Dominic Leppla

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

MA, Birkbeck University of London. PhD, Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University. A guest faculty member at the College, Leppia’s primary research interest concerns the limits of realism in post-1968 political filmmaking. He has written several articles on the topic, particularly with respect to Polish cinema and the director Krzysztof Kieślowski. His current projects include a historical-speculative look at antifascist film aesthetics, as well as the oeuvre of director Andrzej Żuławski. SLC, 2021– 

Previous Courses

Film History

Cinema and Antifascist Aesthetics: From World War II to the Present

Open, Seminar—Fall

How can film’s unique ability to picture history illuminate the fight against the resurgence of white supremacist ideals? This seminar approaches the idea of antifascist film aesthetics through an examination of filmmaking about fascism and World War II following the 75th anniversary of the war’s end. We will look at wartime propaganda docs and landmark features about anti/fascism from luminaries like Lang, Welles, Resnais, and Oshima, connecting these with the fight against white supremacy and colonialism explored by writers such as Aimé Césaire and filmmakers like Djibril Diop Mambéty. From the use of violent genre cinema in attempting to discuss fascist violence to the recent reemergence in Hollywood of the World War II film genre, we will examine how narrative decisions and questions of film form play an ongoing role in shaping global cultural memory of the most significant event of the 20th century—the struggle to defeat Hitler and fascism—and their implications for our current historical situation.

Faculty

Decolonizing Cinema: Insurgent Forms and Revolutionary Storytelling

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar explores the notion of a decolonized cinema as it has emerged from anticolonial contexts, revolutionary nation-building, as well as the struggles of nations within nations. How has cinema wrestled with and deconstructed settler-colonial ideologies and tropes that both outwardly and internally oppress (previously) colonized peoples? We will look to the experience of late 1960s–early 1980s Third Cinema in Central and South America—both in revolutionary cinematic manifestos (Solanas and Gettino; Julio García Espinosa, et al) and in remarkable bodies of work from Brazil, West Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and Palestine. Further, we will seek to link these approaches to what Barry Barclay has called Fourth Cinema, or politically engaged work produced by indigenous filmmakers. We will consider the benefits and pitfalls of making revolutionary cinema within a state-funded context; for example, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) or Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF). Finally, we will examine the emerging links between such movements and radical Black and brown filmmaking today—from the inspirations of the “L.A. Rebellion,” made on Hollywood’s doorstep, to attempts at finding a wider audience for such filmmaking through what some might consider Faustian pacts with platforms like Netflix, to ultimately exploring the notion of a global cinema of resistance.

Faculty

“Really Existing Socialist Cinema”: Eastern Europe and Film, 1948–1989

Open, Lecture—Spring

“What was socialism?” the anthropologist Katherine Verdery famously asked, seven years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In our current time of renewed global interest in the topic, this course seeks a present-tense answer to the question by looking back to the fertile visual imagination of film artists from within the so-called Soviet Bloc. In Eastern Europe, socialism was both imposed upon citizens “from above” via Moscow and the state but also earnestly organized “from below” by postwar populations who sought a way forward after the failures of capitalist modernity and the inhuman depredations of World War II. This tension resulted in an extraordinary, diverse flowering of stylistics and storytelling, from the post-Stalin era of the Thaw to the edge of Gorbachev’s Glasnost, across an equally varied region of rich cultural traditions. In examining film movements and the work of directors within broader national, industrial, and “new wave” trends—from avant-garde Czechoslovak Army film to Poland’s autonomous film production units to the provocative role of the Black Wave in Tito’s politically independent Yugoslavia—we will complicate tired binaries (e.g., dissident cinema vs. art cinema) used to categorize Eastern European film and its political aesthetics. Further, what links existed between those “Second World” productions and anticolonial liberation movements in the socialist Global South? Looking at the work of visionaries such as Vera Chytilová, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Dušan Makavejev, and Bela Tarr, to name a few, we will gain a better understanding of the art of the possible, as seen under the “really existing socialism” of Eastern Europe.

Faculty