Latinx Film and Media

Syllabus

Department of Black and Latino Studies

Baruch College • CUNY

Spring 2024

Course: LTS 3052-DMWA (15188)- Latinx Film and Media

Professor: Rojo Robles, PhD

Email: rojo.roblesmejias@baruch.cuny.edu

*I respond to emails only from Monday to Friday during regular working hours 9:00 am-5:00 pm. Estimated time to respond 1-2 days. *

Office (student) hours: Mondays and Wednesdays 9:20-10:20 (Office 4272) or by appointment. This designated time is to discuss any questions, needs, or concerns about the class. We can meet briefly if you have a quick question or schedule a longer session if you need help with coursework or content. 

Course blog: https://blogs.baruch.cuny.edu/latinxscreens/

Class meets:  Mondays and Wednesdays 12:50-2:05 pm (Room B – Vert 13-150) 

Weekly announcements: Thursdays

Institutional course description: This course surveys Latinx film and media to expand knowledge and understanding of the historical and contemporary film and media by Latinx people in the United States. The course will explore feature films, documentaries, TV episodes, and music videos (made by or about Latinos/as/x) to provide a holistic introduction to film and cultural Studies. Topics for study may include the representation of NYC as a Caribbean, Latinx, or Afro-diasporic city. They may also expand the scope of critical inquiry by looking at the lives, struggles, and joys of Mexican and Central American migrants in the Mexico/US borderlands, the Southwest, and Chicago. By examining these audiovisual narratives and themes influential to major Latinx communities, students will be able to analyze and articulate issues of (neo) colonialism, gender, sexuality, race, social class, migration, urban life, and access to citizenship, resources, and institutions.

Course description for this section: This course provides a survey of Latinx audiovisual works to broaden the knowledge and understanding of the historical and present-day cultural contributions of Latinx groups in the United States. Through synchronous and asynchronous viewings and synchronous discussions of feature films, documentaries, TV episodes, photographs, and other media (made by or about Latinos/as/x), this class will provide a holistic introduction to Film, visuality, and Cultural Studies. In the class, an exploration of diverse themes awaits, offering a nuanced understanding of the multifaceted Latinx experience. The syllabus will touch upon crucial aspects such as community activism, music, policing, the carceral state, and the criminalization of Latinx youth. The class will delve into the rich musical traditions shaping the community, while also addressing the significant impact of Afro-Latinidades and the intricate lives of migrants. Moreover, it will illuminate the intersectionality of Latinx identity with queer and trans experiences, delving into LGBTQ+ rights, representation, and community organizing. Lastly, the course will critically examine practices of Latinx self-representation in media, art, and other cultural platforms, emphasizing the importance of breaking stereotypes and fostering authentic narratives.

Student-centered pedagogy: The student-centered approach puts participants’ interests first by acknowledging their needs as central to the learning experience. Rather than designing the course from the professor’s perspective, it is designed from the learner’s perspective. Each student will select their learning path via an option-based pedagogy.

Learning goals: Our focus is on studying US Latinx cultures and visuality. We will emphasize their intersections with transnational Latin American and Caribbean lives as we develop these learning goals:

.Employ interdisciplinary methods to construct and reinforce arguments focusing on the knowledge production and audiovisual practices of US Latinx communities.

.Effectively communicate ideas and arguments through written, oral, and digital audiovisual mediums.

. Develop comprehensive skills in evaluating social and racial justice issues through multi/transdisciplinary perspectives, along with honing research, problem-solving, and creative scholarship abilities.

Course objectives: During this course, students will:

.Explore contemporary Latina/o/x audiovisual works and their transnational impact on history, cultural dynamics, and racial identities.

.Enhance understanding of Latin Americans and Caribbean people’s cultural values, artistic expressions, and historical significance in New York City and the US.

.Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of colonialism, race, ethnicity, class, migration, and diasporic formations as they relate to the experiences of Latinas/os/x, including expressions of resistance and cultural affirmation.

