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  • Introduction to film analysis in spanish
  • Jonathan Risner

This course aims: (1) to introduce students to the formal elements common to cinema and the terms of film analysis in Spanish; (2) to expose them to different film genres; (3) to provide them with a basic understanding of cultural and historical factors that have influenced film production in Latin America and Spain. While students intuitively understand filmic techniques such as lighting, lens choices, and camera movement, the course ideally will equip them with a critical vocabulary to identify what a film does and, most significantly, how a film may affect how a viewer feels or thinks. The first half of the course will be devoted to honing the formal components of film. In the course’s second half, we will consider notions of film narrative along with theoretical terms common to film studies and how they manifest themselves in the study of Latin American and Spanish cinemas. This course will ideally serve as a basis for other film courses offered in Spanish or in other disciplines.


Film Art (David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson)

–Additional readings are on

Course structure

Classes will consist of clips/stills, lectures, and small-group activities. Students are expected to view all films that appear on the course syllabus prior to class. In-class activities will consist of discussions in small groups and, on occasion, using a group member’s smart-phone to practice formal cinematic elements (framing, camera movements) and theoretical ideas.

Short writing assignments

Students will be given short writing assignments (1-2 paragraphs) throughout the semester as a way to reflect critically upon the material. In some instances, I will ask that you submit the assignment online, and in others, I will prefer that you print the assignment and bring it to class.


In the first two papers, student will analyze a brief film clip and describe the formal elements and their significance. The clips will come from films that we will have watched, and the papers will be 2 pages maximum. The third paper will be more creative in nature. Students will do a storyboard of a scene from a movie as if s/he is the director, and I will provide different scenarios from which a student will choose one. For the third paper, students will have the choice of working in groups of two. In addition to the storyboard vignettes, students will explain and justify their choices in a 3-4 page paper. The fourth paper will ideally combine the formal elements we will have practiced during the first half of the semester with the more theoretical topics that we broach in the second half. I will provide a choice of topics and the paper should be 4-5 pages. [End Page 312]

Week 1: Introduction/Political Economy and the Nationalities of a Film

“On the Plurality of Cinematic Transnationalism” (Mette Hjort).

María, llena eres de gracia (Joshua Marston, 2004)

Week 2: Early Cinema: Cinema of Attractions and Precursors of Narrative

“The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectator, and the Avant-Garde” (Tom Gunning).

Excerpt from Los orígenes del cine mexicano: 1896-1900 (Aurelio de los Reyes).

Excerpt from “Narración de un aciago destino (1896-1930)” from Historia del cine español (Julio Pérez Perucha).

–“Gran revista militar en el Parque de Cousiño” (Arturo Larraín Lecaros, 1910).

“Actualidades argentinas” (Max Glucksman, 1913).

“El hotel eléctrico” (Segundo de Chomón, 1910).

“El viaje a la luna” (George Méliès, 1902).

Clips from Memorias de un mexicano (Carmen Toscano y Salvador Toscano, 1950).

El automóvil gris (Enrique Rosas, 1919).

Week 3: Framing

“Los encuadres”; “Los distintos tipos de planos” (Marcel Martin).

“Los ángulos de toma” (Marcel Martin).

Excerpt from Film Art: “Framing”.

¡Vamonos con Pancho Villa! (Fernando de Fuentes, 1936).

La niña santa (Lucrecia Martel, 2004).

Week 4: Lenses and Lighting

Excerpt from Film Art: “Perspective”; “Lighting”.

“La iluminación” (Marcel Martin).

Excerpt from Tex[t]-Mex (William Nerriccio).

Los lunes al sol (Fernando de León Aranoa, 2002).

Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958).


Week 5: Mise-en-scène and Color in Film...


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pp. 312-315
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