Saturday, August 1, 2015

BIOGRAPHY-Biografía

[View in English]

Estudié periodismo y cine en la Universidad Estatal de San Francisco, California (1990-1994). Recibí una maestría en literatura comparada y un doctorado en español y portugués de la Universidad de California, Irvine (1996-2001). Cuando dictaba clases en la Universidad de San Francisco fundé el colectivo Cine Campesino y realicé dos documentales en Honduras (2002-2004). Fui profesor becado en la Universidad de Stanford, California, donde realicé una investigación sobre el rol del cine en la investigación de crímenes de lesa humanidad y fundé el Stanford Film Lab (2004-2008). Estudié guión, iluminación y dirección en el Film Arts Foundation, San Francisco, California. He dictado cursos y talleres de cine y soy uno de los editores de Film and Genocide [Cine y Genocidio] (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). He dado cursos en la Universidad de California, Irvine, en la Universidad de California, San Diego, en la Universidad de San Francisco y en la Universidad de Stanford. En la actualidad, soy profesor visitante de estudios latinoamericanos en la Soka University of America, Aliso Viejo, California.


Con mi hijo Felix
En Soka soy productor asociado de Community Cinema, una serie de documentales producidos por ITVS, la televisión pública norteamericana. Mensualmente publico artículos para revistas especializadas de cine y soy miembro del comité editorial de la revista Latin American Perspectives y la Revista de Estudios Sobre Genocidio. En Junio del 2012, fui nombrado co-editor de la sección de cine de LAP. Soy director de Shooting Scripts, una organización dedicada a la asesoría en el desarrollo de guiones cinematográficos para películas de ficción y documentales. En Mayo del 2012, fui elegido co-presidente de la sección de Estudios sobre Cine de LASA. Participo como miembro activo de las siguiente organizaciones internacionales: International Documentary Association (IDA), Latin American Studies Association (LASA), International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), Asociación Argentina de Estudios de Cine Audiovisual (ASAECA).  [Curriculum Vitae]

tfcrowder@gmail.com
tcrowdertaraborrelli@soka.edu


Soka University of America
Photo by Silvio Menendez

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Evolution of a Criminal



Soka University of America presents...

A Community Cinema Event


October 23rd 7-8:30 PM


Pauling 216


FREE & open to the public


Evolution of a Criminal


a film by Darius Clark Monroe



In this gripping blend of documentary, true crime, and personal essay, a filmmaker confronts his past, dissecting the circumstances that led him to commit a bank robbery as a young man, and his journey since that act.












Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Path Appears


Soka University Presents...

A Community Cinema Event


November 6th 7-8:30 PM

Pauling 216

FREE & open to the public


A Path Appears

a film by Maro Chermayeff



A Path Appears goes to the USA, Colombia, Haiti, and Kenya to reveal the incredible adversity faced every day by millions of women and girls, while also presenting glimpses of hope and change. From the team that brought you the groundbreaking Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide.




Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with Bill Nichols

Transcribed by January J. Coleman-Jones and Jake Nevrla


Bill Nichols is one of the most influential historians and theorists of documentary film. He is widely cited in articles across the world. Some of his most important works are: Ideology and the image: social representation in the cinema and other media (Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1981), Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary (Indiana University Press, 1991), Blurred Boundaries (Indiana University Press, 1994) and Introduction to Documentary (Indiana University Press, 2001). He teaches film at San Francisco State University. His enthusiasm for documentary film comes through even in casual conversations and especially during this interview in Tijuana, in the first week of BorDocs, the documentary film forum. http://bordocs.com/?lang=en



A few minutes before the interview, Mr. Nichols had given a two-hour master class on the ethical challenges of documentary filmmakers. 

Bill Nichos, photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo

Tomas Crowder-Tarraborreli (TCT): I was reading in your biography that you studied medicine and then chemistry. There is something in your bio that says, "but then I changed my mind." Can you tell me when, if there is a when, you became interested in documentary film?

