December 11, 2009

‘Cinemas of the Middle East’ class set for spring

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A class offered at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will provide greater insight into the Middle East than what many Americans may see on television.

John Downing, Global Media Research Center director in the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, will teach “Cinemas of the Middle East.”

The 15 subtitled feature films come from Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. Students can earn 3 hours credit for the course. The first class is Wednesday, Jan 20; the registration deadline is Friday, Jan. 15

A list of films is available here or on Saluki Times’ Fliers Row.

The course fits nicely with the Global Media Research Center’s mission, said Downing, a professor of international communication within the college.

“We not only do research we try to diffuse it; to give some people some sense of the results of our research,” he said. “Information provided by people from the region is a rather precious commodity at the moment.

“We tend to think of the region simply in terms of when the United States is involved in a war. But there is a great deal more historically and currently than when the U.S. decides it has to go to war,” Downing said.

The course will meet from 6 to 10 p.m. each Wednesday during the spring 2010 semester. The first hour of the class will explain the film’s content. Students will then discuss the film in the last hour of the class.

The class is for graduate students, although juniors and seniors may also enroll, Downing said. In addition, interested community members will have an opportunity to audit the film screenings, he said.

Downing has taught the course in several different versions during his career; he last taught the course shortly after arriving at SIUC in 2004.

The class will introduce students to movies “they almost certainly have never seen or heard of, but movies which are high-quality and interesting in many different ways,” Downing said. The course will also provide an opportunity for students to see the Middle East “seen through the eyes of a great variety of Middle Easterners.”

For more information on the course or registration, contact Downing by email at, or the Global Media Research Center at 618/453-6876, or by email at