05 June 2017

The Nuclear Deal and Failed Iran-US Relations

2015 witnessed a significant turn of events in international relations. The Obama Administration adopted a flexible approach to mending frozen relations with regimes the US had for decades perceived as hostile and consequently its relations with Cuba and Iran were put into a new direction.

18 March 2017

Representations of Psychopathy in US Cinema

Ever since the early nineteenth century when Philippe Pinel described psychopathy as moral deficiency with no sign of mental impairment, scholars have taken an interest in the condition. The ensuing discussions emphasized the role of an unsympathetic environment in making an individual morally insane and on the society's responsibility in mitigating psychopathic behavior through moral therapy. A century later, scholars interpreted psychopathy from a sociological perspective, but which bore some resemblance to the nineteenth century moral discussion. For example, Harrington's Psychopaths (1973) and Smith's The Psychopath in Society (1978) suggest that an amoral society commending individualism and personal achievement provides an environment that rewards, and thus encourages, psychopathic behavior. They also suggested that psychopaths are more successful in adapting to such a society.

01 March 2017

A Cultural History of Criminalizing Homelessness

Recent decades have seen a drastic rise in the number of homeless people, both individuals and families, and this is largely due to unemployment, limited affordable housing and failures of social safety networks. According to a 2005 United Nations survey, there were approximately 100 million people worldwide dwelling on the streets and another 1 billion without inadequate housing. Since then, the problem has only worsened, as the number of homeless people within several countries still remains considerably high.

12 February 2017

The "Good War" in Recent American Cinema

The film USS Indianapolis: Men of courage–staring Nicolas Cage–which opened in US theaters in early September 2016, has once again proved the resilient interest of Hollywood movie makers in the World War II movie genre. More than half a decade after the war ended, the story of patriotic GIs fighting fiercely, altruistically or the espionage mission of Allied powers in order to defeat the evil Nazis has never failed to captivate audience’s heart. The war ended in September 1945, yet it’s no doubt that World War II-themed films still dominate our contemporary popular culture. Much of this is greatly contributed by the previously shaped the “Good War” concept of World War II in the public memory, particularly in America. The Good war memory signifies a clear division between “us,” the good, morally superior American soldiers fighting for human rights and freedom, and “them,” the evil Hitler and his monstrous SS Armies inflict horrible crimes on other human beings. This idea of Good War was again magnified and promulgated through traditional media, which is a powerful site to alter and reconstruct audience’s perception and memory of past war, especially the distant generation that only learn the history lesson through television, music or history textbooks.

04 February 2017

Adapting Images of Fathers in Animated Films

Some animated film titles such as Lion King (1994), Chicken Little (2005), and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009) remind us of a sincere father–son relationship. Fatherhood has become a major theme adopted in mainstream American cinemas, and father–son relationship portrayal is one of them. Pixar, as a well-recognized animated films producer, has also adopted this recurring theme of father and son narrative in two of its films: Finding Nemo (2003) and Ratatouille (2007). The fathers in these films, especially in Finding Nemo, have attracted audiences, in which they are acknowledged as an example of a good father. Hence, there are some questions to be asked: what exactly is a good father? And what makes these fathers a good father? This essay will discuss the characteristics of a good father, and how Pixar represent them through father characters in its films.

30 December 2016

Humanities and Social Sciences through World Cinema and Visual Arts

This essay is incentivized by the global trends of digitizing and sharing of knowledge through the Internet, electronic devices and online courses. These trends, while potentially rendering the physically confined, text-based, formal style of university lecturing as slow, redundant, and costly, urge serious reflection on the quality of teaching and learning in response to the changing context of higher education. What can be done to coordinate the traditional role of a lecturer and the newly equipped self-learning capabilities of students?

26 March 2016

A Puerto Rican Experiment in Social Films

At a time when Latin American and other Third World national cinemas began to finally receive their long overdue recognition, the need emerged to develop a plan for the methodological study of the Puerto Rican cinematic tradition. Undertaking this project, Ines Mongil-Echandi and Luis Rosario Albert concentrated their analysis on the collection of over 100 films produced by the Division of Community Education during the 1940s through the 1960s under the sponsorship of Governor Luis Munoz Marin. These films represent a national artistic expression whose great value was internationally recognized at the time but which after 40 years lacked an analysis based on modern historical studies of film.

18 July 2015

Six Films About Religion and Belief

When religion is examined as a social institution and belief as a set of cultural values, films sharing common religious themes come in handy for their isolated contexts and full-length storyline with clear focal points. This essay sets out to compare and discuss three arguably well-circulated themes throughout all religions and beliefs by looking at three pairs of films: We’re No Angels (USA 1989) with Marmoulak (aka The Lizard, Iran 2004); Devi (aka The Goddess, India 1960) with Bagh-e Sangi (aka Garden of Stones, Iran, 1976); and The Shoes of the Fisherman (USA/UK 1968) with Zir-e Nur-Mah (aka Under the Moonlight, Iran 2001).

10 June 2015

Cinema Criticism and Social Class

Art films, middle cinema and commercial films in India all depend on the middle classes for legitimacy and critical acclaim. Even those producers and performers who stridently proclaim the supremacy of popular taste, or denounce the elitism of the art-film critics, are on the defensive when there is a sharp criticism of their wares in the media. Indeed, the way the producers of each of these kinds of movies try to win friends and influence middle-class opinion give the lie to their declared dependence on only the opinions of the 'common Indian.' The common Indian is rarely influenced by what Kumar Shahani says of Manmohan Desai. But Desai was distressed when Shahani took him on while Shahani in turn resents that his films do not get the patronage or support of those for whom his radical ear bleeds, whereas Desai mobilizes such support with casual ease. Nevertheless, there are clear differences in the cultural thrusts of the three; to gauge the appeal or lack of appeal of any of these forms, one must first identify the thrusts.

09 April 2015

Third Cinema in the Third World

With the first screenings of films like The Hour of the Furnaces by Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino (1968), Black Girl by Ousmane Sembene (1966), or Memories of Underdevelopment by Tomas Gutierrez Alea (1968), moviegoers were confronted with a new spectrum of ideas, emotions, and images. A new cinema emerged from countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin American that directly assaulted the colonial past. The forebearers of Third World Cinema proclaimed both the necessity and the capability of defining the terms of their cultural expression. In his book Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation (UMI Research Press, 1982), Teshome H. Gabriel not only analyzes some of these films, but examines interrelationships that determine Third World cinema: not simply films produced within the Third World, but an alternative cinema, '...a cinema of decolonization and for liberation... a Third Cinema.'