Saturday, March 29, 2014

Students Create Original Genre Films for Core Class on Gender in American Genre Film

By Dr. Maura Grady, Assistant Professor of English

In Fall 2013, the theme for the Core Humanities course English 338: Special Topics was Gender in American Genre Film. Dr. Maura Grady, who designed the theme and taught the course, says, “many scholars have argued that popular films, particularly genre films (sci-fi, slasher, film noir, caper, rom-com, etc.) are better at addressing gender tensions in American culture than are so-called ‘high art’ films.” This course used a number of scholarly texts, including selections from Men, Women, and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film; More than Night: Film Noir in its Contexts; Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts; The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film; Latino Images in Film: Stereotypes, Subversion, and Resistance; and more to examine messages about gender used in the assigned films.

Students were required to read, understand and use key works of film criticism in their writing and observations. In addition to writing several essays, students worked in small groups to write, plan, film, and edit their own short genre films, which were screened for the entire class during the final exam period.

Kristen Roberts, a Criminal Justice major with minors in English and Psychology, notes: “For our film, Who Done Did It?, we decided on a mystery/ film noir genre. The process was all new to me personally, but as an English minor it has helped with the classes I am currently taking. Many of the film techniques we learned about and used to create our film have been mentioned in several of my classes” such as English 332: Global Film and Art 150: Art and Ideas.

Working with no budget and only what equipment, settings, costumes, and editing software were freely available, the students produced memorable films. One of these, Who Done Did It? ( used a number of familiar Ashland University locations, referenced Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950), a film studied by the class, and featured a cast of Ashland University students as actors. The film was co-written and crewed by Kristen Roberts, Miki Suzuki, Frances (Frankie) DiCaesere, and Benjamin Isaiah Black, who also directed.