Bill Nichols (BN): It began when I was in medical school. I was at Stanford Univeristy back then. There was the medical study, but the program gave you some free time. Really, in medicine nothing is free time, but relatively speaking. It was in the 60’s and there were these European films coming out that were really fascinating: Bergman, Antonioni, Fellini, Godard, and Truffaut. So I saw some of that work and I thought this is not like anything I’ve ever seen before, from growing up watching Hollywood films. It really started my interest and then that percolated slowly for a few years. I decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor, but I wasn’t sure what I did want to be. So I went into the Peace Corps and taught in a school in Kenya for 2 years. I saw about six films in those two years, but I began trying my hand at screenplay writing. So that added to my interest because it didn’t lead to selling anything, but it gave me more of a sense of how films work and that led to going to UCLA and studying film there. 


TCT: And in terms of documentary films?

BN: Documentary was similar to discovering the European film, in that it wasn't Hollywood. I had no complaint with Hollywood, it's just that it's what I was used to, so European film was like, "oh my goodness." And the documentaries in the 60's, that were about political issues, about Vietnam, about the draft, about liberation struggles, about Cuba, where also like, "oh my God, I didn't know film could do this," because I'd never seen anything like it before. I was interested and involved in the politics of the 60's and 70's, so it seemed almost natural to begin thinking about documentary, partly because no one was.

TCT: Do you still feel that you are scientifically minded in your approach to your study of documentary film? Do you think that's a side that you like to explore and talk about, or is it a side that has been left behind by your recent work?

BN: I think we're always, in some sense, a product of our training; What our parents trained us to do or not to do, and likewise of education. I don't have any interest in the scientific parts about film, like number of pixels or DI processes and how to develop film with this chemical. I've left that behind. But I think the way you think in scientific or medical terms - of formulating hypotheses, trying to be logical - not necessarily in how I write about something, which is like a documentary in that I may want to engage and move the reader so I use descriptive language and I'm not being factual, but that underneath it I think there is a training in thinking carefully and analytically that has helped me. 

Photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo


TCT: I think a lot of people are curious about your relationship to Latin American documentary film. Can you talk briefly about your relationship to this tradition, if you have one? Do you keep in touch with film directors? Have you seen something particularly moving, formally, that is in your mind when you think about this tradition?

BN: It’s true for fiction as well, that my interests don’t go first to geography so I don’t follow, as a principle, Romanian film or Korean fiction film or Bolivian documentary, but what gets my attention usually are particular works and sometimes retrospectives or filmmaker's work that gets me more interested in that context. Like Iranian films, when I first saw an Iranian feature film it led me to write about that. Not just as about "here's some new films," but how films from one country migrate into the international film festival circuit and how did that happen and why did that happen with Iranian, but not with Bulgarian, or some other nation. I think with documentaries from Europe or Africa or South America or Canada or Asia, the place of origin hasn’t been as important to me as the work itself. And that there have been, as there are with the other regions, Latin American filmmakers that have been of considerable interest: Solanas and Getino some time ago. Patricio Guzmán, more recently, with his films on Chile. I think those, to me, have been very important and very impressive; Eduardo Coutinho in Brazil. I’m an admirer of the work I’ve seen of his. I think there are a number of filmmakers from different places and that is part of what I like about documentary is that I get to learn about places I haven’t been, or don’t know as much as I could, from the films and when they were made… It's all the better.

TCT: So you don’t think there is "something" that makes a national film tradition unique?

BN: Well, it’s just how I’ve looked at them and particularly more recent work, I think there are schools and traditions. [Alberto] Cavalcanti was very important in forming British and Brazilian film. I think when you look at the beginnings of documentary you can’t ignore the Soviet work of [Dziga] Vertov, the British work under [John] Grierson, the American work with [Pare] Lorentz and others before him and after, and the Canadian Film Board, and that they have certain qualities that are related to the place of origin and I think that's often true. Mexican documentaries may differ from Chilean or Argentine in ways you could identify. It’s not something I feel is my strength in perusing that particular question. I hope there are people from or engaged with those particular nationals cinemas that would. I know for example Tom Waugh, in Canada follows Indian documentary and writes about it from time to time.

