Film Studies reels in profs, new offerings



With two recent additions bringing expert knowledge of Japanese and African American cinema, the Film Studies Program is expanding to accommodate increased student interest.

Film Studies and East Asian Languages and Literatures Professor Aaron Gerow began teaching this semester, and Terri Francis will join the faculty next fall with a joint appointment in Film and African American Studies. Both new arrivals continue the Film Studies Program’s trend of attracting faculty with combined expertise in both film and another field.

Gerow is an expert on Japanese film who taught at Yokohama International University for six years prior to his appointment at Yale.

“He is an extremely highly published scholar,” Film Studies Co-Chairman Dudley Andrew said. “It’s not easy to get a tenured position in Japan when you’re not Japanese, and he did that. He’s got a very high profile there.”

Francis is currently completing her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and is a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Miami. Film Studies Co-Chairman Charles Musser said that Francis will fill an important niche in the program with her knowledge of African American film.

“I think she’s going to be a great addition,” Musser said. “To explore the interaction and interface between African American studies and film studies needs a sustained presence in both fields, and Terri provides that presence.”

Musser said that he was initially impressed with Francis upon seeing the unique approach she took in her research on 1930s African American dancer and filmmaker Josephine Baker.

Francis said her research on Baker — which relates closely to courses she plans to teach next year, “African American Cinema” and “Black Female Performance” — focuses on Baker’s film career.

“Other work on her tends to be biographical,” Francis said. “I read her films as being about her as a performer and took them as primary and secondary sources about the world around her.”

Gerow said the Film Studies Program’s interdisciplinary nature is part of what attracted him to the University.

“I think Film Studies here is very, very exciting,” Gerow said. “I think its interdisciplinary approach, especially in the graduate program, is very unique within the United States and really strongly emphasizes how much film studies not only communicates with other disciplines but in other ways can serve as a field within academia that brings together different disciplines.”

Gerow is currently teaching “Japanese Cinema after 1970″ and “Close Analysis of Film,” the latter of which is a required course for Film Studies majors.

“It’s pretty good,” said Michael Quinn ’06, a student in “Close Analysis of Film.” “He obviously knows what he’s talking about and isn’t rushing the class for people who aren’t familiar with the subject.”

The new hires continue a trend of expansion for the Film Studies Program. The program has also seen the addition of two courses on situation comedies taught by multiple Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Michael Loman. Musser said he believes the courses are the first humanities courses on television the University has offered.

The program is also building up its collection of 35 mm films: Musser said it recently acquired the 1893 film “The Barber Shop.”

Andrew said that the program also hopes to obtain its own classroom equipped with a large screen for viewing various video formats. Currently, film studies classes must hold screenings in the Whitney Humanities Center, which is often difficult to reserve, he said.

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