A few days ago,
A very good student of mine who shall remain anonymous basically “dared” me to post on facebook and my own website the content of the preface to my textbook on cinema, charging that most Americans do not think and will not care about the argument that cinema is a teaching machine” and has a consciousness of its own! So here it is, as I do not back down from academic dares
The reader of this text will frequently see the word cinema as the main subject of discussion. Rhetorically film and cinema are interchangeable words. However, this book uses cinema as an all-encompassing term. The word, cinema, has wider implications than a noun to describe an art form or a medium of communication. Cinema infers a noun with its unique consciousness. That is, a word meant to penetrate the reader’s imagination and usher in a multidimensional approach to the subject matter. Moreover, the increasing blurring of boundaries between different media along with the dependence of art, economy, culture, entertainment, and politics, on each other, render the word cinema as a more potent noun than film, hence its frequent use throughout the book.
Given the interdependent nature of cinema which is at once an art form and a medium of communication, and can be an instrument of mass entertainment, a teaching machine, a consumer product, a conduit of human history, or a vehicle for social change, with the socio-political entities, it is paramount that we examine cinema with an interdisciplinary lens. Too many of the so-called “film studies” or “cinema studies” books that occupy the bookstore and library shelves around the globe treat cinema in an overly formalistic manner. To the extent that most of these books examine cinema critically, it is with a jargon-laden and contrived language that traps cinema in a reductive/disjunctive discourse. A single discipline limits discourse—that is a given. Cinema intersects with philosophy, psychology, history, economics, politics, literature, physics, chemistry, astronomy, anthropology, sociology, mysticism, athletics, journalism, music, and theater, and other disciplines. Cinema is inherently an interdisciplinary medium and therefore must be studied that way.
Cinema offers diversity. It gives us access to experiences that would not be available under normal conditions. Through our immersion with a cinematic narrative we can experience cultures and perspectives that we could not access otherwise. By encouraging us to emotionally involve ourselves with the characters and places in a story, cinema helps us gain an understanding of what it would be like to live in other times and places, hold different beliefs, have different values, and ultimately, be different human beings. The vicarious cinematic experiences can be transformative insofar as they may shift audiences out of their conventional perspectives. Cinema compels one to have an appreciation of alternative worldview. Cinema helps us develop different ways of seeing and in turn have access to different ways of being.
This book invites the reader to participate in a very important discourse. That is the discourse of interdisciplinary cinema studies. Cinema has a mystique all its own. And to deconstruct the mystique in an attempt to further understand cinema is a discursive journey. Studying cinema requires rigor and provides many thrills. However, the journey cannot enumerate every insight that cinema has to offer. With this book, I hope to inspire you to look with greater seriousness at an art form that sometimes seems to be more about entertainment than education. In the final analysis the journey never ends and it is always worth taking.
San Francisco, CA