First Reflection Paper: Contextualizing Film
The list of movies you can choose
The Lumiere Brothers: Early Films
MODERN TIMES – Kanopy
MOONLIGHT – Netflix
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE – Kanopy
In this paper, you will identify and describe how cultural location informs the filmmaker(s) and the
audience. Your paper should develop a sense of how meaning (for the film and the audience) deepens
the more that contextual understanding is added.
You should choose a film that is from one of the cities we are covering in this class and do research to
find out more about how the context of filmmaking, the context of reception, and the context of
translation (if applicable) operate within this film. You will need to do research including articles about
the filmmaker, interviews with the filmmaker, articles about the film industry within the culture of origin,
and articles about this film and other films similar to it. You are required to have at least 3 sources.
Note that a bibliography and in-text citations are an expectation of this assignment.
Drawing on the ideas from the assigned readings, you should develop insights both about the culture of
origin and about yourself while researching, analyzing, and watching the film.
Write a 5 page essay (double-spaced) that contextualizes the meanings of this film in distinct ways
based on cultural location.
(Hint: Reference the ideas of cultural location from the context and culture of
film readings assigned in Module 2.)
For instance, you might argue that Rocky, set in the City of Brotherly Love, conveys a very specific
concept of Philadelphia. This concept of Philadelphia reflects the important socio-political factors of the
1970s and also supports the story of an underdog boxer from Kensington. You might also argue that
the genre contributes significantly to the city’s own perception of itself, therefore making this film almost
synonymous with the city itself.
Questions you might ask: Which visual, stylistic and thematic elements help to convey Rocky’s city?
How is Rocky a reflection of the socio-political context? How does the time and context of production
contribute to the filmmaker’s portrayal of the city? How does the film compare to other films of the
time? How does the film compare to other portrayals of the city?
A paper that articulates carefully a few important ideas and analyzes their significance will fare much
better than a paper that simply presents a laundry list with no analysis or commentary.
Concentrate on themes, visual metaphors, stylistic elements, genre, filmic terms, theories (such
as social organization or city organization), character relationships and other elements about the
film in question to make an argument about the film’s city.
Avoid extended plot summaries. Organize your essay around key points in your argument, rather
than a chronological examination of the story.
Avoid evaluative language. (i.e. “The costumes were beautiful”)
Avoid vague language. (“The camera angles were very effective.”)
You may choose one of the films from the class (other than Rocky), or you may choose a film we are not
covering (so long as it is from one of the cities we are investigating). Choosing a film outside of the
course syllabus may be helpful, as it will give you a point of comparison.
Specific Paper Requirements:
Digital file name: RP1YourfirstnameYourlastname
5 pages, double-spaced
Number your pages
Give your paper a name that reflects your argument
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