TCT: Can you tell me what your impressions of BorDocs are so far and your experience of being here at the border? Do you think festivals similar to this play an important role in places like a border region?

BN: Oh yes, festivals have grown. They are almost like weeds. In San Francisco, California there is some kind of festival every week. They are not all film, but they are probably 30 film festivals throughout the year, from gay and lesbian, to Native American, to international, to heaven only even knows…there are so many. I think they are a way of keeping a sense of curiosity and contemporaneousness about the medium. Given the way distribution works it is very hard to see the kind of films that get into festivals outside of the festival. The bad part is that there are a lot of films that never live apart from their life in the festival. The good part is if you get to the festivals you will see a range films that you probably would not to see on television and in theaters, at least not as quickly and as richly. I think with documentary, like animation and avant-garde, there are fewer festivals for those than for fiction film festivals and the audience is smaller and it is probably harder to get an audience. The one in Amsterdam, the International Documentary Film [Festival], is the exception probably because it has a big market and people come to trade and buy and sell. There are hundreds and hundreds of films there, sort of like the Cannes of documentary. But most festivals are more to the festive and celebrate the films and not be a market as such, though there is nothing wrong with that, it is just more work and effort to get started that way. So I think somewhere like Tijuana or up north in Mendocino, California, which is a little tiny coastal town, festivals are a way of bringing people together, they are a way of developing greater interest in documentary, they are a way of building a community and getting filmmakers and filmmakers together and people who share this interest together and from those things, those interactions, you never know what will happen and hopefully some good things will happen.



Photo Itzel Martínez del Cañizo
TCT: What do you think has happened with documentary film in the United States in the post-September 11th world? Have you seen a change in the tone, the methodological approaches, formal innovations, political views, or ethics?

BN: It's a good question. I'll think about that more, because often I need to pause and step back and think things like you just asked. They are not on the tip of my tongue. Some things that strike me are that there is an increased reliance on and creative use of animation. Not just in the US, like the Green Revolution I was mentioning, Waltz With Bashir and films from the US where it's part, not as big a part, but a part of the film. For people who get public funding from the government or state of federal government there's a greater degree of, you could call it either sensitivity or fear, that they may jeopardize their funding if they say or do anything that's critical of the right wing, the Republicans, because the Republicans have gone after people. They tried to get someone fired at Public Broadcasting System. I think they did resign, in fact, because that person had said something about how hard it was to get the Republicans to fund Public Broadcasting and [the Republicans] didn't think that was very respectful. There is a new documentary I'm consulting on where they were mentioning American film and it was mentioned how Pare Lorentz's films in the 30's lost their funding from the government. And I asked them as consultant, I said, "Wouldn't it be useful to say who in the government didn't want money spent on this kind of movie?" And they said, "We can't do that because it was the Republicans at that time who opposed it and stopped it and that will jeopardize our funding." I think they could have found a way to do it that would have made the Republicans happy, to say, "We don't want to support these liberal causes with tax payer money," and I don't think that republicans now would object to a statement like that. And I'm sure someone said that back then, if they looked and did more research. And other could think about when governments support filmmaking. It's a really big question, but my point is that there is an increased sensitivity to enflaming the right wing. Except for the people that want to do that, like Michael Moore and other political filmmakers who want to take on big issues. There are certainly films since 9/11 that have explored the consequences of that and the government's responses with the Iraq war. Why We Fight, about the military in general. The financial crisis has led to others, some of which are really good. Going back to Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room, but then The Inside Job, Client Nine: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, which was partly about the financial business. And some of the other things that were pre-9/11 continue, maybe with a little less emphasis in the past, but things that relate to politics of identity, women's films, gay and lesbian films, minority groups, Native American, the poor, disadvantaged, African Americans, films that address questions that are particular to those groups continues to come out and some are quite good.

