This course introduces students to culturally significant films directed by African Americans. Students will come to understand the social and historical context of the films and filmmakers and be able to understand how and why these films are culturally significant to African Americans in particular, but also America in general. Through research, viewings, and discussion, students will gain a better grasp of the complex issues that inform and influence African American cinema. Students will gain an understanding of and be able to discuss African American film culture and history in relation to American culture and history as a whole. Students will learn about significant African American screenwriters, directors, and actors and their relevance to African American history and culture. Students will understand the importance and function of African American films within their social, political, and historical contexts. Students will be able to watch, analyze, and critique African American films with a thorough understanding of the theoretical and cultural contexts within which such critiques should be grounded.
African American culture is integral to American culture, especially in the realm of popular entertainment. African American literature, music, and film have both reflected and influenced American cultural reality for over a century. African Americans’ involvement in the American film industry, as actors, writers, producers and directors, has been simultaneously improving and fraught with difficulties. Working within a unique set of constraints and considerations, African Americans have contributed immensely to the American cultural and cinematic landscape, in both obvious and subtle ways. This course examines those contributions, the people who made them, and the myriad ways they have been helped and hindered by the system within, or around which, they work. African American cinema is a uniquely multifaceted medium that provides a viewpoint from which to experience and understand the African American cultural experience in particular and American culture in general.