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Module UXS-2006:
Political Cinema & Television

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures, Linguistics and Media

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Gregory Frame

Overall aims and purpose

This module will explore, in the broadest sense, politics in film and television: how film and television can be understood politically (i.e. how they say particular things about the societies they represent); how they have represented and, in some cases, commented upon specific political events and changes in the US, UK and further afield; how certain films and film movements have been produced in order to act as agents of political change and activism; how film and television have addressed questions of identity politics, particularly race and sexuality; how film and television have represented the democratic process itself. We will be looking at different genres, modes and styles to examine how we can understand the interaction of film, television and politics.

Course content

Topics that will be covered in this module include: Marxist film theory; political genres of filmmaking (e.g. thriller, satire, documentary); Third Cinema; European art cinema; American independent cinema; representations of democracy and the political process in the US, UK and Denmark; identity politics in film and television (race, class, sexuality); film and television directors/producers/writers including Ken Loach, Alan Pakula, Aaron Sorkin, Jean-Luc Godard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jafar Panahi, Debra Granik, Kelly Reichardt, Armando Iannucci, Joshua Oppenheimer, Michael Moore, Leni Riefenstahl, John Grierson, Jonathan Lynn.

Assessment Criteria


Threshold: D- to D+ Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows:

  1. Generally accurate but with omissions and errors.
  2. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning.
  3. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions.
  4. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.


Excellent: A- to A* Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways:

  1. Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent.
  2. Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study.
  3. Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.


Good: C- to B+ Submitted work is competent throughout and may be distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It:

  1. Demonstrates good or very good structure and logically developed arguments.
  2. Draws at least in parts on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student.
  3. Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning.
  4. Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. The student will be able historicise political approaches to film and television.

  2. The student will be able to combine these readings with close textual analysis to articulate the specific political viewpoint/s of particular films and television programmes.

  3. The student will be able to understand the major political approaches that have been taken in the study of film and television.

  4. The student will have developed an understanding of the generic traditions from which much political film and television are drawn.

  5. The student will be able to provide a coherent and well-argued essay using relevant theory and criticism introduced on the module.

  6. The student will be able to apply these approaches in order to conduct political readings of films and television programmes.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY A 3000-word essay. Answer one of the set questions. 60
ESSAY A 2000-word essay that addresses the theoretical background of the module 40

Teaching and Learning Strategy


1 x 3 hours screening x 11 weeks


1 x 2 hour group workshop x 11 weeks

Private study 134

1 hour formal lecture x 11 weeks


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others


Reading list

Bruzzi, Stella, New Documentary (2nd edition) (London: Routledge, 2006). Cahiers du Cinema editors, ‘John Ford’s Young Mr Lincoln’, in Bill Nichols (ed.) Movies and Methods: An Anthology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), pp. 493-528. Comolli, Jean-Louis and Jean Narboni, ‘Cinema/Ideology/Criticism’, in Movies and Methods, pp. 22-30. Cook, David, Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). Frame, Gregory, The American President in Film and Television: Myth, Politics and Representation (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014). Friedman, Lester D. (ed.), American Cinema of the 1970s: Themes and Variations (Oxford: Berg, 2007). Gray, Jonathan, Jeffrey P. Jones and Ethan Thompson (eds.) Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post-Network Era (New York: New York University Press, 2009). Guneratne, Anthony R. and Wimal Dissanayake, Rethinking Third Cinema (London: Routledge, 2003). Fielding, Steven, A State of Play: British Politics on Screen, Stage and Page from Anthony Trollope to The Thick of It (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). Hill, John et al, ‘The Prospects for Political Cinema Today’, Cineaste 17:1 (2011), pp. 6-17. Jameson, Fredric, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (London: British Film Institute, 1992). Kennedy, Liam and Stephen Shapiro (eds.) The Wire: Race, Class and Genre (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012). Lev, Peter, American Films of the 70s: Conflicting Visions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000). McCabe, Janet, The West Wing (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2012). Ortner, Sherry B., Not Hollywood: Independent Cinema at the Twilight of the American Dream (London: Duke University Press, 2013). Solanas, Fernando and Octavio Getino, ‘Towards a Third Cinema’, in Movies and Methods, pp. 44-64. Williams, Linda, On the Wire (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014). Winston, Brian (ed.) The Documentary Film Book (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013).

Core Viewing:

The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012) All the President’s Men (Alan Pakula, 1976) The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966) The Battle of Chile (Patricio Guzman, 1975) Blood of the Condor (Jorge Sanjines, 1969) Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore, 2002) The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 1999- ) Fahrenheit 9/11 (Michael Moore, 2004) The Hour of the Furnaces (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, 1968) In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009) Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010) Klute (Alan Pakula, 1971) The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014) Memories of Underdevelopment (Tomas Gutierrez Alea, 1968) Night Mail (John Grierson, 1936) Olympia (Leni Riefenstahl, 1938) The Parallax View (Alan Pakula, 1974) That Was the Week that Was (BBC, 1962-63) The Thick Of It (Armando Iannucci, 2005-12) Three Days of the Condor (Sidney Pollack, 1975) Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975- ) Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1975) Taking Liberties (Chris Atkins, 2007) The Spirit of ’45 (Ken Loach, 2013) This is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi, 2012) Treme (David Simon, 2010-13) Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935) Veep (Armando Iannucci, 2012- ) The Wire (David Simon, 2002-2008) Yes Minister (Jonathan Lynn, 1980-88)

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: