Regarding both Murray Pomerance's thoughtful posting and some others, like
Quintin's (Eduardo Antin?)--they have given me a lot to think about as a
university professor teaching film studies.
I know how hard it is when facing such stubborn student attitudes,
particularly when their dismissive tone is about a film I'm heavily
invested in, for personal or ideological or intellectual or pleasurable
Let me list a couple of principles I try to adhere to in the classroom,
especially during discussions. The first is openness--we should all be
open and tolerant of other points of view, in class discussion as well as
on the screen. You may not like it, but be tolerant of other perspectives.
I would ask the student was the filmmaker given the benefit of a full
hearing if the film was not seen completely.
The second is evidence--you can make any argument you wish about a film,
but you must have the evidence to support it. By not watching the film all
the way through, you run the risk of not amassing enough evidence, or the
strongest evidence--especially since what happens at the climax and the end
of a film can be so different from what preceeded it in the narrative.
The third is the distinction between a character's politics and the film's.
That is, a character may be sexist (or racist, etc.) while the film may
not. Did the student in question think that David Hemmings' photographer
was sexist? Or was Antonioni? Or were they both? If so, were's the
Whenever possible, I try to return the discussion to the critical process
as much as I can, back to analytical questions (What is this film "saying"?
How do you know? What's the best way for you [the student] to construct
and write an argument that expresses and substantiates your views?)
Of course, sometimes the students hate films I love and vice-versa, but I
try (as much as I can) to tell them that they can express any point of view
if it's well argued and substantiated. Helping them formulate their
opinions, develop them, back them up, and learn to trust them and defend
them is what I like to think I'm *really* teaching--films are simply the
Anyway, this was my pedogogical take on the issue, for what it's worth.
Thanks for reading this far!
Charles Ram=EDrez Berg
Dept. of Radio-TV-Film
The University of Texas at Austin
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