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June 1994


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Gene Stavis <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 17 Jun 1994 09:04:27 PDT
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Gloria -
have a feeling that you are establishing a hierarchy where American
cinema must come first and foremost.  If I misread you I apologize.>>
I think you are confusing an entire history of cinema curriculum with early
cinema. The fact is that, whether we approve or not, the earliest
developments of cinema (i.e. pre-1915) came almost exclusively from "Western"
countries. Whether because of technology, prejudice, economic reasons, there
is simply no extant evidence that, in this specific period, significant
pioneering work was done outside traditional Western countries (France, GB,
Italy, U.S., Germany, Russia, Scandanavia).
This is not a value judgment, it is simply a fact of history.
And, in terms of artistic development (in this early period), that is where
the most influential work was done.
Now, in teaching the history of cinema in its entirety, there are doubtless
people who emphasize one culture over another. That is just as invalid as
distorting history by attempting to impose today's cultural imperatives on
the facts of history. But, as long as these courses are taught by human
beings, distortions will certainly occur. That is no excuse for imposing
deliberate distortions on history with no evidence for doing so.
When I teach the history of films, there is a wide representation of cinema
throughout the world. I do my best to let history speak for itself (although
I have as much cultural bias as anyone does.)
All the fervent wishing that history conform to our "enlightened" view simply
does not make it so.
Gene Stavis - School of Visual Arts, NYC