Introduction to Film image

Film is an art form that touches almost everyone’s life. Whether we prefer to watch movies at the cinema, or on television, or on an iPhone or tablet, most of us watch films once or twice a week, and many of us more often than that. We could say, the movies are at the heart of our culture. But what is the history of this art form and how do film-makers create visual stories that can range from imaginary monsters roaming the streets of London, to space operas on an epic scale, to simple tales of seemingly ordinary lives?

On this course we will try to answer those questions by looking at the history of film-making, from the earliest attempts at story telling in silent movies, to the latest CGI blockbusters. Guided by our expert tutor, we will analyse clips from some of the most celebrated movies ever made, as well as many lesser-known films, to see how film-makers carefully compose their stories to elicit specific reactions from the audience. As well as Hollywood and other western film making traditions, we will also explore some of the less well-known national cinemas from around the world, to see how they are changing the nature of cinema and movie-making.

At the end of the course you will have a greater understanding of how movies work, how they have changed over time, and most of all, a real sense of the exciting diversity of film-making around the world.

Indicative Programme

  • Week 1: Introduction to Film Forms and Film History
  • Week 2: Early Cinema History: From the Cinema of Attractions to Narrative Cinema
  • Week 3: German Expressionism and Soviet Cinema
  • Week 4: The Rise of Hollywood – Stardom, Studios, and the Transition to Sound
  • Week 5: Classic Hollywood (1930s-1950s) – Popular Film Genres
  • Week 6: Italian Neorealism and the “Golden Age” of Italian Cinema
  • Week 7: French New Wave – Criticism, Authorship, and the Left Bank
  • Week 8: New Hollywood (1960s-1980s)
  • Week 9: American Independent Cinema – From L.A. Rebellion to Contemporary Indie Filmmakers

*** Christmas break ***

  • Week 10: Contemporary Hollywood: Media Convergence and Blockbusters
  • Week 11: British Cinema (1950s-2000s): Social Realism, Documentary, and Voices of/from the Empire
  • Week 12: Northern European Cinema
  • Week 13: Romanian New Wave and Eastern European Cinemas
  • Week 14: Spanish and Latin American Cinemas
  • Week 15: Australian and New Zealand Cinemas
  • Week 16: Bollywood and Indian Cinema Industries
  • Week 17: Chinese, Hong Kong, and Taiwanese Cinemas
  • Week 18: Japanese and Korean Cinemas
  • Week 19: Middle Eastern and Sub-Saharan Cinemas
  • Week 20: Animation: From Pre-Cinema to CGI.

This programme is indicative and subject to possible change.

Suggested Reading

There is no requirement to undertake specific reading for this course, but if you would like to look in greater depth at the subject the following books are recommended:

  • David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson,  Film Art: An Introduction (Boston: McGraw Hill, 2010)
  • Pam Cook, The Cinema Book (London: BFI, 2007)
  • Geoffrey Nowell-Smith, The Oxford History of World Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997)

About the Tutor

Dr Eleonora Sammartino is a teaching assistant in Film Studies at King’s College London and the University of Reading. She convenes an annual study day for students of Italian at the BFI Southbank and has co-organised film and cultural festivals in Italy and the UK.

Questions regarding the content and teaching of the above course should be sent to the course tutor, Dr Eleonora Sammartino,

Imperial College undergraduates and postgraduates may, if they wish, acquire 2 ECTS credits after successfully completing their Evening Class. To qualify, a student must attend the classes regularly and pass a test at the end of the second term. In late January, students will be invited to apply to take the test.

Please carefully review the Programme TimetableTerm Dates and Fees & Enrolment information.