Understanding Context, Resisting Hermeneutics: Critical Pedagogy and Transnational Cinema
Holtmeier, Matthew & Chelsea Wessels. “Understanding Context, Resisting Hermeneutics: Critical Pedagogy and Transnational Cinema.” Teaching Transnational Cinema: Politics and Pedagogy Eds. Bruce Bennett & Marciniak Katarzyna. New York: Routledge AFI Film Readers Series, 2016. 78-95.
Following Paulo Freire’s critical pedagogy, this article argues for an approach to teaching transnational media that balances contextual knowledge and student discovery. While transnational media often presents students with an unfamiliar context, in providing this context teachers of transnational media run the risk of falling into Freire’s ‘banking model’ of education, whereby the instructor fills the student with the proper reading of the film and restricts their critical potential. Instead, the authors advocate presenting films as ‘codifications,’ sketches of a particular place-time that allow students to actively ‘read the world.’ To provide an effective codification, however, the instructor must actively balance accessibility with the potential for student discovery. By adding in new information and critical perspectives as students progress through the material, their previous knowledge can be validated as they make further connections, but also challenged by new ideas that may not sync with their previous understanding. The process of “decoding” that occurs here illustrates the unique potential of transnational media’s ability to encourage the development of a critical consciousness.
Burning Straw Men: The 1979 Revolution and Bahman Farmanara’s Stubborn Cosmopolitanism
Holtmeier, Matthew. “Burning Straw Men: The 1979 Revolution and Bahman Farmanara’s Stubborn Cosmopolitanism.” Cinematic Homecomings: Exile and Return in Transnational Cinema Ed. Rebecca Prime. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 169-188.
Bahman Farmanara offers a unique perspective on the effects of the 1979 Revolution in Iran: as a director working before the Revolution (Prince Ehtejab, 1974; Tall Shadows of the Wind, 1978-79), who left as a result of the Revolution, and eventually returned to continue making films in his home country after the Revolution (Smell of Camphor, Fragrance of Jasmine, 2000). Despite the anti-Western sentiment of the Islamic Republic that Samuel P. Huntington argues contributes to a ‘Clash of Civilizations,’ and the restrictions of the new filmmaking environment in Iran, Matthew Holtmeier illustrates that Farmanara’s post-Revolution filmmaking evokes a stubborn cosmopolitanism counter to Huntington’s vision. Through narrative play, disclosing personal experiences, the use of multiple languages, and reference to global artistic traditions, Farmanara’s films gesture towards intimate global bonds rather than divisions.
Making Transnational Connections: Current Events and Other Contexts | New Approaches to Teaching World Cinema
Holtmeier, Matthew. “Making Transnational Connections: Current Events and Other Contexts.” Cinema Journal Teaching Dossier 2.1 (2014).
From the editors’ intro:
Equally committed as our preceding authors to guiding students to recognize “the personal relevance of global films,” Matthew Holtmeier asks students to connect film content directly to a current event with “the larger goal of this assignment . . . to discover something new about what a student already knows through an unfamiliar global text.” His essay takes us through the four stages of his assignment, showing how students work to relate personal/cultural connections between their experiences and those depicted in a film. Through a specific example (and links to others), he details ways “the connection between the global film and the current event mutually enriches our understanding of both” while also communicating the contemporary relevance of texts to the students.
Post-Pandoran Depression or Na’vi Sympathy: Avatar, Affect, and Audience Reception | Avatar and Nature Spirituality
Holtmeier, Matthew. “Post-Pandoran Depression or Na’vi Sympathy: Avatar, Affect, and Audience Reception.” Avatar and Nature Spirituality. Ed. Bron Raymond Taylor. Ontario, CA: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 2013. 83-93.
Purporting to send an environmentally and spiritually healthy message, Avatar seems like an ideal candidate to positively impact audience members’ positions towards the environment on a large scale. Indeed, director James Cameron said that “Avatar asks us all to be warriors for the Earth.” Since Avatar was released in theaters, however, there have been two overwhelming trends in response to the film: either, a seemingly immediate change in the spectators’ worldview and relationship with the environment; or, the creation of an unachievable desire for the hyper-real techno-spiritual world of Pandora. These responses – environmentally proactive Na’vi sympathy and a debilitating post-Pandoran depression – offer examples of two, very different, relationships with the world. At the base of these relationships is the film’s ability to provoke emotional response in audiences, which engenders positive or negative relationships with the environment.
Machinima: Cinema in a Minor or Multitudinous Key? | Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds
Holtmeier, Matthew, and William Brown. “Machinima: Cinema in a Minor or Multitudinous Key?” Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds. Ed. Jenna Ng. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013. 3-21.
Machinima is a new media practice that began with the self-directed experiments and explorations of enthusiastic gamers and hackers. Over its comparatively short history, machinima has become an accessible and vibrant participatory media, fuelling a desire for creative investigation into its possibilities as an expressive and communicative media art form. Machinima has produced a variety of modes and genres, from the knowing anti-war humor (Starrs 2010) of the Red vs Blue series (Rooster Teeth Productions, 2003-present) to the competitive action of e-sports gamebattles on Major League Gaming, or the dystopic combat action of Drakortha’s The DC Chronicles series (2011). While some have used machinima to convey educational messages or retell literary works, the full potential of machinima as a pedagogical tool is yet to be determined. In this chapter, we discuss a trial of the machinima production of a version of a Chaucer tale as part of the learning activities of tertiary students in two humanities disciplines. The interdisciplinary and collaborative making of machinima was intended to support the students’ development of digital literacy skills and understandings relevant to their disciplines. As an interdisciplinary participatory media practice, we argue that machinima can encourage a fruitful collaboration across multiple disciplines through the processes of remediation, adaptation and review.