Geography of Film (Geog 425)
Syllabus | Resources | Schedule | Site

Time & place: M-W-F 2:00 pm - 4:20 pm, Saunders 442
Instructor: David Strauch
Office & Hours: after class or by appointment
Class Website:
Class blog:
CRN: 92099
Syllabus: as PDF from CSS syllabi collection

Cinema is an essentially geographic art, a way of “writing the world.”
By bringing a geographical perspective to examine how films evoke place, we gain a better understanding not only of how films work, but also of the ways we construct place socially in our “geographical imaginations.”

This class is intended both for students of both geography (for whom it satisfies the Human Geography requirement) and of film studies, and welcomes students from other disciplines. A diversity of student perspectives enriches our exploration of the material.

There are three ways we will consider the geography of film. The first is to consider film as a geographic practice. How have filmmakers developed a visual language to evoke viewers' experience of inhabiting and moving through space, to transport them to new places? We will closely consider the ways that various techniques of framing, camera movement, cutting, and assemblage of elements (mise-en-scène) construct cinematic space.

The second approach we'll take is to look at geography as a subject of film. We'll look at genres such as film noir, westerns, and road movies — which depend on certain conventions of framing space and motion — and consider themes such as cultural landscapes, mobilities, and the right to city.

Lastly, we'll consided film as a subject of geography, that is, as a spatially located phenomenon that circulates within modern economies. As cultural objects, films reproduce the social spaces in which we view them, whether these are theaters, homes or classrooms, so we'll plan to watch films in several ways, and pay attention to these contexts.

Goals & Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, students should be able to:
  • identify the spatial conventions a film uses to place its audience
  • draw on these techniques to effectively create sense of place in their own films
  • comfortably use cinematic language to describe compositions of shots and sequences
  • define the concept of genre and illustrate its application both to film and to writing
  • critically discuss the role of films as objects in circulation
  • know where to find resources for further research

Participant Responsibilities (for students and instructor)

  • Clear communication, including daily use of UH email
  • Regular and punctual class attendance, and prepared
  • Preparation (e.g. having watching the films before class!)
  • Courteous conduct and academic honesty
  • Readiness to investigate resources on and off campus

Note on summer classes

Because the summer session only gives us six weeks, we will be working rather intensively. A good strategy is to work ahead when possible; ideally by the end of a weekend you will have read the material for the following week.


Our primary text for this class will be David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson's Film art: an introduction. I also highly recommend Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing about Film.

Other short readings will be assigned and posted on Laulima and/or made available at the reserve reading desk in Sinclair library. These will include some of the following papers:

Bordwell & Thompson
Aitken & Dixon (2006) Imagining geographies of film. (from a special issue of Erdkunde)
Conley (2007) on Casablanca (from Cartographic cinema.)
Escher (2006) The geography of cinema: a cinematic world (from a special issue of Erdkunde)
Foucault (1986) Of Other Spaces. Diacritics 16(1):22-27
Gámir & Valdés (2007) Cinema and Geography: Geographic Space, Landscape and Territory in the Film Industry. Boletín AGE 45:407-410
Kennedy & Lukinbeal (1997) Towards a holistic approach to geographic research on film. PHG 21(1):33-50
Lukinbeal & Zimmermann (2006) Film geography: a new subfield. (from a special issue of Erdkunde)
Zonn (2007) Going to the Movies: The Filmic Site as Geographic Endeavor. Aether 1:63-67

Grading & Assignments

Participation (30%)
Attendance (on time), preparation, participation in class discussions. Each student will also introduce one of the films in the second half of the class.
Quizzes (20%)
Short quizzes given at the beginning of class (2:00 pm sharp).
Journals and short writing (30%)
Students are expected to keep a daily journal to record activities & thoughts related to the class & subject, to be submitted by email on nights before classes (i.e. by midnight Su-Tu-Th). The journal should include reflections on classes and notes on each film watched. Some specific short writing assignments will be given, which will include:
  • Reflections on going to a cinema
  • Questions a geographer should bring to a film
  • Short reviews of single films (3)
  • Comparative review of two films
  • Close reading of a shot
  • Close reading of a sequence
  • Reflections on the spatial location of films
  • Reflections on the interaction of space and time
The portfolio: (20%)
At the end of the semester, students submit a physical (i.e. printed) portfolio of key writing assignments, revised as needed, accompanied by a short review essay introducing them and summarizing what you've gotten from the class.

Geography of Film (Geog 425)
Syllabus | Resources | Schedule | Site