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COURSE NAME: "Ecocinema: Environmentalism and Film"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Spring 2021

INSTRUCTOR: Antonio Lopez
EMAIL: alopez@johncabot.edu
HOURS: MW 1:30-3:30 PM

This course examines a growing subfield of cinema studies, ecocinema, which is devoted to exploring the intersection between film and environmental issues. Ecocinema encompasses a range of movie genres, including documentary, Hollywood blockbusters, eco-horror, indigenous films, and animation. This course investigates how themes like environmental catastrophe, wilderness, animal rights, climate change, the construction of human-nature relations, ecojustice, and environmental politics are communicated through the particular medium properties of film. This course also examines the material impact of film on the environment. During the semester students will study films by combining traditional methods of film criticism with ecocriticism to explore production, aesthetics, narrative, reception, and culture in relationship to environmental themes.

Situating film in the context of global environmental change and culture, by the end of this course students should develop a critical awareness of the range of topics associated with ecocinema. Students will learn how to read ecocinema films, exploring how aesthetics, narrative and industrial practices shape environmental themes. Utilizing ecocriticism and film criticism during weekly screenings, discussions, and lectures, students will learn how environmental discourses (how we “talk” about environmental issues) are communicated in film. Students will be expected to keep a journal of screening notes, engage theoretical and historical readings, participate in group discussion, and make a presentation.


Students who participate fully in course activities and assignments will learn to:

  • Apply concepts of ecocriticism and film criticism to film and media texts.

  • Observe how environmental discourses are communicated through film language and

    narrative in cinema.

  • Recognize the range of themes and genres that comprise ecocinema.

  • Learn to develop and present original arguments supported by evidence from multiple

    sources in both group presentations and individual essays.

  • Apply professional standards and ethics in research and media practice, and critically

    evaluate the ethics of institutional and individual media practices.


Mid-term exam Midterm will consist of essay questions written during class. The questions will be handed out prior to the exam.25%
Final Research Paper and presentationStudents are required to write a research paper that is appropriate to the course material. The topic is open, but might focus on a film, a number of related films, a director, a genre, a style of filmmaking, music, environment, etc. Students will make a presentation based on the paper at the end of the semester during the final exam.30%
Short Paper #1— Process-relational analysis of Hollywood cinema 4-6 page analysis based on process-relational analysis framework. Choose any film screened through week 5 and answer at least one question from each sphere in the handout. You can structure your paper around the major sections of the handout but write transition sentences between sections (i.e don’t just write a paper that asks and answers questions). Be sure to use the terminology identified in the model as you respond to the film.10%
Short project #2 — Make a short eco-videoCreate mini video documentaries of something “natural.” The video is shot on whatever device is at hand, such as a digital camera or a phone.10%
Short Paper #3—Curate an ecocinema film festival Read, “Environmental film festivals: Beginning explorations at the interactions of film festivals studies and ecocritical studies,” in Ecocinema Theory and Practice. Choose a theme we have covered during the semester and expand it out into a film festival that features 10 films. Give the festival a name that reflects the theme, and then write an introduction to its program that explains and justifies the particular concept of the festival. Then write ten one paragraph program summaries of films related to the festival theme, which includes a reason why the film was chosen. Be sure to include the year and director of the film in your program note. (Pro tip: you may want to tie this into your research project)10%
AttendanceMore than three unexcused absences will result in an automatic loss of a letter grade. More than six unexcused absences is an automatic F. 10%
Screen notesCritical analysis screening notes of the films must be typed up on a Google Doc with a link that is posted on the course website Monday nights BEFORE the lecture session. Failure to do so will negatively impact your grade.5%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. 
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Note: schedule is subject to change.

For updates and links to readings, please visit the class Moodle.

Please note that when a week feature more than three readings it means that those are shorter chapters.

  1. Week 1: Film and the Environment: Situating Ecocinema Studies, What Counts as Ecocinema? Film: Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)

    • Rust, Monani, and Cubitt, “Introduction,” Ecocinema Theory and Practice, 1-13

    • Scott Macdonald, “The Ecocinema Experience,” Ecocinema Theory and Practice, 17-41

    • David Ingram, “The Aesthetics and Ethics of Eco-film Criticism” in Ecocinema Theory and

      Practice , 43-61

    • Short article: Vegan food, recycled tuxedos – and billions of tonnes of CO2: can Hollywood

      ever go green?

      Week 2: Visualizing Global Environmental Change in Hollywood Cinema Film: The Day After Tomorrow (Roland Emmerich, 2004)

    • Willoquet-Maricondi, “Introduction,” Framing the World, 1-25 (e-book reserve)

    • Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann, “Introduction,” Ecology and Popular Film (e-book


    • Stephen Rust, “Hollywood and Climate Change,” Ecocinema Theory and Practice, 191-211

    • Ines Crespo and Angela Pereira, “Climate Change Films: Fear and Agency

      Appeals,” Transnational Cinema

      Week 3: The Big Picture: Theory and Philosophy; Sci-fi and Postmodernism Film: Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)

  • Adrian Ivakhiv, “An Ecophilosophy of the Moving Image: Cinema as Anthrobiogeomorphic Machine” in Ecocinema Theory and Practice

