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Film Studies Dissertation Topics

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Example film studies dissertation topic 1:

The popularisation of Latin American cinema in the UK: A challenge yet unmet.

Although increasingly cross-cultural exchanges between film industries in the US and Latin America are bringing greater exposure to the latter's film industry, significant exchanges have not yet occurred in Britain. This thesis examines what is holding back the development of Latin American cinema and considers to what degree traditional power-brokers in the industry are causing this delay. Further, the thesis makes recommendations to broaden the appeal of Latin American film to British audiences in order to expand the scope of the industry, which may, in turn, provide reciprocal benefits to the British film industry.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Alvaray, L. (2012) 'Are we global yet? New challenges to defining Latin American cinemas', Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, Vol. 8(1), pp. 69-86.
  • Jenkins, H. (2006) 'Pop cosmopolitanism: Mapping cultural flows in an age of media convergence', in Fans, bloggers and gamers: Exploring participatory culture. New York: NYU Press, pp. 152-172.
  • Shaw, D. (2007) Contemporary Latin American cinema: Breaking into the global market. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.

Example film studies dissertation topic 2:

The popularity of true crime portrayals and crime fiction in French media between the wars: An exploration of the transfer from published formats to cinema.

The onset of printing developments that allowed photographs to be reproduced cheaply enhanced the popularity of crime fiction and non-fiction in French publications (such as magazines) in the inter-war period (Walker, 1995: 35). This dissertation considers whether this popularity spurred the trend to 'policier'-style cinema in France during the period, particularly during a time when American Westerns were declining in approval. Further, it investigates the socio-political dimension of such changes with regard to wider global tensions, including the assertion that films such as Le crime de Monsieur Lange (Renoir, 1936) included a militant political resonance, even to being described as revolutionary.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Buchsbaum, J. (1988) Cinema engagé: Film in the Popular Front. Urbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
  • Petersen, D. (2012) 'the politics of popular genres in Jean Renoir's Le crime de Monsieur Lange', Studies in French Cinema, Vol. 12(2), pp. 107-122.
  • Walker, D.H. (1995) Outrage and insight: Modern French writers and the 'faits divers'. Washington, DC: Berg.

Example film studies dissertation topic 3:

Perspectives of youth in Latin American cinema in the 21st century.

Although the voices of men and women were prevalent in Latin American cinema, this century the voices of youth are becoming louder. This thesis examines the changes that allowed the voice of youth to develop in Latin American film, and adopts two films as case studies. The first, Viva Cuba! (Malberti, 2005) reviews whether its message is primarily, as many critics have suggested, an apolitical 'road movie', or whether it is in fact a film that focuses more on the significant issues of migration and cross-cultural experiences in Cuba. The second case study, XXY (Puenzo, 2007), concerns the reality of post-dictatorial Argentina, in which open discussions about gender identity are more easily facilitated.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Farhi, A. (2005) Una cuestiόn de representaciόn: Los jόvenes en el cine argentine 1983-1994. Buenos Aires: Libros del Rojas.
  • Podalsky, L. (2007) 'the politics of disaffected youth and contemporary Latin American', in T. Shary and A. Siebel (eds), Youth culture in global cinema. Austin TX, University of Texas Press, pp. 109-130.
  • Rocha, C. (2012) 'Introduction: Children in Hispanic cinema', Studies in Hispanic Cinema, Vol. 8(2), pp. 123-130.

Example film studies dissertation topic 4:

Joseph Breen's Production Code Administration: Moral reform in American cinema of the 1930s.

The introduction of the Production Code Administration in 1934 saw the vetting of scripts and films as a reaction to increasing public concern over content. Acts such a couple rising from a sofa and passionately embracing, with the screen fading out thereafter, offended American public morals as it suggested that such scenes were preparatory for non-marital sex. The PCA - through the strenuous efforts of its head, Joseph Breen - sought to remove such 'suggestive' scenes from cinema, even requiring that marital 'intimacies' were sanitised. This thesis considers the degree to which such reform was a reaction to post-Depression era politics, or simply an attempt to enforce rigorous self-regulation to avoid regulation by other, perhaps even more rigid, authorities.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Doherty, T. (2007). Hollywood's censor: Joseph I. Breen and the Production Code Administration. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Greene, J.M. (2010) 'Hollywood's Production Code and Thirties romantic comedy', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol. 30(1), pp. 55-73.
  • Sarris, A. (1978) 'The sex comedy without sex', American Film. Vol 3., pp. 12-13.

Example film studies dissertation topic 5:

The maligned medium: 'Biopics' in contemporary cinema.

Bingham (2010) asserts that the 'biopic'(or biographical film) is a grievously maligned film genre that deserves more recognition. This thesis examines the role of biopics in the popular imagination as well as critical views of the genre, and explores whether the genre has developed in sophistication, or whether films of greater quality have redeemed the genre. In so doing, the paper examines three films over three decades in detail: Coal Miner's Daughter (on Loretta Lynn, Apted, 1980), Nixon (on Richard Nixon, Stone, 1995) and I'm Not There (on Bob Dylan, Haynes, 2007). Consideration is given to the decline of the biopic from the late 1930s until the early 1980s, and speculation as to the future of genre is entertained.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bingham, D. (2010) Whose lives are they anyway? The biopic as contemporary film genre. New Brunswick, NJ; Rutgers University Press.
  • Custen, G.F. (1992) Bio/Pics: How Hollywood constructed public history. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
  • Spirou, P. (2011) The musical biopic: representing the lives of music artists in 21st century cinema. Published PhD thesis, University of Macquarie, NSW, Australia.