Statement on grades and assessments: Grades do not reflect the subjective character of learning nor societal issues of access and equity. Everybody learns in different and complex ways that grades usually cannot reflect. This course will focus on qualitative assessment. Qualitative assessment is motivated by the intention of understanding how people make meaning of and experience the sources they engage with, something we will discuss further during the class. I will not use grades for individual assignments but add points based on your self-evaluations. I will also comment and ask questions that engage your work. At the end of the term, I will add all the points you have to determine your final grade.

Grade breakdown: 

Exams: 20% + 20%=40%

Class presentation: 5%

Proposal: 10%

Final project: 25%

Attendance: 10%

Participation: 10%

Self-evaluation: You will reflect critically on your own learning (with specific questions and rubrics) and evaluate your midterm and final project. After interacting with your work, I will give you feedback on your midterm and optionally on your final. If there is a disparity between your self-evaluations and my appreciation of your work, I will reach out to discuss it with you.

Grading:

93-100 A; 90-92 =A-; 87-89 =B+; 83-86 =B; 80-82 =B-; 77-79 = C+

73-76 = C; 70-72 = C-; 67-70 = D+; 63-66 = D; 60-62 = D-; <60 = F

Attendance and punctuality: Students are expected to attend, be on time, and stay for the full duration of all in-person sessions. Lateness is counted as arrival beyond the first 10 minutes of class. After three unexcused absences and/or lateness, your standing in class will be affected and I will lower your final grade accordingly (for example, an A becomes a B). Chronic lateness and/or absence will result in dismissal from the course.

Assignments:

I. Class presentation

A group of students will research and analyze an assigned audiovisual work and a complemental essay from the syllabus. Your class presentation is an opportunity for you to practice your communication skills. It should also demonstrate your ability to design an argument based on your close analysis of the audiovisual and written texts assigned for the day’s discussion. You are strongly encouraged to use slides, images, sound, or text to help visualize and engage the class. Submit an outline of your presentation as well as any slides, clips, or other materials used. 

Present your breakdown orally based on the prompts below (8-10 minutes): 

.What are the central ideas of this writer, thinker, and, or creator?

.Analyze one specific section of the film with an excerpt by your assigned author that best communicates what you identified in the question above. What analogies and critical connections can you establish between the audiovisual work and the essay?

.Select one specific element of mise-en-scene (costume, lighting, camera frames or movements, sound, music, actors’ movements, or positions) and examine how this artistic choice enhances or adds nuance to the central concerns of the audiovisual piece. 

.How does your analysis of these pieces relate to or is informed by other course sources and discussions?

*After the presentation, you will respond to a short Q&A with the professor and classmates. *

II. Exams

The in-class exams will consist of four critical and comparative questions about the class sources (audiovisual works and essays). They will allow you to practice your analytical skills.

First exam

Focus on the following topics:

.the modernization of Puerto Rico and population control policy (La operación)

.redlining and politics of abandonment (Decade of Fire and “Necropolis”)

.race, hip hop history and its erasures, and the contributions of Latines to the genre (From Mambo to Hip Hop and “Between Blackness and Latinidad in the Hip Hop Zone)

.Héctor Lavoe as a transnational Puerto Rican figure (El cantante and “Nothing Connects Us All but Imagined Sounds”)

.the notion and practices of “labeling” and its effects on Black-Latine youth (“The Labeling Type” and When The See Us)

.the impact of the prison industrial complex in Black-Latine communities (When They See Us and “The Prison Industrial Complex”)

Second exam

Focus on the following topics:

.Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art methods and focus on Afro-Puerto Rican-Caribbean and diasporic histories, figures, histories, and experiences (Basquiat; Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child and “King of the Line”)

.Transnational musical and social experiences through cumbia and sonideros (I’m no Longer Here and “Mexican Deejays and the Transnational Space of Youth Dances”)

.Interpersonal and societal violence against trans-people and activism (The Garden Left Behind and “Queer and Trans Liberation Requires Abolition.”)

