FLM 200: The MSU Film Collective

We are the professors, students, filmmakers, screenwriters, and cinéphiles at MSU who gather weekly in the course FLM 200 to watch and discuss good films. In the spirit of the Cinémathèque française and the generation of film critics and French New Wave directors it inspired, our collective abides by the principle that good film writing and good filmmaking (and just plain good living) begin with serious film watching.

Supported by the Mechanic Family Film Studies Endowment Fund

Fall 2023: What is Cinema?

This semester through the Film Collective, we will think through the foundational question that André Bazin asked of the medium: what is cinema? A French critic and theorist writing in postwar France, Bazin’s question was as relevant then, when cinema and the world were being reimagined at midcentury, as it is now in our own moment of massive upheaval—coming out of the pandemic, facing innumerable global crises and ecological disasters, and through the ongoing transformation of our media cultures. What is cinema now for us? And what might it be in the century to come? Over the course of the semester we will collectively engage with a variety of historical and contemporary works that offer various ways for thinking through and expanding the potentials of the medium.

All screenings will take place in B122 Wells Hall at 7pm. The series is free and open to all.

8/31 – Supermen of Malegaon (dir. Faiza Ahmad Khan, 2008)

Presented by Kuhu Tanvir

Director Faiza Ahmand Khan follows a group of quirky no-budget film-makers in Malegaon, one of Maharashtra’s big cities that has often become fraught with tension between its Hindu and Muslim populations.

9/7– 8 1/2 (dir. Federico Fellini, 1963)

Presented by Bill Vincent

Troubled Italian filmmaker Guido Anselmi (Marcello Mastroianni) struggles with creative stasis as he attempts to get a new movie off the ground. Overwhelmed by his work and personal life, the director retreats into his thoughts, which often focus on his loves, both past and present, and frequently wander into fantastical territory. As he tries to sort out his many entanglements, romantic and otherwise, Anselmi finds his production becoming more and more autobiographical.

9/14 – Zama (dir. Lucrecia Martel, 2017)

Presented by April Best & Alex Kinnaman

Zama, an officer of the Spanish Crown born in South America, waits for a letter from the king that will grant him a transfer from the town, in which he is stagnating, to a better place. His situation is delicate, and he must ensure that nothing overshadows his transfer. He is forced to submissively accept every task entrusted to him by successive governors, who come and go as he stays behind.

9/21 – Bushman (dir. David Schickele, 1971)

Presented by Tama Hamilton-Wray and Josh Yumibe

A fictional drama blends into a documentary about a Nigerian student in the United States.

9/28– The Eagle (dir. Clarence Brown, 1925)

Presented by Ellen McCallum

Czarina Catherine the Great (Louise Dresser) is attracted to Vladimir (Rudolph Valentino), a Russian soldier. When Vladimir rejects her, he makes a powerful enemy. The soldier is forced to go on the lam, but when he is gone, his father’s property is snatched away by Troekouroff (James Marcus), a cruel aristocrat who bullies peasants. Vladimir disguises himself as a bandit and begins to defend the Russian people from Troekouroff, whose daughter, Mascha (Vilma Banky), he is in love with.

10/5 – Gahim Fel Hend / Hell in India (dir. Moataz El Tony, 2016)

Presented by Samhita Sunya

When the Egyptian ambassador is kidnapped in India, a special army force is assigned to the rescue. Be that as it may, by mere coincidence, the commander finds out that it was the military music band that received the call instead, by mistake.

10/12 – All Light, Everywhere (dir. Theo Anthony, 2021)

Presented by Pete Johnston

Filmmaker Theo Anthony offers a far-ranging look at the biases in how people see things, focusing on the recorded image.

10/19 – Car Wash (dir. Michael Schultz, 1976)

Presented by Jeff Wray

A comedic take on the daily life of car-wash employees, chronicling their hopes, fears, joys, dreams, and tribulations, and meeting some eccentric customers along the way.

10/26 – Nainsukh (dir. Amit Dutta, 2010)

Presented by Swarnavel Pillai

A depiction of royalty in former hill state of Guler in form of paintings by a lineage of period artists. These depictions are recreated for visual understanding of the circumstances behind the paintings in the same / similar location, including ruins of former royal residences and other annexes.

11/2 – Broad Underground: Record, Recollect, Repatriate

Presented by Dalina A. Perdomo Álvarez

A series of shorts around the theme, presented in conjunction with the MSU Broad Art Museum

11/9 – The Divorcee (dir. Robert Z. Leonard, 1930)

Presented by Marsha Gordon

When a woman discovers that her husband has been unfaithful to her, she decides to respond to his infidelities in kind.

11/16 – F for Fake (dir. Orson Welles, 1976)

Presented by Kaveh Askari

Orson Welles’ final film documents the lives of infamous fakers Elmyr de Hory and Clifford Irving. De Hory, who later committed suicide to avoid more prison time, made his name by selling forged works of art by painters like Picasso and Matisse. Irving was infamous for writing a fake autobiography of Howard Hughes. Welles moves between documentary and fiction as he examines the fundamental elements of fraud and the people who commit fraud at the expense of others.

11/30 – Prism (dir. Rosine Mfetgo Mbakam, An van Dienderen, Eléonore Yameogo, 2021)

Presented by Ken Harrow

Is the technology of photography and motion pictures inherently racist? For PRISM, Belgian filmmaker An van. Dienderen invited Rosine Mbakam, from Cameroon, and Eléonore Yameogo from Burkina Faso, to work together on a film in which the differences in their skin color, and experiences as filmmakers, serve as points-of-departure to explore this provocative question. Invented and standardized with white skin in mind, “the aesthetics and emulsions weren’t created for us,” the film director and actor Sylvestre Amoussou says in PRISM. And that underlying issue remains, even with digital technology: such white-centricity has meant that photographic media assume and privilege whiteness.

12/7 – Transformers: The Premake (dir. Kevin B. Lee, 2014) and other shorts

Presented by Justus Nieland

Transformers: the Premake turns 355 YouTube videos into a critical investigation of the global big budget film industry, amateur video making, and the political economy of images.