Positive Criticism (A Learning Program)

Schedule: Open
Venue: Pelikulove website

Email: <joelsky2000@yahoo.com>
Consultation hours: Via prearranged videochat

Faculty Profile:

PhD & MA (as Fulbright scholar) in Cinema Studies, New York University; B.A. Film (cum laude) & A.B. Journalism (cum laude), University of the Philippines (national university); founding Director, University of the Philippines Film Institute; book publications include Manila by Night (an entry in the acclaimed Queer Film Classics series of Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver), The National Pastime, Wages of Cinema (UP Centennial Awardee), Fields of Vision (National Book Awardee), Millennial Traversals (originally a two-issue publication of UNITAS journal), and the forthcoming canon book project (cowritten with Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon) of Summit Media. Articles published in outlets including Southeast Asian Studies, Asian Studies Journal, Asian Journal of Women’s Studies, Humanities Diliman, Journal of Bisexuality, International Journal of Asian Studies, Kritika Kultura, Plaridel, and Manila Review. Member of Modern Language Association of America, Asian Studies Association, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, and Association of Filipino Educators in Korea; Gawad Lingap Sining (Culture-Nurture Awardee) of 2016 Filipino Arts & Cinema International Festival and of the first Glory Awards of the UP College of Mass Communication.

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Lecture Notes:

Film reviews, which evaluate films for the benefit of consumers, are seldom used in film study, since most of the non-Hollywood areas would not be considered or sometimes even rejected by mainstream film commentators. Students of film thus get exposed to a new type of writing, film criticism, which evaluates films not according to whether or not they deserve to be recommended to audiences, but according to how they “play” with film form and tradition, reflect the circumstances of their authors and community, and enact certain programs that have to do with questions of ideologies of society (e.g. class or nation) or of identity (race, gender, sexuality), often with the use of theory. Students who make the adjustment away from judging films as reviewers, in the direction of studying films as social and historical phenomena, will be able to derive a better understanding of the subject, and perhaps even new ways of appreciating new or unusual types of cinema.

11011Film criticism has been undervalued in both media and academe because of the assumption that film is universally appreciated, and therefore anyone can write about it and deserves to air her or his opinion. While this perspective is valid from a sociological standpoint, it has to be balanced with the reality that much of what passes for film commentary comes from individuals who either do not bother to look into the intrinsic qualities of the medium – e.g., the history, aesthetics, semiology, spectatorship, and future applications of film; or who uphold these values, but only and strictly as these have been articulated and prescribed for their contexts of origin, on the always-mistaken assumption that these could have universal applications.

11011Since the inception of the medium over a century ago, film theory has developed to the point where it pervades all audiovisual media discourse, including new media. This provides an advantage for young students to immediately recognize “pure” film theory when they study it, but it also makes it more difficult today to identify where film ideas may be headed. Film has become too diffuse an idea, present everywhere and therefore situated nowhere in particular. What can be done instead is the study of an alternate history of film theory, tracing its origin in pre-filmic (so-called technological-deterministic) discourse, through debates on form and realism, to modern and postmodern phases in its development, with the concept of power relations, as developed in feminist and gender theory, constantly foregrounded. In this way the student will be able to see that the proper study and critical application of contemporary film theory will not involve films (or films alone), but the wider spectrum of all available media, and even of society itself. This course will proceed from this critical evaluation of film criticism and provide practical ways in which writing on film can serve as both an effective elaboration of one’s responses as well as a juncture from which intersectional discourses in other fields can be initiated.

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A training course on film criticism proceeding from principles of theoretical expertise and literary expertise.


By the end of the course, the students should be able:

  1. to evaluate a film text in terms of its formal and sociological properties;
  2. to formulate an analysis of the film’s strengths and/or weaknesses in the interest of furthering contemporary discourse; and
  3. to express this critique in a manner that will attain maximum impact in the Philippine context.


Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen, eds. Film Theory and Criticism. 1974. 6th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Corrigan, Timothy. A Short Guide to Writing about Film. 1989. 6th ed. New York: Longman, 2005.

Corrigan, Timothy, and Patricia White. The Film Experience: An Introduction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009.

Pramaggiore, Maria, and Tom Wallis. Film: A Critical Introduction. 2005. 2nd ed. London: Laurence King, 2008.

Additional References:

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. 1979. 7th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2003.

Giannetti, Louis. Understanding Movies. 10th ed. 1972. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2004.

Hill, John, and Pamela Church Gibson, eds. The Oxford Guide to Film Studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Phillips, William H. Film: An Introduction. 3rd ed. 1999. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2004.

