Symbiosis International University Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts

Realism and Cinema

Faculty Course Type Credits Prerequisites Semester
Gayatri Chatterjee & Ananya Parikh Minor 4 Film Studies Minor 4

 Brief Overview 

The students are explained the importance of an entire semester devoted to the question of Realism. This is at the base of all film movements, the works of individual filmmakers, the studio system, independent film movements and so on.

Right from the birth of cinema, we see Lumière Brothers making films some of which are none-fiction and some fictional. And if they made very realistic films then Meliès made totally fantastic films. The history of silent cinema (which is covered in the first semester) too is about this factor behind filmmaking.

Students learn that this seems to be a particularly important question in India. Indian parallel cinema was hailed for the ‘social realism’ while popular cinema was critiqued for the lack of ‘reality.’

They are introduced to some debates around Realism. They learn in detail film movements like the Italian Neo-realism, French New Wave, Russian social realism, Indian parallel cinema, films of Satyajit Ray and Abbas Kiarostami. The question of realism involves the other end of the spectrum; they are introduced to Magic Realism in literature and South American films influenced by it. The most important deviation from reality is the body of films from the studio era, called the melodramatic films. Melodrama is introduced in this course.  

 Course Objectives 

  • The basic objective in this course is to identify that films are about representation. Each film engages show some kind of reality or realism.
  • The students have to classify the representation spreads across a broad range of spectrum. There is no simple binary between realist and fantastic films.
  • Even a surrealistic film engages with some real issue. The same topic of issue distinguishes rise to a very realistic looking film and a film that could be termed escapist.
  • Students discuss about the ‘cinematic image.’ They learn about ‘form’ and ‘content’ relationship in cinema.
  • They review the film movements rooted on the question of realism: for example, the Italian neo-realism. The French New Wave takes off from Impressionism, becomes political and discursive as well as cinematically innovative. German Expressionistic films manipulate reality in order to analyze human, cultural and social conditions. Surrealist films want to fly above mundane realities that are not acceptable. Magic Realism influences films that aim at understanding historical realities that are incomprehensible.   

 Teaching Methodology 

  • Students are made to watch movies in class of different genres. Interactive class discussions after every Film.
  • They are taught how film images are formed through photographs, moving pictures, video clips, story boards etc.
  • Students learn to observe the impressions films make on them and learn to write down these impressions.
  • Evaluations are conducted throughout the semester to ensure that the students’ outcomes are appraised.


Students are expected to –

  • Complete all required reading for each scheduled class as per the course outline,
  • Actively participate in class activities and discussions, and
  • Complete all evaluative processes for successful course completion!