Discovering French Cinema in Paris with Richard Peña, in collaboration with Columbia Global Center | Europe, July 21- August 8, 2014

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In July 2014, students traveled to Columbia Global Center/Europe in Paris (Reid Hall) with Film Professor Richard Peña to take part in a three week, three credit course exploring the history of French Cinema.

The course, which will be repeated in summer 2015, presented a series of cinematic milestones that together offered a history of both the artistic ambitions and the commercial realities of French cinema, moving from the earliest days of silent cinema (Méliès, Feuillade) to the most recent releases (Assayas, Denis). The course covered wartime film production, as well as the rise of recent genres such as the beur film (works set in the suburban housing projects that ring Paris, focuing on young immigrants), with special concentration on the French New Wave (1958-1967), the movement which perhaps more than any other truly took the city of Paris as its muse.  
The course featured a behind-the-scenes visit to the famous Cinemathèque Française, as well as a host of “A-list” guest speakers from the French film industry. Among the guests were:

    Isabelle Giordano, Executive Director, UniFrance Films, on the position of French cinema in the international market today

    Bertrand Roger, Head of Marketing, MK2 Films, on current trends in French film distribution

    Hubert Niogret, film critic for Positif and film producer (60 ans de Cinema Français, among many other films), on the films of the Occupation

    Pierre Rissient, filmmaker, film critic, and film programmer for the legendary “Cinema MacMahon,” on French cinema in the Fifties

    Jean-François Rauger, Director of Programming, La Cinematheque Française, on the legacy of the French New Wave

    Nicole Brenéz, programmer of independent film for the Pompidou Centre, on contemporary trends in alternative media in France today

    Jean-Michel Frodon, former editor of Cahiers du Cinema and currently Professor of Media Studies at The Institute of Political Studies (Science-Po) in Paris, on the contemporary political economy of French cinema

Student Comments:
Peña and the course were truly fantastic – every aspect of the experience was valuable, including Peña’s exciting and evenhanded lectures, the unusual and stimulating selection of films, his recommendations, the diverse group of guest speakers, the different perspectives provided by other students, and the time we were allowed to explore Paris on our own.
The guest speakers were the highlights of the course – they gave us a sense of how the French themselves value their own cinema, and how they guide and organize its production/distribution. Each guest brought a different angle to the course, and to our understanding of French cinema as a whole. There were no duds!
I gained an incredible amount of knowledge in three weeks thanks to Professor Peña. His insight into the history of French Cinema was incredibly valuable, and I especially enjoyed watching feature films in class every day… overall a truly amazing experience.
You can see the 2014 official course description here.



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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.