TCT: What about for students who do not want to be filmmakers, who just take one of your courses because they saw a documentary film? What can they learn from that process of representing human beings as normal, regular people? Is there something that you think about when you're teaching a course?

BN: I think on the one hand it's an element of visual literacy. That people that haven't had a course may not have thought as much about question like truth. Is what I see on the news true? How is it not true? Or in what way is it shaped? And then things that you become aware of when you're looking at films in a course, like music. You mean they actually put music in that wasn't there, is that okay? You start to think about those things more and become more aware and sensitive. That equips the student to look a little more critically at representations of the world, which can be other documentaries later after the course: news, reporting; claims by politicians, scientists, anybody that's dealing with reality. Similarly, for students who do the documentary course, another thing it does is give them a sense of perspective. Most students come because they have seen a recent film that was impressive. It could be March of the Penguins or Chile, Obstinate Memory. But they don't know what the history of this idea is and it's often eye opening to see that a lot of experimentation was happening in the 20's and 30's and that there's debates that go way back about how much do you actively alter what you film and set it up and stage it. Like Triumph of the Will, which appears to be just a document of what happened at a rally for the Nazi Party, until you realize that the filmmaker worked with the Nazi Party leaders to build the arena, to set up the tracking shots, to place the cameras, to the have the speeches given at times of day with good lighting, etc. So that the whole thing is actually closer to a modern political convention, at least in the US, where almost everything is planned and orchestrated, nothing is a surprise, because it's all been done for the camera. And when you see where this kind of idea comes from you get an idea of a broader perspective of how you look at it.

TCT: You've written extensively about discursive categories, narrative exposition, poetics, especially in Ideology and the Image. In the so-called digital age do you think that in your work, that type of close analysis of the film and material, has changed because of the arrival of digital imaging and editing? Do you think that film seems to be loosing its materiality?

BN: Well in the sense that to use the word film is usually misleading now because almost all films are at least in some way digital, if not completely. But we often still call them film. We don't call it "digits," or something. But film is a loose term that doesn't necessarily refer to strips of film anymore. What I think continues is that what makes for a good film is a good story, or a good poetic sense, or a good rhetorical perspective. And those qualities go back at least to the Greeks. They are millennia old. It's like situational ethics. No one has a formula for how to make a good story that everyone can just take. Otherwise we'd all be Steven Spielberg's or Errol Morris's. So what we learn are some basic principles and concepts about what a story is and what makes it work. About what is good rhetoric or oration and what makes it work. How you move people to agree with your point of view. What makes for good poetics and work that has form and shape that people can appreciate. But then it's up to the individual to do it, and the means by which they do it constantly change. What was available to the early filmmaker, and how they developed film and what stocks and what speeds the film had, were totally different from what it was in the 60s, which seem like a whole other world of possibilities. And jump up another fifty years to now and we have cell phone that make movies. I've seen one in Korea made on a cell phone and it's quite impressive. So I think in looking at a film that's been made by newer means, some of the close analysis can still pay off. Although it will be in relation to a new media and looking at how they create a rhythm, how they use editing, or how they use sound. That will still be true. But whether its frames that are cut together in the same way, that's changing. And I think that the even more fundamental questions, that are like the ethical ones: how do you tell a story, how do you move people and persuade them, how do you create form, and how do you live ethically. They don't change in terms of what basically works now probably worked five centuries ago. But nuance changes and particulars change and we want stories that resonate with issues that are real for us, that we feel are part of our experience. Questions about gender, for example. In a world where what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman has become very complicated in the last thirty years, with transsexuality, with gay and lesbian rights and identities, bisexuality, etc. All those things make it much less obvious what that is. So films that deal with that, fiction or nonfiction, are probably going to speak to a question that is real for many people. Whereas how do you maintain a castle is interesting, but that's a medieval question. How do you live as a peasant in relation to a lord in a castle? We have modern versions of it but those are the ones that will probably get more interest than the old fashioned ones. 



http://vimeo.com/34054554 [Watch the video]

TCT: You don’t strike me as being a nostalgic person, but most people who love film are pretty nostalgic. Do you have any nostalgia for the experience of watching films in the theater from when you were a kid or a teenager?

