Sally Shafto

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

A widely published interdisciplinary film scholar, her specialties include the French Wave, international art cinema, and Maghribi and African cinema. After defending her dissertation (Ut picture cinema: The Strange Adventure of Jean-Luc Godard) at the University of Iowa, she held a post-doctorate at Princeton University. In Paris, where she lived for a decade, she taught in a film school, translated for Cahiers du cinéma, and collaborated with the Centre Pompidou. Between 2010 and 2015, she taught film studies at a newly-established university in Ouarzazate, Morocco. While in Morocco, she actively covered developments in that country’s national cinema for the online film journals Framework and Senses of Cinema. In 2007, she published her monograph on a group of avant-garde French films made in the aftermath of May ’68: The Zanzibar Films and the Dandies of May 1968 (Paris Expérimental). In 2016, her translation and editing of the filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, Writings, was published by Sequence Press (New York). Currently, she is translating the letters of Nicolas de Staël. SLC, 2017-

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Film History

Women Make Movies, or Why Gender Representation Really Matters Behind and In Front of the Camera

Open , Seminar—Spring

Students should have some prior background in film history or in women's studies to take this seminar.

In 2018, women directors still have a hard time breaking through to receive recognition and steady funding. In fact, according to the Celluloid Ceiling Report, in 2016 women comprised just seven percent of directors of the top grossing 250 films in the United States—a two percent decrease from the previous year. This seminar will offer a historical, international survey of women filmmakers up to the present. In conjunction with certain feminist readings, we will consider the historical reasons for the slow emergence of women as creators, beginning with Linda Nochlin’s influential essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” (1971). And beginning with Alice Guy-Blaché, the class will survey some of the best films by women directors. We will also consider the success rate for women directors in other countries, notably Morocco, where women directors have won four times the top award in 17 editions. Germaine Dulac, Dorothy Arzner, Maya Deren, Leni Riefenstahl, Agnès Varda, Claire Denis, Chantal Akerman, Ava DuVernay, Mahassine El Hachadi, Margarethe von Trotta, Andrea Arnold, Sally Potter, Marjane Satrapi, Jane Campion, Célina Sciamma, Isabelle Adjani, Patty Jenkins, Anne-Marie Miéville, Gurinda Chada, Mélanie Laurent, Kathryn Bigelow, Sofia Coppola, Mira Nair, Julie Dash, Diane Kurys, Lina Wertmüller, Margarethe von Trotta, Lynne Ramsay, Simone Bitton, Farida Benlyazid, and Agnieszka Holland are some of the filmmakers whom we’ll consider both in class and for individual conference projects.

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Related Disciplines

Scandal! Surrealism across Poetry, Painting, and Film

Open , Seminar—Fall

This seminar will provide an in-depth survey of surrealism, one of the most important, exciting, and enduring artistic movements of the 20th century. Surrealism was also the first literary and artistic faction to seriously engage with the new medium of film, and its makers represent the first generation of artists to have grown up with film. Developing as an offshoot of Dadaism in the wake of World War I, surrealism was officially founded in 1924 with the publication of André Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto. The groundbreaking work of Sigmund Freud, exploring the unconscious, provided a major source of inspiration for these artists, who were struggling to understand themselves and the horror they had just survived. Surrealism would be not only transnational—moving beyond its original roots in Paris to become a truly international avant-garde movement—but also transmedia, whose proponents were poets (Breton, Louis Aragon, Robert Desnos, Paul Éluard), painters (André Masson, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí), and filmmakers (Germaine Dulac, Man Ray, Luis Buñuel), who often collaborated. Our weekly screenings will begin first with a surrealist precursor, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, followed by two masterpieces of surrealist film, Buñuel and Dalí’s Un Chien andalou and L’Âge d’or, which not only changed the way most of us see and think about cinema but also paved the way for horror films. We will trace surrealism’s influence in Buñuel’s later career and, in Hollywood, through the work of filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, the Coen Brothers, and Martin Scorsese. Our readings will explore, in translation, the writings of the surrealists themselves, along with key secondary literature. Student conference projects will concentrate on one visual artwork from the upcoming exhibition, Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War in the 1930s and 1940s, from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

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Previous Courses

Remembering May ’68 Fifty Years On

Open , Seminar—Spring

May 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of May ’68, a watershed moment that crystallized the mobilization of the young and the working class and their dissatisfaction with the status quo. This course will focus in particular, but not exclusively, on the French manifestation of May ’68, when the country virtually stopped functioning in the wake of student and worker demonstrations and ultimately led, one year later, to President de Gaulle’s unsuccessful referendum and resignation. We will consider the various factors leading up to this time that internationally drew strength from a growing youth movement whose members were part of the influential Baby Boom generation. In the United States, its cohorts were inspired by the Civil Rights movement, which led in turn to a burgeoning women’s and gay liberation movements. Over the course of the semester, we will analyze a series of films, including William Klein’s documentary shot during that May, the cinétracts of Jean-Luc Godard and Chris Marker and others done in the white heat of May, as well as the so-called Zanzibar films financed by a wealthy Parisian heiress. We will also examine a series of mostly retrospective fiction films inspired by the tumultuous events of May, including Godard’s proleptic La Chinoise, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers, Louis Malle’s May Fools, Olivier Assayas’s Something in the Air, Philippe Garrel’s Regular Lovers, Alain Tanner’s Jonah who will be 25 in the Year 2000, etc. Closer to home, we will consider the example of Columbia University, where student discovery of the school’s institutional support of the Vietnam War led to widespread sit-ins and the shutting down of the university. (All foreign films will be shown with English subtitles.)

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Maghribi Cinema: From Independence to the Arab Spring

Open , Seminar—Fall

This course will provide an overview of cinema from the Mahgreb since its emergence following the end of colonial occupation. At their departure, the French left behind a filmmaking model and infrastructure, originally established for propaganda purposes, with film studios in Morocco and Tunisia, as well as a vast network of film clubs throughout the Maghreb. The effort to produce national films appeared slowly, initially with shorts. Our primary texts will focus on fiction films of diverse genres: The important societal themes therein treated will allow us to tackle key issues in Maghrebi life. Viewing films from all three countries (and possibly one from Egypt) will enable us to make comparative analyses. Special attention will be given to Moroccan cinema; the vitality of its current production represents a remarkable turnaround from 25 years ago. Today, Morocco produces between 20 and 25 films a year, making it, after Egypt, the second-largest film-producing country in Africa. We will consider and analyze the reasons behind the “Moroccan miracle” and discuss and evaluate the stakes in promoting a viable national cinema in the Maghreb. Most of these filmmakers who trained in Europe or in Russia are binationals. With the advent of the Arab Spring, Morocco witnessed the opening of numerous film schools—thus paving the way for a truly autochthonous cinema. Finally, we will also consider the challenges of Maghrebi directors to exhibit their films, with the number of cinema theatres ever shrinking and the competition of bootleg DVDs. (Films presented in either French or Arabic with English subtitles.)

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