Prince, Stephen. Movies and Meaning: An Introduction to Film. 1997. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2001.

Stam, Robert. Film Theory: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.


David, Joel. Amauteurish!.

Guerrero, Rafael Ma. (ed.). Readings in Philippine Cinema. Manila: Experimental Cinema of the Philippines, 1983.

Internet Movie Database. Website prone to error; use with caution.

Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media.

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Teaching Methods:

Lectures; discussion sessions (by special arrangement); homework preparation; final project: opening chapter of an open-access book project.

Grading System:

  • Attendance and recitation – 40%
  • Homework – 30%
  • Final paper – 30%


  • Session 1: Why Study Film Theory?

Content: Why film studies and production training comprise separate tracks; the difficulties and advantages of praxis; brilliant beginnings vs. career longevities; roads not taken in film professions.
Reading: Joel David, “Auteurs & Amateurs: Toward an Ethics of Film Criticism,” UNITAS 93.1 (May 2020): 17-36.
Screenings: Lav Diaz, Norte: Hangganan ng Kasaysayan (Wacky O Productions, Kayan Productions, Origin8 Media, 2013), c/o Pelikulove.

  • Session 2: How Film was First Regarded

Content: Filmic aspirations and early cinema; Classical Hollywood and its discontents.
Reading: Joel David, “Ethics First,” The National Pastime digital edition (Amauteurish Publishing, 2014).
Screenings: Gregorio Fernandez, Prinsipe Teñoso (LVN Pictures, 1954), available at Citizen Jake on Vimeo; Charlie Chaplin, The Kid (Charles Chaplin Productions, 1921), available at YouTube.

  • Session 3: Post-Classical Shifts in Predigital Cinema

Content: Neorealism, French New Wave, and third cinema.
Readings: Joel David, “Auteur Criticism” and “The Golden Ages of Philippine Cinema,” Book Texts Discourses section (Amauteurish Publishing, 2016).
Screenings: Gregorio Fernandez, Hukom Roldan (LVN Pictures, 1957), available at Citizen Jake on Vimeo; Vittorio de Sica, Miracle in Milan (Produzioni De Sica & Ente Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche, 1951), available at YouTube.

  • Session 4: New Media and the Democratization of Filmmaking & Criticism

Content: Genre principles, postmodern aesthetics, digitalization, and the internet.
Reading: Joel David, “A Lover’s Polemic,” Book Texts Metacriticism section (Amauteurish Publishing, 2016).
Screenings: Gregorio Fernandez, Malvarosa (LVN Pictures, 1958), available at Citizen Jake on Vimeo; Park Chul-soo, 301, 302 (Park Chul-Soo Films Ltd., 1995), available at YouTube (age confirmation required).

  • Session 5: An Approach to Film Coverage

Content: Understanding audience expectations; the orchestration of detail; creating meaning through the world beyond film; the goal of film analysis: articulating meaning; the importance of developing interpretive claims.
Reading: Joel David, “Muzzled Bombardments,” Plaridel 14.2 (November 2017): 221-31.
Browsings: David Bordwell & Kristine Thompson, David Bordwell’s Website on Cinema; Catherine Grant, Film Studies for Free.
Screenings: Ellen Ongkeko-Marfil, Indigo Child (Pelikulove, 2017); Zbigniew Rybczynski, The Orchestra (Zbig Vision Ltd., Ex Nihilo Films, & NHK, 1990), available at YouTube.

  • Session 6: Traditional Methods, Contemporary Resources

Content: Close reading, book marking, note-taking, diagramming of print, film, and new-media material.
Reading: Joel David, “Writing Film Commentaries,” a Pelikulove exclusive.
Lecture/Discussions on Drafting, Consulting, Revising, Publishing, including: the effective lead; organization of ideas; conformism or contrarianism; tone, voice, perspective; closure or open-endedness.
Submission of final project proposals with sample review.

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  1. The class will be conducted bilingually, in English and Tagalog, with internet research of English-language websites. Recitations, written material, and consultations should similarly be conducted bilingually.
  2. Activities outside the classroom will be assigned occasionally. It is understood that students agree that they are solely and fully responsible for themselves in fulfilling this requirement.
  3. Exercises will be written on MS Word files, letter-size pages with 1-inch margins, with name on the first line, flush left, and the date of the exercise right below. No title required. Texts should be double-spaced. For the final project, the instructor will provide a form during the penultimate (5th) week, to be turned in during the final week.

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About Joel David

Teacher, scholar, & gadfly of film, media, & culture. [Photo of Kiehl courtesy of Danny Y. & Vanny P.] View all posts by Joel David

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