Discovering French Cinema in Paris

Nouvelle Vague
3 points
Monday, July 6 - Friday, July 24 2015
Instructor: Richard Peña
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Film historians give pride of place to December 28, 1895 as the birthdate of cinema—the date marking the unveiling of the Lumiere brother’s cinematographe at the Salon Indien of the Grand Café in Paris. From that moment on, Paris—and the French cinema—have truly been at the heart of the history and development of the seventh art.

This course presents a series of cinematic milestones that together will offer a history of both the artistic ambitions and the commercial realities of the French cinema, moving from the earliest days of silent cinema (Méliès, Feuillade) to the most recent releases (Assayas, Denis). We cover 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).  A special concentration is on the French New Wave (1958-1967), the movement which perhaps more than any other truly took the city of Paris as its muse.  
In addition to class lectures and screenings, there are guest appearances by filmmakers, critics, historians and officials in the French film industry who offer their own unique perspectives on the past, present and future of French cinema.  We also make several trips to the famous Cinematheque Française, one of the world's largest film archives situated in an iconic Frank Gehry building in Paris' 12th arrondissement. 

Past guests to the program have included UniFrance Film’s Executive Director, Isabelle Giordano; Filmmaker, Critic, and Programmer for the legendary “Cinema MacMahon,” Pierre Rissient; La Cinematheque Française Director of Programming, Jean-François Rauger; Film Programmer for the Pompidou Centre, Nicole Brenéz; and many others. 

Comments from past students:
Professor Peña and the course were truly fantastic – every aspect of the experience was valuable, including Professor 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.
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.
Professor Peña is incredibly knowledgeable, yet approachable. The course was extremely informative and I would highly recommend it.  The final assignment was particularly helpful in really digesting the readings and thinking critically about the different eras of French cinema.
L. Lewis
French Cinema Poster
Daily Schedule 

The course kicks off with a celebratory dinner in the main salon of Columbia's storied Reid Hall in Montparnasse, your home for the next three weeks.  All classes will be at Reid Hall and will meet four times a week for three weeks, Mondays through Thursdays.  

Classes are 4 hours each (with breaks).  Monday to Wednesday, classes include lectures and film screenings. Thursdays feature meetings with notable figures from the French industry.  In addition to class time, students will be invited to attend additional excursions, for example to the Cinematheque Française or to a special preview of a new film.  Celebratory receptions with special guests will bookend the beginning and end of our course.

Students write four 2-3 page essays on four (of the 12) films to be screened for the course. There will be a final “take home” exam, based on questions arising from the course.

Columbia Global Centers | Europe in Paris

The program takes place at the Columbia Global Centers l Europe, in historic Reid Hall. Launched in March 2010, the Center is currently directed by Paul LeClerc, former President of the New York Public Library.  Located in the heart of the Montparnasse district of Paris, the buildings surround a beautiful private interior courtyard and garden measuring 9,000 square feet. The facilities also include a small reference library, classrooms, two large conference rooms, and administrative offices.  
There are no prerequisites for this course and registration will be on a first come, first served basis. A link to the application for registration is provided above. You will need to fill out the application and send a non-refundable $500 deposit check to register.

Tuition & Fees
This summer courses is offered at the standard Continuing Education tuition rate of $1,570 per point ($4,710 for a 3-point course). For information on tuition and course fees, please refer to our Tuition & Fees page.

In addition to Columbia tuition, a Program Fee of $1,500 will be assessed to cover costs related to film screenings, program-related excursions, local transportation, and various other land-based costs.

Students are responsible for international airfare, most meals, housing, and other costs related to your stay in Paris. Round-trip airfare from New York City to Paris is estimated at $1,400. While spending on meals and other items during your stay in Paris will vary considerably depending on your budget and choices, students can expect to spend approximately $40/day on meals throughout the month of the program.

Housing in single, en suite dorm rooms at the École de Mines is available on a first come, first served basis for $1,075 USD.
Please email if you wish to opt for Housing for this program as soon as you apply.
For questions about this course, please write to We will try to respond to your email within 24 hours. If you wish to speak to someone about this course, please send your phone number and request for a call.
About the Instructor

Richard Peña has been at Columbia since 1989, becoming full time in 1996 and being named Professor of Professional Practice in 2003; from 2006-2009 was a Visiting Professor in Spanish at Princeton University. Mr. Peña has also served as the Program Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival since 1988. At the Film Society, he has organized retrospectives of Michelangelo Antonioni, Sacha Guitry, Abbas Kiarostami, Robert Aldrich, Gabriel Figueroa, Ritwik Ghatak, Kira Muratova, Youssef Chahine, Yasujiro Ozu, Carlos Saura and Amitabh Bachchan, as well as major film series devoted to African, Chinese, Cuban, Polish, Hungarian, Arab, Korean, Japanese Soviet and Argentine cinema. He is also currently the co-host of Channel 13’s weekly Reel 13.
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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.