BN: Yes, some. I’m not nostalgic. I have colleagues who have fought, at every step, changes in technology. When we had video they said, "No, we have to use film." When we were using digital video then they were saying, "No, we have to use video." And then when it was online and streaming they said, "No, we have to use it on a DVD." So I have colleagues that are always one or two or three or five steps behind the technology and I think that’s stupid. Students need to use what’s available, what’s the most efficient what is often the most inexpensive and each will have limitations and problems, but that’s life; it also has advantages. The web has huge advantages, as well as problems. Where I do get nostalgia - as I was saying earlier about how we live our training - I grew up going to movie theaters and I remember being about eleven and going around to where there were workers building houses and collecting empty beer bottles because I could get 5 cents for each bottle and if I got 10 bottles and 50 cents I could pay for a round trip train to the next town and a movie ticket. So I could go to Amnyville and see a movie and come home for 10 beer bottles. And it was in a theater and that was an adventure and something I worked to do and got some money for and took the train and went to the theater. So it is totally different from turning on the TV with a remote control, because you don’t even get up. To this day, when I go to a movie theater to see a movie, it's like going to a play or a concert, there’s a little feeling of a thrill. I’m going to see people I’m going to be doing something with others, it’s going to be on the big screen and that’s going to be kind of exciting. And then in ten minutes I may be very disappointed and think about leaving (laughs), but I don’t get that little thrill when I go home and watch a DVD or television. I may find it a great movie but that’s another story, that’s where the nostalgia comes in for me.

TCT: Thank you, Mr. Nichols. 



To listen to the complete interview go to:





Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Visible Evidence XXI, New Delhi, India


New Delhi, India, December 11th to 14.

India International Centre 40, Max Mueller Marg. Conference is Co-hosted by Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Millia Islamia.


 Documentary/Violence: Trauma, testimony, index, performance and memory

Communities and trauma in South American documentary films about political militancy and state terrorism


Dr Clara Garavelli, University of Leicester (UK)


Regarding the Pain of Others: Short Experimental Argentine Documentaries on
the Dictatorship and its Aftermaths


Since the end of the military dictatorship in Argentina at the beginning of the 1980s,
there has been a vast amount of cultural production devoted to raising awareness of
the human rights abuses that occurred during those dark years. Whereas many of
these productions have been widely studied, there are yet areas of study and works
still waiting to be analyzed and discussed. Such is the case of those productions
located at the interstices of art and cinema: short experimental videos that employ
documentary modes and do not recur to narrative structures. Their ways of dealing
with the representation of violence and the traumatic past are partly connected with the
proliferation of new technologies and with the growth of new ways of experiencing the
moving image beyond the traditional film theatre. Bearing this in mind, this paper aims
to briefly explore how the works of Graciela Taquini, Gabriela Golder, Julieta Hanono,
Andrés Denegri, Alejandro Gómez Tolosa, Carlos Trilnick and Gustavo Galuppo
explore new ways of dealing with memory and with the violence generated by the
repressive past whilst attempting to challenge the traditional documentary mode.


Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli, Soka University of America



Community activism and documentary film in Argentina: documenting the disappearance of victims of state terrorism in street flagstones.

