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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

UCC passes film studies major proposal

Published: October 24, 2008
Section: Front Page

A major entitled Film and Visual Media Studies passed the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Oct. 16., Film Studies Program Chair Prof. Alice Kelikian (HIST) said.

Faculty members of the UCC declined to comment on committee proceedings due to the confidentiality of the committee’s deliberations.

Chair of the UCC and Dean of Arts and Sciences Adam Jaffe explained via e-mail that after receiving approval from the UCC, the major must receive the approval of the “full faculty at a faculty meeting.”

At present, there is only a minor in film, which was introduced in 1994. Currently, there are 48 film minors, up from 11 two years ago, the major proposal explained. The proposal also cites growth in the number of faculty and departments offering courses in film from just five departments in 1994 to 12 presently.

According to the major proposal submitted to the UCC, the major requires nine courses including Introduction to the Moving Image, currently the core course for the film minor, one course in non-American Cinema, and at least one but no more than three courses in film production.

The proposal further explains that the major is not “pre-professional” like film programs at schools such as Emerson College, “but rather a liberal arts field of scholarly inquiry.” As such, “this humanities-driven course of study” will attempt to “provide an informed background in motion picture history and to develop a critical appreciation of the cultural meanings of film.”

Along with growing student interest exemplified by the increase in film minors, the SunDeis film festival, and the creation of the filmmaking club Works in Progress, the proposal cited the many film screenings in the Wasserman Cinematheque and filmmakers that Brandeis has hosted.

In addition to such documentary filmmakers as Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, “over the course of the next three months, you’re going to see a lot of Hollywood coming to Brandeis,” Kelikian remarked. Actors Richard Jenkins of The Visitor and Melissa Leo of Frozen River are scheduled to visit Brandeis in November for film screenings and question and answer sessions.

Additionally, the proposal cited an increased availability of film production and editing technology as support for the major’s creation.

“We have six high definition cameras,” Kelikian said, “five years ago, there was nothing.”

Current students interested in film, many of whom have made use of the new technology, responded positively to the new major. Film minor and Works in Progress member Marianna Faynshteyn ’10 commented, “I think the opportunity to major in film at Brandeis has been long-awaited. [It’s a] change that will finally legitimize this interest as an academic pursuit.”

Another film minor and Works in Progress member Anthony Scibelli ’09, who has also been involved with SunDeis, agreed. “There have always been students on campus interested in film and filmmaking,” he said. “Even before the university offered screenwriting or production courses, students have taken it upon themselves to produce films.”

He added, “it is a little frustrating that I’m graduating right before I can register to be a film major. But as long as they name a building after me at some point, it’ll be fine. I can donate all my student films for research.”