Example film studies dissertation topic 6:

The role of propaganda in the Soviet film industry: 1917-1953.

This dissertation examines how important film was as part of the state propaganda machine in Stalin's USSR. Beyond the use of film as a tool for the motivation of the masses, film was also considered an integral part of developing a world-wide conversion to communism, and films were produced not only for domestic audiences but as propaganda tools for other communist states and to socialist groups in the West. Additionally, the thesis considers the degree to which historical events were manipulated within Soviet film, and compares its portrayal of key global historical events with how those events were portrayed in Western media.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Roberts, G. (ed.) (1999) Forward Soviet! History and non-fiction film in the USSR. New York: IB Tauris.
  • Taylor, R. and Christie, I. (1988) The film factory: Russian and Soviet cinema in documents: 1896:1939. London: Routledge.
  • Taylor, R. and Christie, I. (1991) Inside the film factory: New approaches to Russian and Soviet cinema. London: Routledge.

Example film studies dissertation topic 7:

The humour of the Passover seder in modern Jewish film.

The Jewish festival of Passover resonates as a thread throughout Jews' lives, and is as significant as Thanksgiving in America, and Christmas in the UK as an opportunity to reunite and re-connect families. This dissertation examines three films in particular with regard to how Passover is depicted: Let My People Go! (Buch, 2011), When do We Eat? (Litvak, 2005), and It Runs in the Family (Schepisi, 2003). Each of these films examines the issue of the Passover seder in a humorous light; this paper considers whether such treatment devalues the seder, or whether it offers a window into how religion plays a role even in relatively secular Jewish lives.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Baskind, S. (2007) 'The 'Fockerized' Jew? Questioning Jewishness as cool in American popular entertainment', Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 25(4), pp. 3-17.
  • Gertel, E. (2003) Over the top Judaism: Precedents and trends in the depiction of Jewish beliefs and observances in film and television. Lanham, MD: University Press.
  • Goldman, E.A. (2003) 'Avalon and Liberty Heights: Toward a better understanding of the American Jewish experience through cinema', American Jewish History, Vol. 91(1), pp. 109-127.

Example film studies dissertation topic 8:

The role of the micro-cinema in urban regeneration.

In film, as in many industries around the world, globalisation is affecting the ability of small producers to develop; even in countries such as China, where the digital video revolution may have seen greater artistic independence operating below state radar. This paper investigates how micro-cinemas not only have a part to play in widening the base of artistic endeavour, but that their location in areas not attractive to the large players in the media industry, perhaps because of censorship, crime or other factors restrictive to profit, offers significant gains in urban regeneration, both physically and sociologically.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Conway, K. (2008) 'Small media, global media: Kino and the microcinema movement', Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 60(3-4), pp. 60-71.
  • Elmer, G., Davis, C.H., Marchessault, J. and McCullough, J. (eds) (2010) Locating migrating media. Plymouth: Lexington.
  • Yu, H. (2009) 'Just like eating chocolate: A reflection on China's DV culture', Journal of Chinese Cinema, Vol. 3(1), pp. 63-67.

Example film studies dissertation topic 9:

The films of Martin Ritt: A thematic critique of his work, in four films.

A man is ten feet tall/Edge of the city (1957), No down payment (1957), The long hot summer (1958) and The black orchid (1958) are amongst the early film successes for director Martin Ritt. An artist much over-looked as a result of the Red Scare, this thesis analyses Ritt's directorial strengths and weaknesses through a comparative study of these four contemporaneous movies. Through an analysis of themes such as the racial hatred between characters Charlie Malik, Tommy Tyler and Axel Nordmann in Edge of the city (1957), and the rape of Jean by Troy in No down payment (1957), this dissertation seeks to unravel the sociological implications of Ritt's films and the ways in which humanity is portrayed along with, in the latter two films, issues of children and parenthood.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Brustein, R. (1959). 'The new Hollywood: Myth and anti-myth', Film Quarterly, Vol. 12(3), pp. 23-31.
  • Jackson, C. (1994). Picking up the tab: The life and movies of Martin Ritt. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.
  • Ritt, M. and Miller, G. (2002). Martin Ritt: Interviews. Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi.

Example film studies dissertation topic 10:

Carl Dreyer: Within film, a life of inhumanity to man and a plea for tolerance.

Within films such as Gertrud (1962), Blade af Satans Bog (Leaves from Satan's Book, 1921), La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc (Jeanne d'Arc lidelse og død/The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1926), Vredens dag (Day of Wrath, 1943) and Ordet (The Word, 1954), Carl Dreyer was, as a director outside the United States, unseen by a majority of the world. Accordingly, much of his work was virtually ignored by critics. This thesis reviews each of these films in turn and, using context analysis, seeks to further the hypothesis noted in the title. This is a challenging dissertation subject area that employs not only an in-depth knowledge of the work of Dreyer but would also benefit from an ability to contextualise his with the work of others of the same genre and time, such as Jean-Luc Godard and Hjalmar Söderberg.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bordwell, D. (1992). The films of Carl Dreyer. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Carney, R. (1989). Speaking the language of desire: The films of Carl Dreyer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Weiner, L. and Halle, H. (1994). 'Carl Th. Dreyer: A fable of women and water', Grand Street, Vol. 48, pp. 209-225.

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