This fall, World Cinemas was introduced as a new minor in the Faculty of Arts, as an interdisciplinary program that allows students to pursue film studies cross-culturally.
The decision to create the minor came from a small group of McGill professors: Eugenio Bolongaro, Michael Cowan, Yuriko Furuhata, Thomas LaMarre, Ned Schantz, Will Straw, Alanna Thain, and Derek Nystrom, as well as Ara Osterweil and Victor Fan, who joined the group more recently.
Nystrom, who teaches Cultural Studies and is now chair of the World Cinemas program, found that there was a undeniable student interest in film at McGill that wasn’t being met. “I kept having people come into my office for advising…and it was clear that what they really wanted to do was concentrate on film,” he said.
“There already was an already existing body of classes and interest and we wanted opportunities to collaborate with each other, to give our students better training in film work, and just to explore a kind of new way of thinking about cinema,” said Thain, a Cultural Studies professor who will teach Intro to Film History next semester.
Because there have been many professors hired by McGill in the past few years with expertise in the field, and because a lot of film courses already existed in departments scattered throughout the Faculty of Arts, the program’s foundations were already laid.
Yet the process to introduce the minor took almost four years. World Cinemas had to first receive approval at the Arts level, and be approved by a series of committees. Fortunately, Nystrom and his colleagues faced little resistance along the way. Clearly the World Cinema program was something that McGill was ready to embrace.
“There’s been a lot of support across the Faculty of Arts. Every department has been rather excited about this program,” Nystrom said. Professors are thrilled with the level of student enthusiasm thus far. With almost seventy students who have already declared the minor, the program is off to a great start.
Alex McKenzie, U1 Political Science and Daily staffer, chose to minor in World Cinemas because he wanted to take courses in Cultural Studies without majoring in the subject. “I’ve always been interested in the more artsy courses,” he said.
Though World Cinemas is currently only being offered as a minor concentration, there is a definite possibility that the program will be expanded in the future. “The idea is that we’re going to start as a minor,” Nystrom said, “and depending on student interest and resources available, we will see if we can turn it into a major.” Personally, Nystrom said he’d like to see World Cinemas expand to include a graduate program, which would attract more students to teaching film, and help create a community for people researching film at McGill.
Such a community already exists at Concordia, which currently has the largest university-based film program in Canada. There, students can take courses in animation and production, in addition to film criticism. But due to already established programs like the one at Concordia, it is extremely unlikely that McGill will receive government funding in order to duplicate the equipment required for animation or film-making courses.
McGill’s World Cinemas minor has two required courses: Intro to Film Studies and Intro to Film History. Twelve credits may be chosen from a list of nearly forty complementary courses, with a minimum of 6 credits in non-U.S. cinemas and a maximum of 6 credits from any one department. Courses come from departments such as East Asian Studies, Canadian Studies, English, Italian Studies, German Studies, and French Language and Literature.
Thain hopes that the program will open the door for film festivals and other out-of-classroom opportunities for McGill students. “It seems that there might be a way of building student interest outside of the classroom,” she said. Certainly the emergence of the World Cinemas program is good news for anyone with an interest in film.
For more information on the World Cinemas minor concentration, visit www.mcgill.ca/worldcinemas, or visit the Interdisciplinary Studies Programs Office located in room 110 in Dawson Hall.