.Gentrification, physical and cultural displacement (Gentefied’s “The Grapevine”)

III. Proposal

In a group, you will develop a written proposal outlining your ideas for either a photo essay or a video essay focused on a Latinx neighborhood in NYC. This proposal will serve as a detailed plan for your creative exploration, connecting personal experiences with course sources. 

Some of the themes to explore are: community activism; sports; policing; the criminalization of Latinx youth; music cultures; Afro-Latinidades; migrant lives; queer and trans lives, cultures and organizing; practices of Latinx self-representation

Instructions:

Introduction:

Provide a brief overview of your chosen medium (photo essay or video essay).

Introduce the Latinx neighborhood you plan to explore and explain your interest or connection to it. Clearly state how your project will draw inspiration from three different sources discussed during the semester.

Project scope:

Define the scope of your project by outlining the main themes and observations you aim to capture in the neighborhood. Specify the connections between your chosen medium (photo or video) and the course sources.

Connection to course sources:

Identify the three sources from the course that will influence your project. Explain how these sources resonate with your exploration and why they are crucial to understanding the Latinx neighborhood.

Methodology:

Describe your approach to capturing moments (for both photo and video proposals).

If it’s a photo essay, outline how you plan to choose and sequence images. If it’s a video essay, detail your script and how visuals will complement the narrative.

Narrative structure:

Provide an overview of the narrative structure you intend to follow. If it’s a photo essay, explain how each section will unfold. If it’s a video essay, outline the structure of your script, including key sections.

Analysis and reflection:

Discuss the significance of the chosen moments or images about the neighborhood and the course sources. Explain how your project will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Latinx community, referencing specific discussions and ideas from the course.

Resources:

List any additional resources or references you plan to consult during your project.

For a video essay, additionally mention any tools or software you intend to use for editing.

Timeline:

Provide a realistic timeline for the completion of your project, including key milestones.

Conclusion:

Summarize the main points of your proposal. Conclude by emphasizing the potential impact and relevance of your project to the broader course themes. Ensure your proposal is well-organized, clearly articulated, and demonstrates a thoughtful connection between personal exploration and course concepts.

IV. Final project

After receiving my feedback on your proposal. You may complete one of the following two options for your final project:

Option 1: A collective video project

A group of students will create a short documentary or video essay exploring a Latinx neighborhood in NYC, drawing inspiration from themes discussed in three different sources covered during the semester. The video essay should provide insights into the richness and diversity of Latinx culture and experiences through a blend of candid shots, sequences, and more orchestrated portraits. The narrative should be presented in a short autobiographical format, connecting personal observations, thoughts, and experiences within the neighborhood to the course sources. Ensure the short documentary or video essay is well-edited, with a cohesive narrative and effective use of visuals and sounds to enhance the storytelling experience.

Instructions:

.Explore and capture:

Visit and capture footage in an NYC Latinx neighborhood. Record a variety of scenes, exploring your selected themes.

.Create a documentary or video essay:

Develop a documentary or video essay script that incorporates the captured footage.

.Script sections:

a. Introduction (Section 1):

Introduce the neighborhood, your relationship or interest in it, and connections to three sources discussed in class. Summarize the main observations and perspectives to be explored in the video essay.

b. Exploration and narration (Sections 2, 3, and 4):

Integrate video clips. Analyze and narrate relevant moments in your neighborhood exploration and personal life that illustrate connections to course topics.

Address the following questions:

.Why are these images and experiences essential, and why were they chosen to represent the neighborhood?

.How do they connect to the sources and discussions in class? Discuss any disparities or similarities between your experiences and the creators’ perspectives.

.Use supporting evidence from the sources, and incorporate relevant secondary sources found during your research.

c. Conclusion (Section 5):

Re-state the main themes and intentions behind your narrative. Reflect on how this assignment deepens your understanding of yourself and provides a nuanced perspective on the Latina/o/x community. Discuss how your audiovisual exploration contributes to the broader class discussions.

