Cancelled Political Cinéma

Course content

Personal politics, institutional politics, and international politics are popularly represented and understood through the medium of cinema. Analysing the production and construction of political cinema involves studying the cinema aesthetic, political representation, and emotional impact of film.

The course uses the medium of Political Cinéma to study nine central dimensions of contemporary politics: ideology, the environment, the postcolonial, society, political economy, conflict, gender, international politics, and the state. For each dimension political cinema will be interrogated to understand how films act as factually-accurate empirical representations, theoretically-revealing analogous representations, and intellectually-heuristic metaphorical representations.  Using this approach, the course encourages participants to understand how films represent reality (e.g. Gregg, IR on Film, 1998), represent theory (e.g. Weber, IR Theory, 2013), and represent ideas (e.g. Sachleben, World Politics on Screen, 2018). In this respect film does not simply reflect contemporary politics but also constructs them.

The course begins by using Plato’s allegory of the cave to introduce how political cinema helps construct and reinforce ideological ‘common sense’ focusing on films such as The Truman Show, The Matrix, and City of Ember. Environmental politics and the absence of a precautionary approach to climate change examines Tomorrowland, The Day After Tomorrow, and Promised Land. Postcolonial Politics and its repression in western societies is studied through the film series Westworld, The Constant Gardener, and Black Panther. Cosmopolitical society and the culture shifts of local, global, and reactionary politics is approached through Sense8, Babel, and Traffic. International political economy and the financialisation of both the public and the private is looked at through In Time, Margin Call, and The International. Global conflict and the interplay between hegemony, injustice, and violence is explored through Syriana, Lord of War, and Blood Diamonds. Gender politics, the subjugation and exploitation of women, and misogyny is realised through analysing the film series The Handmaid’s Tale, The Whistleblower, and North Country. International Politics, the forgetting of the past, denial of the future, and conservative essentialisation of nation states is interrogated through Arrival, Contact, and Blade Runner. Finally the course concludes by drawing all of these dimensions together to understand how ideology, leadership, and state politics are legitimated through V for Vendetta, 1984, and The Great Dictator.

Preliminary plan:

1.           Plato’s Cave as Political Cinéma

2.           Tomorrowland: Critical Social Theory of Planetary Politics

3.           Westworld as Postcolonial Politics

4.           Sense8 Cosmopolitical Society

5.           In Time: International Political Economy

6.           A Syriana of Conflict

7.           Handmaid’s Tale of Gender Relations

8.           Arrival of Normative Power in Planetary Politics

9.           The State of Political Cinéma


Bachelor: 7,5 ECTS

Kandidat: 7,5 ECTS

Learning outcome

Knowledge and understanding of the discipline of political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Political Cinéma’ encourages students to know and understand why political cinéma both represents and constructs personal, institutional, and international politics. Masters’ students studying this course will become knowledgeable with the concept of ‘The Political’, critical political theories, and interdisciplinary approaches in order to understand how the medium of cinéma reflects and represents the discipline of political science.

Practical competence in employment-related activities in political science

The masters’ elective course in ‘Political Cinéma’ enables students to become competent in employment-related activities that interrogate the extent to which popular culture acts as (i) factually-accurate empirical representations; (ii) theoretically-revealing analogous representations; and (iii) intellectually-heuristic metaphorical representations of politics.

Intellectual and transferable skills in political and social sciences

The masters’ elective course in ‘Political Cinéma’ helps masters-level students develop critical thinking, creativity and innovation, collaboration, and communication skills through group-based Active Learning activities.

This masters-level Active Learning elective course requires Preparation, Participation, Positive
attitude, in order to pass the Portfolio exam:
- Preparation means that the course uses Active Learning pedagogy with a constructive alignment
between learning goals, learning activities, and assessment. Students will participate in weekly
learning activities designed to ensure constructive alignment and must prepare accordingly in order to pass.
- Participation means that students will be participating in course-long learning activities and
draft assignment writing activities in order to pass.
- Positive attitude means that students will constructively participate in the weekly group learning
activities which form the core of the course in order to pass.
- Portfolio exam means that the course is passed by submitting two compulsory assignments
during the course.

Andersen, Nathan (2014) Shadow Philosophy: Plato’s Cave and Cinema (Routledge).

Beasley, Chris, and Heather Brook (2019) The Cultural Politics of Contemporary Hollywood Film: Power, Culture and Society (MUP).

Dodds, Klaus, and Sean Carter (2014) International Politics and Film: Space, Vision, Power (Wallflower Press).

Erigha, Maryann (2019) The Hollywood Jim Crow: The Racial Politics of the Movie Industry (NYU Press).

Falzon, Christopher (2014) Philosophy Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Philosophy 3rd edn. (Routledge).

Franklin, Daniel (2016) Politics and Film: The Political Culture of Television and Movies (Rowman & Littlefield).

Fraser, Ian (2016) Political Theory and Film (Rowman and Littlefield).

Hamenstädt, Ulrich (ed.) (2018) The Interplay Between Political Theory and Movies: Bridging Two Worlds (Springer).

Kolker, Robert (2018) Politics Goes to the Movies: Hollywood, Europe, and Beyond (Routledge).

Kornbluh, Anna (2019) Marxist Film Theory and Fight Club (Bloomsbury).

Rushton, Richard (2016) The Politics of Hollywood Cinema: Popular Film and Contemporary Political Theory (Palgrave).

Shapiro, Michael (2019) The Cinematic Political: Film Composition as Political Theory (Routledge).

Sweedler, Milo (2020) Allegories of the End of Capitalism: Six Films on the Revolutions of Our Times (Zero Books).

Weber, Cynthia (2013) International Relations Theory: A Critical Introduction, 4th edn. (Routledge).

Zaniello, Thomas (2020) The Cinema of the Precariat: The Exploited, Underemployed, and Temp Workers of the World (Bloomsbury).

BA level in political science, international relations, or similar competence, and a passion for understanding political cinema.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Feedback is via group-based peer-to-peer Active Learning activities.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Criteria for exam assesment

  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28