At the beginning of this week’s recitation, Jaap addressed the topic of our midterm papers and explained some of the most common problems he found with many of the papers. With that, he gave us some advice for our final papers. He advised us to make sure we have a strong central argument, and to choose films that allow for some new angle or topic of discussion. Further, he told us to make sure that we critically engage with the readings and create a dialogue with the text.
After we talked about the midterm papers, we discussed what constitutes independent filmmaking and the ways in which a film can be deemed independent. To further the discussion, Jaap showed a clip from Michael Moore’s show “The Awful Truth” and asked whether or not Moore could be considered an independent filmmaker. Some of the responses were torn, but in general we seemed to agree that due to the generally low production values and niche audience, one could likely call Moore an independent filmmaker.
Next, we had a great presentation about Jeff King’s article on Independent Cinema. This presentation went through some of the criterion of independent film, such as giving the spotlight to neglected or often stereotyped subjects. The article also went over the conflict of finding an audience for independent films, as many of them address controversial topics and are not opened in wide release. Also addressed were black filmmakers like Spike Lee, who managed to do both studio and independent work and maintain some control over his films. His films were used as an example of films that subverted black stereotypes and helped black cinema to become more mainstream. The presenters also talked about female filmmakers and the birth of new queer cinema. The former was discussed in terms of the inequality they faced and their focus on relationships at the expense of narrative momentum. The latter was noted for revisiting some of the elements of the 1960s in a more commercial setting.
After the first presentation, Jaap showed the opening scene of Gus Van Sant’s film My Own Private Idaho and asked us to make comparisons to this week’s feature, Boys Don’t Cry. We discussed the depiction of America’s “heartland” and the elements of homoeroticism. Next, we had a presentation on Brenda Cooper’s article on Boys Don’t Cry and Female Masculinity. This presentation led the class into a discussion about the film and whether or not it could be considered a liberatory film or a circumscribed film. Though we ran out of time, many thought the film was liberating in that it caused the audience to sympathize with Brandon, who would have been thought of as the “other” in society.