Avant-Garde and Experimental Cinema - FILM6060

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module examines types of cinematic practice whose principal labels have been 'experimental', ‘avant-garde’, ‘underground’ and ‘independent’ – terms which overlap but which are by no means synonymous. It is concerned with traditions of cinema which have, more or less self-consciously, formulated radically different aesthetics from those of the orthodox feature film, in which narrative is either radically reshaped, or displaced altogether by other concerns. Throughout, the course will juxtapose films deriving from the historical avant-garde movements (like the European avant-garde of the 20s, or the post-war American scene) along with contemporary exponents of related forms of filmmaking. The first part of the course provides a conceptual and historical overview of avant-garde filmmaking in the Twentieth Century; subsequent weeks focus on specific topics, for example collage, landscape, experimental narrative, and the interaction between film, video and the new media.


Contact hours

Contact hours: 50
Private Study Hours: 250
Total Study Hours: 300

Method of assessment

ESSAY (40%) - 2000 word essay
ESSAY (50%) - 3000 word essay

Indicative reading

A. L. Rees, A History of Experimental Film and Video (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
Malcolm Le Grice, Abstract Film and Beyond (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1977).
Scott MacDonald, A Critical Cinema, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988, 1992 and 1998).
Scott MacDonald, Avant-Garde Film: Motion Studies (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
James Peterson, Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the American Avant-Garde Cinema (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1994).
P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943-78 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

- Build on existing awareness of the array of aesthetic possibilities beyond those evident in mainstream narrative cinema.
- Consolidate notions and historical traditions of modernism and the avant-garde.
- Have an overview of the historical avant-garde movements, in film and related arts.
- Critically assess the contemporary state of the avant-garde, including the arguments associated with the notion of 'postmodernism'.
- Appreciate the diversity of aesthetic possibilities within film, beyond the constraints of commercial narrative filmmaking.
- Build on their existing knowledge of various filmmaking movements, in both Europe and America, which have been described as 'avant-garde'.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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