Low-budget, Experimental and Independent Cinemas

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 13 January 2020
Friday 20 March 2020
14 March 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA PQ32 Film Studies and Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA PQ38 Film Studies and Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA QW26 Film Studies and Literature,
BA QW27 Film Studies and Literature (Including Placement Year)

Module description

This module takes as its starting point a diversity of modes of film production, and will go on to address such key questions as: to what extent do modes of production and personal choices determine a film's form and meaning? How have different filmmakers negotiated with limited budgets, ideological scrutiny, and desires for personal expression over the course of cinema history? How are the form and style of a film born out of its relationship with ideology and history? Why are lower budget and 'alternative' cinemas almost always conceptually to opposed to the 'mainstream' - thereby presuming a status of alterity and marginality? What constitutes an 'avant-garde' or experimental practice, and how have 'alternatives' found themselves absorbed into and influencing popular cinema?

All the films we study have something to say - they are social documents, personal stories, and/or aesthetic experiments that have intervened in the conventions of cinematic storytelling in various ways. We will explore by what means or strategies, and to what ends, these films have responded in different ways to the specific conditions and contexts within which they were created. An while contexts and histories of these films are important, the primary focus will be on film analysis and a careful focus on the impressions, messages, meanings, and affects that these films engender.

Module aims

1. To familiarise students with the diverse and changing modes of film production.
2. To facilitate a critical and reflective approach to a variety of film texts, and to explore the representational strategies put into practice by a range of lower budget and independent cinemas.
3. To engage with different formal dimensions of cinema such as narrative strategy and style.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

1. engaged critically with different formal dimensions of cinema such as narrative strategy and style

2. critically examined a range of films in their social and political contexts

3. improved and further developed their skills of communication, problem-solving, text analysis and teamwork.

4. advanced their skills of film analysis and performing scholarly research.

Module information

Module Supervisor's Research into Subject Area
Professor Geiger has done extensive research into low-budget, amateur, and alternative cinemas, with a particular focus on non-fiction and documentary film. Recent lectures and publications have focused on amateur film before the Second World War and the development of Kodachrome colour. He is author and editor of numerous books and articles relating to film history, theory, and analysis, including Facing the Pacific (2007) and American Documentary Film: Projecting the Nation (2011).

Learning and teaching methods

This course is run without lectures – there are weekly film screenings, and attendance should be considered compulsory. If you have a timetable clash, and cannot make it to the screenings, it is up to you to get the film(s) for each week (most of them are available from the Albert Sloman Library) and watch them in your own time. The principal learning environment for this course is the weekly seminar, during which you will be expected to make constructive contributions to class discussion, airing your ideas and responding respectfully to those of others. The role of the course tutor is to guide the discussion and keep it productive, summarising where appropriate, and indicating how the debates taking place in the seminar room fit in with the broader academic debates on these films and their place in their respective societies. You are unlikely to maximise the potential of this learning environment if you come along to classes unprepared – for this reason, it is vital that you familiarise yourselves with at least the compulsory weekly readings before each seminar, and are prepared to discuss the week's topic. You will be expected to make one presentation either as individual or as part of a small group. This should last no longer than 10-15 minutes, and will be reflected upon by the whole group as a regular part of class discussion. Guidance on topics and delivery will be provided in the first weeks of the course, before any presentations take place. The Department dedicates 5% of the overall coursework mark for each module to class participation. Attendance at classes and seminars is not optional and we expect excellent attendance from all our students. The participation mark awarded is not solely based on the number of classes/seminars you have attended but also appropriate contribution to class discussion. The class participation mark for this module is based on three main criteria: attendance; preparation; contribution.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework Presentation Slides with Written Explication (1000 words) 20/03/2020 30%
Coursework Essay (2,500 words) 21/04/2020 65%
Practical Participation 5%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Professor Jeffrey Geiger
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Mikel Koven
Senior Lecturer - Film Studies
Available via Moodle
Of 47 hours, 20 (42.6%) hours available to students:
27 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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