International Cinema: A New Humanities Minor

Chip Oscarson and Daryl Lee presented the new International Cinema studies minor in a Humanities Center Colloquium.


PROVO, Utah (May 19, 2016)—BYU’s International Cinema is a familiar presence on campus. What began in the 50s and 60s as scattered screenings of foreign films has become one of the longest-running university foreign film programs in the United States, with films playing every week. Now, students have the opportunity to not only enjoy these films as part of previously available language minors, but to study them as part of a brand-new focus: the International Cinema studies minor.

In a Humanities Center colloquium, professors Daryl Lee and Chip Oscarson presented the new minor, which they believe will be right at home in the College of Humanities.

International film studies arenot unique to BYU. “It’s clear that [film] theory and criticism has become much more self-consciously, more decidedly invested in cinema’s international dimension in the last couple of decades,” Lee said. The move parallels studies in literature, such as postcolonial and diasporic studies, which analyze literature for their significance across borders.

Lee referenced the work of film theorist Dudley Andrew, who said that studying world cinema should not be treated as a ticket to visit foreign places, but instead “put [us] inside unfamiliar conditions of viewing” and “let us know the territory differently, whatever territory that film comes from.” It is the difference between being an observant tourist and being actively engaged in and understanding the culture.

With that in mind, the minor focuses not just on exposing students to films but also to the cultures that produce them. In planning the minor, Lee explained that he, Oscarson and their colleagues had to ask, “How does the minor afford rethinking what students are used to viewing [or] how they think about film? How are they attentive to something that is culturally specific and other without it becoming that ‘very French moment’ or saying, ‘Oh, that’s Japanese,’ as opposed to ‘No, this is a practice in Japanese cinema’?”

For that reason, the College of Humanities is the perfect environment for the minor. Lee and Oscarson both spoke about the college’s focus on improving students’ perspective and increasing their empathy for other cultures. The minor has also given students more opportunity for interdisciplinary study. Oscarson has already seen students majoring in theatre and media arts filling his classes, mixing with humanities students and lending their visual literacy to class discussions. They in turn benefit from the humanities students’ skills, such as with textual analysis.

The end goal is students with increased appreciation for cultures beyond the United States. As Lee tells his International Cinema studies students, “You may be thinking, ‘Hey, I’ve got some time in my schedule and I need a fun/easy class to fill out my credit hours. I like movies. Why not I.C.?’” But then he asks them to consider the results of their decision. By exposing themselves to the cinema of foreign cultures, studying them and deconstructing their techniques, “you’re unthinking eurocentrism – or at least ‘un-Hollywooding’ it.”

—Samuel Wright (B.A. American Studies ’16)


Samuel covers events for the College of Humanities. He is a senior pursuing a degree in American studies with a minor in editing.

A.B.C_Cinema_derelict_interior,_Wakefield,_UK_1048321_1ef100d3-by-philld by philld