Category: Media Studies


Documentary Film Analysis: The Journey of Man by Dr. Spencer Wells

The Journey of Man, presented by Dr. Spencer Wells, is a very important documentary film that sends out a message of human solidarity.  As Dr. Wells says in the introduction, it is the retracing of the all routes of human migration out of Africa in the last 50,000 years.  It is a fascinating story constructed on a grand timescale.  The drama and significance of this story lies in the high stakes involved for those early humans who ventured into alien territories. There are several facets and themes to the documentary film.  But the most striking and profound is that of human solidarity amidst diversity.  This essay will expound on this thesis.

In this most compelling story of natural history, the pivotal moment was the great Ice Age that set in 50 thousand years ago.  Up until this point, the entire human population (technically of the species Homo sapiens) were confined to just the African continent.  This is understandable, for most of the early hominids . . . Read More

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A response to Beethoven Moonlight Sonata 3rd movement

Ludwig van Beethoven’s music is generally understood as the composer’s personal expression of his deep-felt emotions. The mercurial composer not only suffered from a progressively worsening deafness but also turbulent romantic relations.  His music is said to capture the high and low moments of his personal and professional lives.  His music is also divided into those that were meant for public performance and those that were written for private/intimate enjoyment. The Moonlight Sonata falls into the latter category. The first movement, which is set as Adagio sostenuto sets the romantic mood to perfection. It is very intimate and an expression of longing and anticipation. This is followed b the second movement which is a short Allegretto that provides sharp contrast in tempo and rhythm to the first movement. And finally the third movement, set as Presto agitato, offers an apt conclusion to the sonata. The meaning of the third movement can be . . . Read More

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Jean Renoir’s film ‘A Day in the Country’ and Guy de Maupassant’s story ‘A Country Excursion’: A comparative analysis in the context of Dudley Andrews’ three adaptation strategies

Introduction:

A Day in the Country is one of Renoir’s early forays into narrative story telling.  One can see the tentativeness of a filmmaker finding his feet in the new medium which was only a few years past the silent films era. A characteristic of the fledgling days of cinema was its seeking of ideas and stories from classic literature and theatre.  In the context of French cinema, works of such iconic writers as Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Alexander Dumas were heavily drawn upon.  Guy de Maupassant’s short story A Country Excursion is one among many instances of early cinema embracing literature.  But there are numerous challenges in adapting a work of art to a radically different medium.  Theatre and cinema can be said to share some affinity in terms of principles of mise-en-scene, accepted rules of screen-play, shared exploration of genres, etc.  But literature to film is a big leap and film theorist Dudley Andrew identifies three basic types . . . Read More

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Response to Theory Talk #12: Robert Jervis

(talk accessed via: http://www.theory-talks.org/2008/07/theory-talk-12.html)

Political Scientist Robert Jervis offers interesting perspectives in the area of International Relations.  In particular he talks about the nature of American dominance, the potential threats to its superpower status, the success and failure of the Treaty on Nuclear Non-Proliferation, etc.  Professor Jervis presents his views from a Realist point of view – a framework that takes a pragmatic account of geo-political situations as against idealistic or fundamentalist ones.  This is evident in Realists’ (including Jervis) open opposition to the war in Iraq. Even on the question of a possible intervention in Iran Jervis advices caution and suggests that Iran’s declaration of being a nuclear-enabled state could be no more than a strategic bluff.  Jervis sees both advantages and disadvantages in European economic integration.  On the positive side, he believes that a consolidated Europe would . . . Read More

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The Eleventh Hour and Sick Around the World: Studies on the U.S. Healthcare system

What did I learn from the novel and the PBS videos?

Both the novel and the documentary film has been full of relevant information for me.  I learnt different things from the two different media.  The novel The Eleventh Hour is a unique mélange of fact and fiction.  That it presents details pertaining to the American healthcare system in the form of an engaging story made it easy for me to focus and keep track.  As the drama of the story unfolded I was able to pick up facts about the healthcare system that were erstwhile unknown to me.

Sick Around the World, on the other hand, offered me a comparative perspective on several leading healthcare systems. I was astounded that countries which are less economically powerful than the United States offer a better healthcare deal to their citizens.  The five countries studied by the PBS documentary crew – Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, Taiwan and Switzerland – all have cheaper average per . . . Read More

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How does the worldview presented in the movie ‘The Golden Compass’ converge or differ from a Christian worldview?

