Redefining the terrain of media and film studies

24 March 2003
Consolidating film and media studies: Associate Professor Lesley Marx, Director Designate of the new Centre for Film and Media Studies, was the speaker at last week's Vice-Chancellor's Open Planning Forum.

FILM AND media studies at UCT was the topic tackled at last week's Vice-Chancellor's Open Planning Forum. Associate Professor Lesley Marx, Director Designate of the new Centre for Film and Media Studies, spoke at length about the difficult history that these disciplines have had at UCT and the obstacles that have had to be overcome.

According to Marx, internationally, in many cases, film studies emerged from English departments as a result of perceived links between film narrative and the novel. In the nearly 30 years since the UCT English Department integrated film studies into its curriculum, the courses have moved away from literary-critical approaches to film to embrace a wide diversity of theoretical frameworks.

The departments of History, Anthropology, Drama and Fine Art developed their own courses, which further highlight the diversity of film and media studies. Marx said that those film and media courses that were, until recently, housed in the Department of English, have become less single mindedly theoretical and have embraced media practice, creativity, writing skills and interacting with the industry.

“The diversity is exciting but the differences between the various departments are still very much in force and the motives for teaching film and media vary,” contended Marx.

Marx indicated that the interdisciplinary in the field of film and media studies is one of the driving forces behind the Institute for Film and New Media, based on the Hiddingh Hall campus. “The Institute was driven by the power of interdisciplinary studies. The possibility for experimentation in the fields of fine art, drama and film are infinite,” she explained.

Nevertheless, the aim of the newly approved Centre for Film and Media Studies (which brings together the disparate film and media activities across three campuses) also wishes to recognise film and media as independent disciplines.

“What we are trying to do in many cases is to get students to engage with film and media actively and critically while acknowledging the power of the media to carry us away,” she elaborated.

According to Marx, a key issue for the Centre concerns the recognition of film and media as independent disciplines with their own forms, histories, critical and theoretical literature and corpus of texts.

“Of course, all these elements are in a constant state of evolution, and a constant state of political and intertextual negotiation with other disciplines, but this evolution cannot gainsay the existence of areas of concern specific to film and media,” she concluded.

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