

All other films and text will be made available on bCourses or online.


Films may include:

Alexander Kluge, News From Ideological Antiquity (Nachrichten aus der ideologischen Antike, 2008)

Dziga Vertov, A Sixth Part of the World (Shestaya chast’ mira; 1926)

Sergei Eisenstein, The Battleship Potemkin (Brononosets potemkin; 1925)

Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari; 1920)

Pier Paolo Pasolini, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma, 1975)

Jean-Luc Godard, Breathless (À bout de soufflé, 1960)

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Memories of Underdevelopment (Memorias del Subdesarrollo, 1968)

Santiago Álvarez, 79 Springs (79 Primaveras, 1969)

Mikhail Kolotozov, I Am Cuba (Soy Cuba/Ya Kuba, 1964)

Gillo Pontecorvo, The Battle of Algiers (La battaglia di Algeri, 1966)

Ritwik Ghatak, E-Flat (Komal Gandhar, 1961)

Jean-Luc Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin (Dziga Vertov Group), The Chinese or, rather, in the Chinese manner: a film in the making (La Chinoise, ou plutôt à la Chinoise: un film en train de se faire, 1967)

Richard Serra- Television Delivers People (1973)

Dušan Makevejev – W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (W.R.: Misterije organizma, 1971)

Steve McQueen, Hunger (2008)

Harun Farocki Workers Leaving the Factory (Arbeiter verlassen die Fabrik, 1995)

Andrei Zvagintsev, Leviathan (Leviafan, 2014)

Abderrahmane Sissako, October (Octobre, 1993)

This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.

Due to the high demand for R&C courses we monitor attendance very carefully. Attendance is mandatory the first two weeks of classes, this includes all enrolled and wait listed students. If you do not attend all classes the first two weeks you may be dropped. If you are attempting to add into this class during weeks 1 and 2 and did not attend the first day, you will be expected to attend all class meetings thereafter and, if space permits, you may be enrolled from the wait list.