Film and Public Discourse Paper

Film and Public Discourse Paper
For this assignment, you will select any film that engages with a public discourse (so virtually any film) and write a 4-6 page paper exploring, analyzing, and/or dissecting how the filmmakers engage with a specific public discourse. In the paper you will briefly explain the film and the public discourse it addresses including any relevant information about the historical or cultural context. this is a thesis-driven, researched-based assignment that will require you to use at least three outside sources. Therefore, in addition to discussing the issue’s history and background, you should craft an argument addressing the filmmakers’ approach to the issue or public conversation addressed in the film.

the essay should:
1) clearly identify the public discourse addressed in the film of your choice, including any relevant history or background
2) explain and explore how the filmmakers (including the director/s, editor/s, writer/s, production designer/s, sound designer/s, actors, etc.) use elements of film to craft a position (or positions) on the public discourse
3) assert your own thesis that takes a unique stance on the public discourse and/or the filmmakers’ approach to that public discourse.

A successful Film and Social Discourse paper should:
• Focus/Purpose/Genre: have a thesis or controlling idea (meaning there is a point and purpose beyond summarizing a film) that isn’t simple or cliché (your thesis must be more than “I agree” or “I disagree” with the filmmakers).
• Support: provide support for your controlling idea by incorporating a minimum of four sources, integrating quotes and information, putting them in conversation rather than just inserting or listing them, selecting reliable, relevant, and substantive sources; provides introduction/context for sources
• Style and Conventions: incorporate four sources correctly using MLA format in the text and in the works cited; the writing has sentence variety and a sense of the writer’s “voice” as appropriate to the writing situation; follows conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Film and Public Discourse Paper
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WHAT’S THE ASSIGNMENT?
As we have discussed at length this semester, films (arguably all films) draw on public discourse/s for their content and action. While some films deal with clear social messages and have ties to real life events (like Milk, or Fruitvale Station), others engage with public discourses more covertly (like the romantic comedy or action film that not-so-subtly reaffirms gender norms). Some films start public conversations anew about issues like governmental policy, the environment, social justice, etc. (like An Inconvenient Truth, or the Paradise Lost documentary series), whereas other films react to ongoing public discourses (Team America: World Police, Fahrenheit 9/11).

For this assignment, you will select any film that engages with a public discourse (so virtually any film) and write a 4-6 page paper exploring, analyzing, and/or dissecting how the filmmakers engage with a specific public discourse. In the paper you will briefly explain the film and the public discourse it addresses including any relevant information about the historical or cultural context. (Note: It is highly likely that any film will engage with multiple public conversations or social issues, so select one specific issue to focus on.) While there are a variety of ways to approach this assignment (see below), this is a thesis-driven, researched-based assignment that will require you to use at least three outside sources. Therefore, in addition to discussing the issue’s history and background, you should craft an argument addressing the filmmakers’ approach to the issue or public conversation addressed in the film.

In your essay, you should:
1) clearly identify the public discourse addressed in the film of your choice, including any relevant history or background
2) explain and explore how the filmmakers (including the director/s, editor/s, writer/s, production designer/s, sound designer/s, actors, etc.) use the elements of film we have discussed in class to craft a position (or positions) on the public discourse
3) assert your own thesis that takes a unique stance on the public discourse and/or the filmmakers’ approach to that public discourse.

A successful Film and Social Discourse paper should:
? Focus/Purpose/Genre: have a thesis or controlling idea (meaning there is a point and purpose beyond summarizing a film) that isn’t simple or cliché (your thesis must be more than “I agree” or “I disagree” with the filmmakers).
? Support: provide support for your controlling idea by incorporating a minimum of four sources, integrating quotes and information, putting them in conversation rather than just inserting or listing them, selecting reliable, relevant, and substantive sources; provides introduction/context for sources
? Style and Conventions: incorporate four sources correctly using MLA format in the text and in the works cited; the writing has sentence variety and a sense of the writer’s “voice” as appropriate to the writing situation; follows conventions of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

HOW DO I APPROACH THE ASSIGNMENT?
After selecting a film, you must decide what specific social or cultural argument from the film you want to weigh in on. There are dozens of approaches that could work for this assignment. Although this is not a comprehensive list, some of the possibilities are:
• Identify how the film participates in an argument, and craft a thesis in response to that argument.
• Look at film reviews that discuss how the movie engages in a larger cultural conversation and comment on the value (or lack of value), efficacy (or inefficacy), and/or relative importance of the film in that conversation (in other words, did the film intend to draw attention to a particular social problem? Did it do so effectively? How do we judge a film’s contribution to public discourse?)
• Examine an older film and make an argument about its impact on a past (or longstanding) cultural conversation (for example, you could watch a film like Bowling for Columbine and argue whether or not it had an impact on the conversation about gun control, and what that impact was).
• Read scholarship about a particular film and make an argument extending the analysis you’ve read (in other words, adding something new to that analysis), or disputing the findings. (For example, many have argued that the original Star Wars trilogy was in part about the Cold War. While there may not be much to add to that particular conversation, you could take the opposite stance and argue – with evidence – that it was not. Or one could argue that the newer Trilogy was attempting something similar.)
• Watch a historical drama (Milk, Lincoln, 12 Years a Slave, etc.) and discuss how it succeeds at representing a moment in history, or fails to adequately capture the complexity. You can also broaden this to discuss the benefits and limits of historical dramas at large (what can they do, what can they never accomplish, what is their value, etc.).
• Compare and contrast two films that touch on a similar issue or conversation. This could focus on how the films compliment each other (how watching them together teaches more than watching them separately), how they represent radically different approaches to the same topic or subject, how and why the films might contradict each other, etc. (For example, one could write a paper comparing, contrasting, and analyzing the realistic WWII drama Downfall with the historical-fiction action film Inglourious Basterds.)
There are a number of other possible approaches I have not recorded here, as well.

Final Draft: 4-6 pages, plus author’s note, and works cited
This essay is worth 25% of your final grade