(8-10 minutes)

Option 2: A collective photo essay

A group of students will create a personal photo essay in a Latinx neighborhood inspired by themes explored in three sources discussed during the semester. The photo essay would glimpse the richness and diversity of Latinx culture and experience in a Latinx enclave in the city through candid shots and portraits. You will integrate the photos into a personal essay, a short work of autobiographical nonfiction characterized by a sense of intimacy. Your essay will relate to your observations, intimate thoughts, and experiences within that neighborhood. You will not simply offer a retelling of events or descriptions. Your photo essay should involve a learning process integrating a reflection on three sources analyzed in the class.

Instructions:

1. Visit and take photographs in an NYC Latinx neighborhood.

2. Write a personal essay about the neighborhood incorporating photographs. 

Follow these steps:

a. Section 1: Introduce the neighborhood, your relationship or interest, and the connections to a source discussed in the class. Summarize the main observations and perspectives you will discuss in your photo essay.

b. Sections 2, 3, and 4: Incorporate pictures. Choose, analyze, and narrate relevant moments in your neighborhood exploration and perhaps your life that illustrate your connections with the topics. Explain them in your own words. Use these general questions as guidance:

1. Why do you think these images and experiences are essential? Why did you choose them to represent the neighborhood?

2. How do they connect to the course’s sources and classroom discussions? Do you think what you observed and experienced matches what the creators and thinkers presented in their work? How?

3. You should present supporting evidence from the film and essay. You may also use secondary sources that you find during your research.

c. Section 5: Re-state the main themes and intentions behind your narrative. How does doing this assignment allow you to understand yourself better and to have a more nuanced perspective of a Latina/o/x community? How did your discussion intervene in our more extensive conversations in class?

(8-10 pages/ Double Space/ Times New Roman/ Font Size: 12)

Statement on academic honesty: Learning involves the pursuit of honesty and dialogue which cannot be achieved by presenting someone else’s work as your own. Writing in college means taking part in a conversation with other scholars, writers, and thinkers. By using academic citation, you demonstrate the relationship between your ideas and those of others. On the other hand, plagiarism is the failure to prove that relationship. I want to hear your voices and read the ways you get involved in the dialogue. Part of your academic experience is to enter these conversations by learning different ways to engage with sources. 

If questions remain, ask me. For the record, if you violate the precepts of academic honesty, you will receive a zero for the assignment.

Baruch College guides and resources 

Statement on missing work: If you have concerns about assignment due dates or the use of technology, please, let me know ahead of time. I am ready to work with you. I will deduct the full percentage of any missing work from your final grade. You are encouraged to email me or request a meeting for any questions or further clarification of any readings, audiovisual pieces, and assignments.  

Beware of these patterns:

.Submitting AI-generated work as your own. This practice counts as plagiarism and will be handled accordingly. I will provide detailed prompts and models for your major assignments throughout the semester.

.Submitting work post-deadlines. If you are experiencing delays or obstacles of any sort, communicate your needs as early as possible.

.Disappearing from the class and re-appearing at the end of the semester asking to make up all the work. Similarly unacceptable: attending classes without submitting assignments as scheduled and asking to make up all work at the end, or submitting only the final project and asking it to count as the total grade. 

Course materials: I will try my best to find free versions of all the audiovisual works but at some point, you may have to rent some of the films or log in to Netflix. Regarding readings, all will be available on Blackboard as PDFs.

Languages: Although I will conduct the class in English if you feel more comfortable in either Spanish, Spanglish, Portuguese, or French, you may also write and create in any of these languages.

Looking for a minor or major? Make BLS your choice: The Department of Black and Latino Studies offers interdisciplinary, intersectional approaches to the study of the ideas, history, politics, literature, music, religions, cultures, economic and social contributions of people of African and Latin American descent, including the United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Our courses practice critical thinking and analysis skills, advanced writing, communication, and research. They also engage in digital literacies, collaboration, and project management— essential workforce skills. The interdisciplinary structure of our courses also offers excellent preparation for graduate school and careers in education, law, business, public relations, marketing, journalism, the arts, and education.