State of Cinema Studies
A critique and solution for film studies at Cleveland State
From both a social skills and financial earnings perspective, many students at Cleveland State have made logical choices with their majors. Thus, many students have never taken a film studies course. An illustration of a typical class may illuminate the social skills and financial earnings of a typical film student at Cleveland State.
Regardless of your interest in the topic, the entire class arrives exactly at the start time, ideally later. Though the professor usually comes early, it is expected that the technological challenges associated with turning on a computer will delay the actual start time of the class.
The syllabus is usually constructed from an unpopular WatchMojo list. Professors range from unduly dense in a “Trivial Pursuit” sort of way to unduly dense in a “Scene It?” sort of way. By the time you are able to determine which end of the spectrum the professors swing with, they will have figured out how to turn on the computer.
Those excited by the viewing experience offered by a film school with the full financial backing of the Buckeye State shall be sorely disappointed when the professor opens a 240p-resolution version of Dziga Vertov’s "Man with a Movie Camera."
The illumination of the projector signals to the class it is time to sleep. It is a common complaint amongst students that scheduling film history classes too early in the morning or too late in the night invariably leads to sleeping in class. This is a fallacy. Regardless of what time the class is scheduled, a majority of students will succumb to Hypnos.
When the film ends, the class is released for a break. Many CIA torture experts recommend smoking a cigarette to endure long periods of torture, so this brief recess is the perfect time to listen to the experts. The great risk to your health comes not from inhaling tobacco smoke, but from interacting with a film student. Emerging from a vape cloud that smells of spilled soda, a film student will likely complain about one of the screened movies.
“Dr. Kalahari is too silent and too black-and-white” is perhaps the most frequently lodged complaint. Films free from criticism are generally the ones Johnny Depp likes to remake. This is a good time to return to class.
The professor will likely be sipping a Diet Pepsi that smells the same as their nicotine replacement patch. The floor is opened for discussion. The class is in agreement. The movie sucked. The characters would not adapt well to plush, the multiverse possibilities are too limited and it would have worked much better as a short. Questions about women directors or films of non-Euro-American origins are redirected to praise of American cinema of the 1990’s. Class eventually loses steam and the students are dismissed early.
Like the German Expressionist films screened in various film classes, the reasons for the current state of film history courses are varied and complex. Also like the German Expressionist films, the suggested future of film history classes is bleak and uncertain.
Currently, pure film history courses at Cleveland State are limited to White Guy Cinema 1 and 2 (History of Film and Contemporary Film), Disposable Media (History of TV, Radio, and Interactive Media), and the Story of Ken Burns (Documentary). The sparseness of the four courses requires the classes to offer broad and simplistic film examples, which lends itself well to straight white male voices.
In observation of the environment of the film school, several other reasons could explain why film studies have eroded to their current state. In simplest terms, it comes down to trade school tendencies, quality of content, transgression in cinema, dumbing it down, television school, and industry training. Below is a brief description of each and a possible remedy to each.
Trade School Tendencies - most Film and Media Arts majors intend to work as crew and are not interested in film scholarship. Students interested in work as a gaffer on other crew jobs should spend their time studying the Illuminating Company, not the Lumiere Brothers.
Quality of Content - films shown in film history courses are typically the epitomized work of a subject, maiming any desire of exploration. The grocery store puts dairy at the back corner to force customers to walk past every aisle of food, and the same should be done when it comes to the western.
Transgression in Cinema - the transgressive qualities in film shown are typically the byproducts of bigotry, not reactions to bigotry. Those offended by historical hatred might be surprised to learn that they are not alone in this belief.
Dumbing it Down - the school offers simple explanations of complex pieces of art. If the take away from Breathless is that it used jump cuts, it is advisable to jump off of a bridge.
Television School - the school offers more emphasis on the creative practices of television, thus giving the historical precedent of cinema in student’s work. If television is the preferred artistic medium, the school should’ve invested in a living room, not a screening room.
Industry Training - the school’s main purpose is to create a workforce for Hollywood productions coming to Cleveland. Instead of showing films that use Cleveland crews, show films that use Cleveland budgets.
Legitimate remedy from the administration is an abstraction. Change must come from a radicalized student body. Lay down your Disney DVD’s! Cancel your subscription services! Demand good movies from marginalized voices! Not bad movies from mainstream voices! If you need a place to start, pick any filmmaker from the following list and watch their complete oeuvre. Or, stay comfortable in a home built on the foundation of conformity.
Tran Anh Hung
Nuri Bilge Ceylon
Djbril Diop Mambety
Athena Rachel Tsangri