Pacific Studies Initiative Syllabi & Bibliographies



Syllabi & Bibliographies

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Images of Paradise:
Representations of the Pacific Islands in Film and Video

Pacs 492
Fall 1997

Instructor: Dr Vilsoni Hereniko
Center for Pacific Islands Studies
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
1890 East-West Road, Moore 215
Honolulu, HI 96825
Tel: (808) 956-2659
Fax: (80) 956-7053

Purpose and Objectives
Although film and video play an important part in our lives, rarely are we given the opportunity to critically evaluate what we see, or to learn how to interpret what we see. In the last two decades or so, the number of feature films and documentaries made by or about Pacific Islanders has increased significantly. However, unlike books, feature films and documentaries are usually ignored by academics, and thus denied the critical scrutiny they deserve. When used, they are often treated as supplementary material, interesting but peripheral. This course is designed to make film and video a central focus of enquiry for students interested in Pacific Studies and/or films about the Pacific.

This course will examine the ways in which Pacific Islanders have been portrayed in film and video. Students will be encouraged to critically evaluate what they view in class and to think about the forces that influence the production of certain narratives and images and the impact of film and video on the popular imagination. Readings that challenge or complement the views and biases of the filmmakers, material from other media, and guest speakers are an integral part of the course.

Students will meet once a week throughout the semester, either to discuss the film(s) assigned for the week or to view a feature or documentary. Attendance is compulsory.

Course Outline

Part I: The Pacific as "Paradise"
(subthemes include romance, race, and gender issues)

27 August, 1997
Introduction to course and distribution of course materials.

3 September
Film: White Shadows in the South Seas

10 September
Film: Bird of Paradise

17 September
Film: South Pacific

24 September
Film: Mutiny on the Bounty

Part II: Violence
1 October
Film: Utu

8 October
Film: Te Rua

15 October
Film: Once Were Warriors

22 October
Discussion: Violence on Screen

Part III: Cultural Identities
29 October
Film: Sons for the Return Home

5 November
Films: Words, Earth, and Aloha

Film Conference: November 11-13, 1997

12 November
Films: Attend film conference screenings and panels

Part IV: Toward a Pacific Aesthetic
19 November
Discussion: Barry Barclay's views on indigenous filmmaking

26 November
Hawai'i Short Films

3 December
Aboriginal Short Films

10 December
New Zealand Short Films

Attendance/ Participation in discussions: 20%
Reaction papers: 50%
Final Examination: 30%

Attendance/Participation: All students are expected to attend the class or screening each week. Those who miss class without a valid reason should not expect to do well in this category.

Reaction Papers: Students will be required to record their reactions to five of the films screened in class. Each reaction paper should be about three pages long. There are three parts to this paper: first, a brief synopsis of the narrative; second, the ways in which the Pacific or the islanders are portrayed in the film; and third, the student's reactions to the film's depiction of the Pacific and the islanders.

Research Paper: Instead of the reaction papers, some students may wish to do a research paper. See me no later than the third week if this is an option you wish to pursue.

Examination: Students will be expected to answer an essay question that will test in-depth knowledge of the main concerns of this course.

Film Conference: A film conference from Nov. 10-13 will address the main concerns of this course. Please plan ahead of time so that you will be able to attend the panels as well as view the films that will be screened as part of this conference.

Texts: The films are the main texts for this course. Students should view the films as often as possible after the initial screening. However, there is a text that students will find useful for the first part of the course.

Reyes, Luis , 1995
Made in Paradise: Hollywood's Films of Hawai'i and the South Seas. Honolulu, Mutual Publishing.

Some useful readings:

Allen, Tricia , 1993
Trashing Soundstage Earth. Honolulu Weekly. Vol 3:47, Nov. 24, 6-8.

Aoki, Diane, ed., 1994
Moving Images of the Pacific Islands: A Guide to Films and Video. Honolulu: UH Center for Pacific Islands Studies

Douglas, Norman, 1994
Electric Shadows in the South Seas: The Pacific Islands in Films - A Survey & Films on the Pacific Islands: A Comment on Their Use. Moving Images of the Pacific Islands: A Guide to Films and Video. ed. Diane Aoki. Occasional Paper 38. Honolulu: UH Center for Pacific Islands Studies.

Lutkehaus, Nancy, 1991
"Excuse Me, Everything is Not All Right": On Ethnography, Film and Representation (An Interview with Filmmaker Dennis O'Rourke). Cultural Anthropology 4(4): 422-437.

Mellon, Jim, 1994
Images of Micronesia on Film, 1944-1988. Pacific History: Papers from the 8th Pacific History Association Conference. ed. Donald Rubinstein. Mangilao, University of Guam Press and Micronesia Area Research Center, 385-403.

Monaco, James: The Art Technology Language History and Theory of Film and Media. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.

Rampell, Ed, 1992
10 Hawaiian Films to Make You Lose Your Luau. Honolulu Weekly. Vol 2:16, 4-5.

Smyth, Rosaleen, 1991
Reel History: The Pacific Islands on Film, Television and Video. Paper presented at the ANU Workshop on Pacific History, Research School of Asian and Pacific Studies, 3-5 December.

Wentzel, Marty, 1993
Hawaii Goes Hollywood. Hawaiian Airlines. November, 12-17.

[Subject: Film; Cutural Studies]

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