  • Pat Brereton, “Postmodern Science Fiction Films and Ecology,” Hollywood Utopia(e-book reserve)

  • Pat Brereton, "Contemporary Hollywood Blockbusters and Environmental Narratives," (Environmental Literacies and New Digital Audiences, e-book reserve)

  • Listen to On The Media: Apocalypse, Now

    Week 4: Humor
    Downsizing (Alexander Payne, 2017) Reading:

  • Pat Brereton, “Environmental Ethics and Eco-Cinema,” Environmental Ethics and Film (e- book reserve)

  • Pat Brereton, “End of the World Scenarios and the Precautionary Principle,” Environmental Ethics and Film (e-book reserve)

  • John Parham, "Green Comedy: The Importance of Being Elastic," Green Media and Popular Culture (reserve)

    Short paper #1 due

    Week 5: Ecofeminism and Ecocinem
    : Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015) Reading:

  • Pat Brereton, “Environmental ethics and ecocinema,” Environmental Ethics and Film(e- book reserve)

  • Pat Brereton, “Ecofeminism, Environmental Ethics and Active Engagement in Science Fiction Fantasies,” Environmental Ethics and Film (e-book reserve)

  • Robin L. Murray and Joseph K. Heumann, “Car culture and the transformation of American landscape...,” Ecology and Popular Film (e-book reserve)


  • Donna Haraway, CyborgManifesto (PDF)

    Week 6: The Hollywood Blockbuster: Wilderness Film: In the Heart of the Sea (Ron Howard, 2015) Reading:

  • David Ingram, “Wilderness in Hollywood Cinema,” Green Screen, 13-35 (e-book reserve)

  • Willoquet-Maricondi, “Shifting Paradigms from Environmentalist Films to Ecocinema,” 43-

    61, Framing the World (e-book reserve)

  • Pat Brereton, “Appreciating the views: Filming nature...”, Ecocinema Theory and

    Practice, p. 213-232
    Week 7: Companion Species and Wilderness

Film: Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005) Reading:

  • Henry, “Constructions of Nature in Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man,” 170-186, Framing the World (e-book reserve)

  • Ladino, “Working with animals: Regarding companion species in documentary film,”Ecocinema Theory and Practice, p. 129-148

    Week 8: Midterm
    : Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018)

    No readings: In class exam.

    Week 9: Nature Writes the Screenplays: Wildlife and Documentary Filmmaking Film: March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet, 2005)

  • Claire Molloy, “Nature Writes the Screenplays,” Ecocinema Theory and Practice

  • Luis Vivanco, “Penguins are Good to Think With,” Ecocinema Theory and Practice

    Week 10: Animation

    Short paper #2 due
    Film: Princess Mananoki (Hayao Miyazaki, 2000) Reading:

  • Murray and Heumann, “Introduction,” That's All Folks?: Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features, 1-28 (e-book reserve)

  • Murray and Heumann, “Bambi and Mr. Bug Goes to Town,” That's All Folks?: Ecocritical Readings of American Animated Features, 29-48 (e-book reserve)

  • Bruckner, “Bambi and Finding Nemo: A Sense of Wonder in the Wonderful World of Disney,” Framing the World, 187-208 (e-book reserve)

    Week 11: The Transnational Turn in Ecocinema Studies Film: Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)

  • Pietari Kääpä and Tommy Gustafsson, “Introduction” and Pietari Kääpä “Transnational

  • Approaches to Ecocinema” in Transnational Ecocinema

  • Disposable Bodies: in The Constant Gardner and Dirty Pretty Things,” Framing the World

    (e-book reserve)

    Week 12: Ecojustice: Latin America and Water Politics
    Even the Rain (También la lluvia, Icíar Bollaín, 2010); Abuela Grillo (The Animation Workshop, 2009) (https://vimeo.com/11429985)

  • Roberto Forns-Broggi, “Ecocinema and ‘Good Life’” in Transnational Ecocinema

  • Andrew Hageman, “Ecocinema and Ideology” in Ecocinema Theory and Practice

    Week 13: Indigenous Cinema
    Awake, A Dream from Standing Rock (Myron Dewey and Josh Fox, 2017) Reading:

  • Jennifer A. Machiaorlatti, “Ecocinema, Ecojustice, and Indigenous Worldviews: Native and First Nations Media as Cultural Recovery,” Framing the World (e-book reserve)

  • Joni Adamson and Salma Monani, "Introduction: Cosmovisions, Ecorticism, and Indigenous Studies," Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies (PDF)

  • Janet Fiskio, "Dancing at the End of the World," Ecocriticism and Indigenous Studies (PDF)

    Short paper #3 due

    Week 14: The Environmental Impact of Media Production
    : Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground (University of British Columbia for Frontline/PBS, 2010) Reading:

  • Richard Maxwell and Toby Miller, “Screens,” Greening the Media, 65-85

  • Hunter Vaughn, “5000,000 Kilowatts of Stardust: An Ecomaterilaist Reframing of Singing in

    the Rain,” Sustainable Media (e-book reserve)

  • Nodia Bozalk, “Introduction” (pp. 1-16), The Cinematic Footprint (PDF)