History of Russian Film Course

Wed, 2010-04-28 10:55 am | By Dakota Maxwell-Jones '13

Film has a curious way of bringing people together through emotion and storylines of ordinary human issues. Professor Galina Aksenova, a returning Department of Russian artist in residence, shared this interest and dedicated nearly half of spring semester to teaching “History of Russian Film: From Einstein to Tarkovsky and Beyond.”

Aksenova is chair of film studies and associate professor of film at the Moscow Art Theater School in Moscow, Russia. She has written scholarly pieces revolving around Russian Film and television and has visited Grinnell on several occasions. This semester’s visit was intended to advance the passion of studying film to students with the new course co-taught with Anatoly Vishevsky.

“Film is so vital to teach, especially when we are dealing with an age that is very visual,” said Aksenova.

Her zeal for teaching film was evident in her taking time off from her own school in Moscow to teach Grinnell students. The course, taught in English, examined the progression of Russian film from silent adaptations to more contemporary cinema. The class’s appeal stemmed from learning how films are indicative of Russian culture.

According to Phillip Brogdon ’12, the lectures and readings synthesized the disciplines of history and cinema studies. “Learning from her has been one of the highlights of my Grinnell academic experience thus far,” Brogdon said.

Aksenova emphasized the need for her students to identify and value the objectives of a film, the history of film, and overall how films are done.

“I would like them to appreciate film and how it can be distinguished as an art form,” said Aksenova. “I want them to understand how the meaning of a film changes through language, how politics use cinema strongly, and to know how the audience is being manipulated.”

The class wound up teaching both Aksenova and the students. A community was created, as Aksenova observed the students working together as a collective group to achieve a common goal of studying the significance of film.

“The course itself is ambivalent, however, the students made it clear that there was more to it,” Aksenova said. “They went everywhere together. I felt a part of the community that they built through the common interest of film.”