Fall 2021 - CA 316 E100

Intermediate Selected Topics in Cinema Studies (4)

Cinema and Magic

Class Number: 7881

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 5:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    GCA 3200, GOLDCORP

  • Prerequisites:

    Nine units in CA (or FPA) courses including CA (or FPA) 136 or 137.



An intermediate course in critical studies in cinema addressing a variety of topics. This course can be repeated once for credit if the topic is different. Students with credit for CA (or FPA) 337 may take this course for further credit if the topic is different.


CA 216 and 316, Cinema and Magic

Magic is defined as “the exertion of action at a distance by means of an intervening image” and as “the awareness of the interrelatedness of all things in the world by means of a simple but refined sense perception.” Aren’t those also definitions of movies? This course aims to find out. Can movies make practical changes in the cosmos, through intervening images and heightened sense perception? Who is the magician in this act: the filmmaker, the movie itself, or the audience, and what skills does the magician require? How can cinema fight corporate magic, which appears powerful but at its core is weak? Do queer magic, global Indigenous magic, Black magic, and other kinds of situated magic have special cinematic skills? How do mise-en-scène, cinematography, editing, and special effects contribute magical effects?

We'll watch popular and experimental movies featuring magical and talismanic acts, by makers like Todd Haynes, The Otolith Group, Xu Bing, Michel Haznavicius, Jeanne C. Finley, Basma Alsharif, Achipatpong Weerasethakul, Satyajit Ray, Jonathan Monaghan, Juan Castrillón, Mena El Shazly, Cindy Mochizuki, and stars from the Small File Media Festival.

We’ll search for practical magic tips in history, anthropology, cinema studies, and philosophy, including Suely Rolnik, Alfred Gell, Haroun Farocki, Deleuze and Guattari, and medieval Islamic talismanic magic.

Assignments will not be too difficult and will include practical options.


To gain an understanding of what magic means in certain cultural contexts, to understand how the aesthetics and action particular to cinema might carry out magic, and to express these understandings in writings and/or artworks.


  • Presentation 5%
  • Film and bibliography 1 20%
  • Film and bibliography 2 20%
  • Proposal 10%
  • Peer review 5%
  • Essay or project with short text 25%
  • Attendance and participation 15%



Course readings available to download

Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

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Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.