The Golden Compass is a bold movie in the sense that it tackles a major social malaise – namely religious authority.  Although references to Christianity in particular and God in general have been removed from the film version, there is no doubt that the sweeping authority of the Magisterium includes these two sources of authority.  The clue that religion, especially Christianity is being criticized is evident from the original novel by Philip Pullman that goes on to claims that “‘The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake… Every church is the same: control, destroy, and obliterate every good feeling…. For all its history [religion] has tried to suppress and control every natural impulse” (Pullman as quoted in Burke 2007).

The worldview espoused or promoted by the movie is very different to the Christian worldview.  The former suggests application of rationality and equitable humanism whereas the latter promotes dogma . . . Read More

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Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson

Episode 1: Different But Equal

n the first episode of the documentary series titled ‘Africa: A Voyage of Discovery with Basil Davidson’, a historical-colonial perspective of Africa and its people is given.  The title ‘Different But Equal’ hints at how African people were treated to the contrary by Westerner colonialists. Although early travelers to ancient African kingdoms thought highly of the region’s culture and natural riches, more recent accounts see them as inferior.  The exoticism of Africa and its culture is used as rationale to justify its inferiority and hence its rule. In this context, it is fair to claim that the history of Africa of recent centuries is representative of the history of European colonialism.

Dr. Basil Davidson informs the viewer how the African continent is one of the most geographically diverse in the world. Ranging from tundra to tropical rainforests, from savannahs to arid deserts, from fertile plains to . . . Read More

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Media Analysis: Just a Minute (BBC Radio 4)

Introduction:

The media item chosen for this essay is Just a Minute – a flagship radio comedy show broadcast on BBC Radio 4. It is based on a 4-member panel format, where contestants have to speak on any given topic for a full minute without ‘hesitation’, ‘repetition’ or ‘deviation’.  Having premiered at 1967 as a weekly show the program is still running today.  It is one of the longest running in the history of radio and comedy. (Crisell, 2002, p.26)  The main reason for its success is due to how it allows endless creativity and humour within a simple framework of rules.  Though the three-point rules are simple to understand, the panellists seldom find them easy to follow during the impromptu situations they find themselves in. Though it is a competitive game-show format, winning is less important than amusing and entertaining the audience.  The audience for the show falls into two categories: radio listeners and in-studio attendance.  . . . Read More

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Is docudrama the most socially relevant mode of television drama in Britain?

The two docudramas chosen for this essay are The Deal (2003) and Einstein and Eddington (2008).  The first is a political story of significance to recent domestic and foreign policy in Britain.  The latter is an enduring story of two men of science, whose discoveries and theories are central to modern physics and astronomy.  Both docudramas were premiered in Channel 4 and reached a sizeable British television audience.  Both films were appreciated by critics for their style and content.  Yet, the focus and aesthetics of the two docudramas are quite different.  This essay will evaluate the social relevance of each of these films in the broader context of the potential for docudramas for inducing positive social change.

The Deal is an interesting docudrama about two stars of recent Labour Party history – Gordon Brown and Tony Blair.  The Labour Party won three successive elections in 1997, 2001 and 2005 under the premiership of Tony Blair.  But Blair was not an . . . Read More

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Movie Review: Bicycle Thieves

The film Bicycle Thieves (original Italian title Ladri di bicyclette) is an emotionally engaging film.  Made in 1948 in the aftermath of the Second World War, the film gives a realistic account of war-ravished Italy.  The economy is in a bad shape and social fissures are pronounced.  There is poverty and misery everywhere.  Unemployment levels are also high.  It is in this setting that the misfortunes of a poor family are narrated.

The young boy Bruno is central to the plot, although he is always in the shadow of his father’s actions and thoughts.  In many ways, the young boy represents a purity and moral fortitude that elders around him have difficulty to master.  The young boy accompanies his father through his long, arduous and ultimately futile attempt to locate his stolen bicycle.  But throughout these travails, he hardly betrays his immaturity.  The poise and understated maturity of young Bruno is pleasing to see.  I believe it is upon De . . . Read More

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