FTVM 485 - The Global Screen
Winter 2020, Section 001 - Cinema and Migration
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: Film, Television, and Media Std (FTVM)
Department: LSA Film, Television, and Media
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Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
Lab Fee:
Enforced Prerequisites:
Junior or Above.
Advisory Prerequisites:
Junior standing; FTVM 150 or FTVM (SAC) 236.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s). May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:


According to the UN Refugee Agency, nearly 45,000 people are forced to flee their homes daily because of conflict and persecution. As a result, there are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. In Europe the situation came to a head in 2015, when the numbers of refugees from Syria, in particular, soared, Germany opened its borders, and the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel declared “wir schaffen das”: we can do it!

Four years on, the European political and cultural landscape has been redrawn. Cinema and visual media have played a central role in this process, whose visual dimensions are difficult to overlook. The plight of refugees has been seared into public consciousness through widely circulating images of overcrowded camps, of treks along the Balkan route and sea rescues on the Mediterranean, of emaciated figures in thermal foil or the corpse of three-year-old Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish shore. Meanwhile, in an emerging transnational corpus of refugee films, filmmakers have begun to shape this visual repertoire into documentaries and feature films, attempting to find visual and narrative strategies for addressing key issues of migration. They investigate the mediated confrontation between self and other; the visual tropes of ‘crisis’; the construction of borders and the topographies of flight. Often turning the gaze reflexively on their own act of visualization, these films interrogate the ethics of documentary and our collective ways of looking, watching, gazing, and “regarding the pain of others” (Sontag).

The seminar takes stock of this emerging set of films, which include everything from sweeping, universalizing panoramas such as Ai Wei Wei’s Human Flow (2017) to intensely individualized scenarios such as Wolfgang Fischer’s Styx (2018); from the observational stance of an award-winning documentary such as Gianfranco Rosi’s Fuocoammare (2016) or Karim Aïnouz’s Zentralflughafen THF (Tempelhof Central Aiport, 2018) to the filmmaker’s increasing engagement with his subject in Jakob Preuss’s Als Paul über das Meer kam (When Paul Came Across the Sea, 2017), from the iPhone aesthetic of Midnight Traveler (Hassan Fazili, 2019) to the utter visual reductionism and abstraction of Merle Kröger and Philipp Scheffner’s Havarie (2016). We will submit each of these recent films to close scrutiny but also contextualize them with reference to contemporary and historical photographic images, visual cultures, and discourses of migration; theoretical readings on photography, documentary, and cinematic narration; as well as cultural theories of Home, Exile, Refuge, Migration, and Human Rights. Besides taking stock of the shared motifs and thematic concerns in these films, we will devote our attention in particular to their mobilization of vision and the gaze: what are the ethics of (mediated) looking? Who gazes at whom, and how?

Course Requirements:

As a seminar, this is a collective endeavor. Come prepared to help direct the conversation by sharing your observations of the films, your questions about the readings, but also your knowledge from other contexts. Students will be responsible for leading discussions of readings and films, and summarizing these afterwards. We will keep film journals, draw connections to current events in the news, and attend relevant cultural events on and around campus. Several shorter writing assignments will help students work toward a final paper that compares multiple films in light of course readings.


FTVM 485 - The Global Screen
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
 In Person
Tu 4:00PM - 5:30PM
Th 4:00PM - 5:00PM

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