Film: The City as Muse

Has a film ever challenged your beliefs, transformed your understanding of an issue, left an emotional aftershock, or motivated you to act? Was that the intention of the filmmaker or an unanticipated consequence? Since the inception of the motion picture, the urban landscape and its inhabitants have served as a rich and diverse palette for filmmakers. This course will provide an overview of documentary, experimental, and hybrid films that proffer an unexpected and sometimes disturbing perspective on cities, both here and abroad. We will examine films that privilege artistic expression and expand the conventions of the film form, analyzing how filmmakers distill an issue, situation, or environment through a particular formal style and point-of-view.

Through a consideration of iconic historic films, the student will gain a rich understanding of how cities have inspired filmmakers who work outside the traditional fiction genre. In addition to written assignments, students will distill their own experience of the city through photo essays that explore the eclectic geographic, social, and cultural life of New York.  Local “field trips” will include attendance at the annual Margaret Mead Film Festival in October and DocNYC in November. Course readings and discussion will provide an incisive inquiry into the artistic “voice” of the filmmaker in an analysis of both form and content.

 

Meet the Instructor(s)

Jan Krawitz

Sadie Dernham Patek Professor in Humanities

Jan Krawitz has been independently producing documentary films for 35 years. Her work has been exhibited at film festivals in the United States and abroad, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, Visions du Réel, Edinburgh, SilverDocs, London, Sydney, Full Frame, South by Southwest and the Flaherty Film Seminar. She has recently completed Perfect Strangers, a documentary that follows one woman as she embarks on an unpredictable, four-year journey of twists and turns, determined to give away one of her kidneys. The film was broadcast on the PBS World series, America ReFramed. Krawitz’s previous documentary, Big Enough, was broadcast on the national PBS series P.O.V. and internationally in eighteen countries. Her films, Mirror Mirror, In Harm’s Way, Little People, and Drive-in Blues were all broadcast on national PBS and her short film Styx is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Little People was nominated for a national Emmy Award and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Krawitz has had one-woman retrospectives of her films at venues including the Portland Art Museum, Hood Museum of Art, Rice Media Center, the Austin Film Society, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival. In 2011, she was awarded an artist’s residency at Yaddo. Krawitz is a Professor at Stanford University in the M.F.A. Program in Documentary Film and Video.