Since the late 1950s Latin American political documentary film has been at the forefront of innovation. Argentine filmmaker, Fernando Birri, of the Santa Fé Documentary School, presided over his students as they carried on their fieldwork, photographing the living conditions of working class families in the slums. The Santa Fé School photographs became a visual script for the filming of the influential film Tire Dié (1958). The nature of Birri’s collaboration with his students, informed the production strategies of other important film collectives that followed (such as Grupo Cine Liberacion and Cine de la Base). Shortly after the popular revolt of 2001 in Argentina, documentary filmmakers returned to these collaborative models to document demonstrations in the country and the prosecution of perpetrators of genocide. In my presentation, I will analyze Ernesto Ardito and Virna Molina's El futuro es nuestro [The future is ours] (2014), a documentary series that reclaims the history of the forced disappearances of high school students during the dictatorship. The second film under consideration is Eran de colores [They were made of colors] (2012), a video project directed by students of the Nicolás Avellaneda High School in Buenos Aires that exhumes the identity and life stories of members of the student union that were
disappeared. This short film concludes with flagstones being installed in the sidewalk in front of the school made by students and volunteers from the community. The flagstones mark the birth, and disappearance of alumni. To conclude, I will discuss Carmen Guarini's Calles de la memoria [Streets of memory] (2012), a film that delves into the social significance of the labyrinth of repression, torture, and disappearance that the flagstones represent, and the efforts of activists and the community to memorialize the lives of political activists.


Kristi M. Wilson, Soka University of America


Force and Meaning: Political Hauntings in three contemporary Brazilian films


According to Avery Gordon, sociological hauntings can take on a range of forms
from lost personal artifacts, to decaying archival material, to people who live in the
wake of deprivation and repression. This essay explores the idea of memory and hauntings from the political past in three 2012 Brazilian films Neighboring Sounds / O Som Ao Redor (directed by Kleber Mendonça Filho), Dino Cazzola: a filmography of Brasília (directed by Andrea Prates and Cleisson Vidal), and Elena (directed by Petra Costa). This trio of films represents collisions between the force of the past and its meaning in the present across a range of Brazilian chronoscapes. Dino Cazolla was the Dzviga Vertov of Brasilia; a man with a movie camera whose cinematic eye documented the rapid creation and life of the nation’s new capital, including the traumatic rupture from democracy to dictatorship. Dino Cazzola: a filmography of Brasilia documents his life addresses the problem of preserving the type of expansive memory embodied in his decaying film archive. Neighboring Sounds explores notions of past and present violence under the surface of the increasingly privatized and policed urban landscape of Recife, a Portuguese settlement with a painful history of slavery and sugar barons. Elena is a poetic documentary about loss, memory and exile (from home and self). Born in hiding at the tail end of the dictatorship to Marxist activists, Costa uses her own personal archive of diaries, home-videos and voice recordings to conjure the inconsolable memory of her sister’s suicide in New York. These films artfully explore ways in which the Brazilian homeland has become unfamiliar -- through obsessive fears about “security” and class conflict in Recife; anxiety over a decaying film archive and the potential loss of Brasilia’s tumultuous history; or the inconsolable memory of a family that surfaces in exile.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Saint Mary's College Conference

Teachers, Teaching and the Media Conference

October 16th to 18th

Alternative Communities, Alternative Stories: Experimenting with Moocs, Community Television, and Cinema


Friday, October 17th


Session Three: 1:15 P.M. to 2:45 P.M. 


ITVS (Independent Film and Video Service) Community Cinema: state-sponsored documentary film festivals, community engagement and pedagogy

By: Tomás Crowder-Taraborrelli and Kristi Wilson

In an age where states like California have seen their once cutting-edge public university systems falter under the weight of financial crisis and fiscal mismanagement, smaller private institutions have seen admission application numbers rise. Individuals who opt to attend small private institutions, often feel isolated and removed from the type of civic dynamism and engagement that larger public institutions offer. This essay explores the merging of state-sponsored media (Independent Television Service's Community Cinema Program Festival, funded by the Public Broadcasting Service [PBS]) and the private educational institution with the goal of fostering community engagement and debate around public issues, political activism, and the preservation of a communal public viewing space in a world where such spaces are rapidly diminishing.

For the last five years, Soka University of America, a small, private liberal arts university with a large concentration of international students, has hosted Independent Television Service's Community Cinema Program Festival on their campus. Community Cinema is a yearlong documentary film festival organized by ITVS that features films about social and cultural conflicts around the globe emphasizing issues related to civil rights, grassroots movements, indigenous rights struggles, gender issues, and poverty. During the academic year, an ITVS associate producer (usually a faculty member) is responsible for screening between 6 and 8 documentary films, promoting the screenings, and organizing a panel of experts for post-screening discussions .

