Documentary Media and Ecological Advocacy

Elective Courses

CINE 262 - Documentary Media and Ecological Advocacy

STSC 267
601 |Jason Zuzga |M 5:30-8:30pm |FBH 201

Students will learn how media has at times both intentionally and unintentionally generated increasing awareness of ecological relations. Students will study books, documentaries, and websites that construct ideas of what nature and/or ecology means, many of which try to inform the public about ecological policy questions, keeping in mind Greenpeace's initial dictate that the most important weapon was a working camera loaded with film. We will consider the different institutions—from funding to distribution—that a messenger must navigate along the way to communicating concept or alarm. We'll consider op-eds in magazines and newspapers and experiments in online media such as 24-hr live cams. We will look at attempts by corporations to respond, debunk, redirect the discussion. We will select from a wide array of works: Pare Lorentz's The River (1938) and The Plow that Broke the Plains (1938), Robert Flaherty's Louisiana Story (1948), Rachel Carson's nonfiction work Silent Spring, Barbet Schroder's Koko: A Talking Gorilla (1978), Shinsuke Ogawa's Red Permissions (2001), Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth (2006), nature spectaculars such as the BBC's Planet Earth, narrative films such as Silkwood (Dir. Nichols 1983), novels such as Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach and My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki, the website treehugger.com. Can too much information, visual, textual, become overwhelming and hinder understanding? Can viewing a film substitute for action? How do different existing documentary strategies and classifications offered by scholars apply, from the haunting industrial sublime inManufactured Landscapes (2006) and Our Daily Bread (2005), to the investigations of Darwin's Nightmare (2004) to the participatory reflexivity ofThe Cove (2009) and Gasland (2010)?  We will choose a single issue, i.e, ocean-borne plastic waste, and consider the effectiveness of many instances  from photographs of carcasses of albatross chicks killed by starvation due to stomachs exploded with plastic scraps to amateur youtube videos taken in the middle of the Pacific. As a final project, students will be required to propose, justify, and research a project (in any medium) given strict budgetary and temporal constraints.

last updated 06/16/2014 - 3:23pm

Cinema Studies Program
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