Term Paper Topic options for History 364: Chinese Film and History
For the term paper assignment, students have three topic options. Please read all three options carefully as well as “the rules and guidelines” at the end of this prompt before deciding which topic you want to pick and write about.
Option 3: A Reflection on Chinese Films from Comparative Perspective
Based on the films (feature films only, documentaries not included for this assignment) you have watched in this class, what do you find as the most distinctive characteristics of Chinese films?
Needless to say, the number of Chinese films we have watched constitutes but a tiny fraction of the total Chinese film output and it is arguable whether they represent the diverse styles, genres, and approaches in Chinese film making. But in the context of this class, we are going to assume that these films are representative of the mainstream filmmaking in China.
Your discussion should address both the motif (consistent themes, reoccurring sentiments, frequently used imageries, and oft-espoused values, etc.) and the aesthetic dimension (camera angle and movement, types of shots, narrative pace, lighting, etc.). You need to identify some common and consistent patterns in Chinese filmmaking that are distinctive and unique.
Then, there is the historical dimension – please think about the change and continuity in Chinese filmmaking over the years. From Song of China (1935) to The World (2004), that is seventy years of filmmaking (and Song of China is the not the first film they made)! You need to discuss change and continuity in both form and content.
Please note: this topic option may work better for the “film buffs” because it is predicated on familiarity with other national cinemas – Hollywood, French, German, Japanese, Mexican films and etc. You can’t compare unless you have something to compare with. If you don’t have good grounding in other filmmaking traditions, this option may not work for you.
Rules and Guidelines that Apply to All Three Options
Regardless which topic you choose, your essay must demonstrate good grasp of both the films and the assigned reading materials. The latter should be cited whenever they are relevant to your discussion. Failure to make appropriate reference to the reading materials will result in significant reduction in grade.
It is also crucial that you watch all the films listed on the syllabus. If your essay is based only on the one or two films you have watched, you will not have a good sense of the full range of complexity of things. When that is the case, there is a good chance that your arguments, observations, and generalizations will be contradicted or undermined by counter examples from the films you have not watched, which, needless to say, will negatively affect the evaluation of your work.
No matter what is your choice of topic, the essay should be between 1,800-2,500 words and submitted to TURNITIN on Cougar Courses before the deadline. Direct quotes from reading materials are limited to no more than 100 words total for the entire essay and synopsis/plot summaries should be avoided all together. You should assume that I know these films and will not need you to tell me the stories again. Penalty applies when your essay falls short of or exceeds the stipulated word limit by 200 words. It is mandatory that the essay conforms to Chicago Manual of Styles for style and format.
- Demonstration of good understanding of the films and reading materials (5 points);
- Ability to make good connections between the films and the reading materials (5 points);
- Sound analysis, insights, thoughtful and perceptive observations (5 points);
- Good writing (flawless English, clarity, correct format/style, and etc.) – 5 points.