The authors will analyze the Community Cinema Festival as an ongoing pilot program of community building in the isolated "exopolis" of Aliso Viejo, California, through spectatorship and multi-faceted pedagogical film events. As part of this program, students, rather than watching clips or sequences of documentary films in the classroom, are invited to form part of a community of viewers (which includes the entire campus, local community members and invited guest speakers), and participate in post-screening discussions. After the screenings, students are asked to engage with some of the pedagogical materials created by ITVS, and to form written and visual arguments of their own using the films as evidence. The authors will elaborate on the results of using documentary evidence as a primary jumping off point for argumentative exploration in the classroom, and visual representation as an entryway into understanding contemporary civic discourse and politics.

The Cinema Migration Project: Ethnography, Film Studies, and Teaching Media

By Laura E. Ruberto

This essay explores the possibility of using cinema as a tool for teaching the history and culture of immigrants and immigration in the U.S. as well as larger questions around issues of race, ethnicity, gender, and class identities. I propose an experimental interdisciplinary pedagogical approach which combines ethnography with film studies, while attempting to be mindful of the disciplinary boundaries of both approaches. Using my own experiences teaching film studies at an urban community college (Berkeley City College) I map out how students can better understand the nuances of mediated images through tapping first-hand resources. This essay details my use of a Cinema Migration Project, a semester-long assignment which asks students to explore histories of migration which are personal and knowable through conventional ethnographic interviews and to reflect on assumptions held about those experiences by attempting to understand them better vis-à-vis cinematic representations of similar narratives. This is not film-as-anthropology but rather an attempt to teach students the degree to which our own memories and life narratives are formed within and against mediated (cinematic) narratives. Students are led to gather a short ethnographic study of an individual’s history of migration (their own or someone else’s) and to consider the role cinema and other mediated images have in shaping the recollection of that history. This essay reflects on the challenges and surprises of such an approach and uses the example to consider new ways teachers might adapt the study of cinema across disciplinary boundaries.

Laura E. Ruberto co-chairs the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at Berkeley City College where she teaches film studies and general humanities courses. She received her Ph.D. from UC San Diego and her M.A. from San Francisco State University. She authored Gramsci, Migration, and the Representation of Women’s Work in Italy and the U.S., co-edited Italian Neorealism and Global Cinema, and translated Such Is Life, Ma la vita e’ fatta cosi: A Memoir. Her research has been supported by a Fulbright Faculty Research grant and an NEH summer grant. She co-edits the book series Critical Studies in Italian America (Fordham University Press) and is the Film and Digital Media Review Editor for the Italian American Review.


MOOCS and Social Media

By Fabian Banga

Online education has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade, spurred by a combination of technological innovations, economic drivers, and changing demographics. Today, more than one third of the nation’s college students take courses online. According to the latest survey by the College Board and Babson Survey Research Group, Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States (2013), over 6.7 million students at four-year institutions in the United States were taking at least one online course during the fall of 2011, an increase of more than half a million, or 9.3 percent, over 2010 (Babson, 2013).

In this context we have experienced the rise of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). But what are MOOCs? Can we consider MOOCs a phenomenon associated with online education or just a continuation of the space associated with social media? Are they products of our neoliberal society? We will have a discussion about MOOCs and question of what the “C” means. Are MOOCs courses or online events? We will discuss how to teach in the open internet without learning outcomes. Finally, we will question the word “course” or at least demand a clarification of what constitutes a course. We will discuss an example of a MOOC I offered in spring 2013 at Berkeley City College.


Fabian Banga is the Chair of the Modern Languages Department and Distance Education Coordinator at Berkeley City College in Berkeley, CA. He holds a Ph.D. (2004) and M.A. in Hispanic Languages & Literature (2000) from the University of California, Berkeley. He has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Foreign Language Association of Northern California since the year 2000.