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The Essay Film in Theory and Practice - lecture series with film screenings


Admission requirements

No admission requirements for this course.


Can you write without a pen? Do research with a camera? Think with moving images? Essay films offer a resound yes to these questions. Filmmakers, visual artists and designers have explored the hybrid genre of the essay film for decades now, and many consider it one of the most exciting forms of visual culture today. Essay films offer a dizzying amount of ways to engage with the world: they associate, juxtapose, reflect, and speculate about topics ranging the cosmic to the private.

In this course, we will investigate what we can learn from essay films and how they stimulate new ways of thinking and feeling about the world. We will explore the works of both historical and contemporary essay filmmakers, with a focus on transnational practices. Migration is the main theme that runs through the lectures, and will guide our understanding of the creative strategies essay films offer for socially engaged practices.

We keep the theme in close contact with multiple styles of essay filmmaking, with careful attention to the choices made by particular filmmakers. Each lecture is linked to the screening of several essay films. Discussed film essayists include Trinh T. Min-ha, Isaac Julien, Agnès Varda, Chris Marker, Hito Steyerl, Yvonne Rainer, Jonas Mekas, John Akomfrah, the Otolith Group, Harun Farocki, and Kidlat Tahimik, and many others.

Course objectives

Upon completion of the course, the student can:

  • Describe the main developments and characteristics of the essay film

  • Distinguish and compare relevant tendencies in essay films in relation to the course themes

  • Find and annotate relevant essay films and sources about the essay film

  • Initiate and develop an essayistic discourse about the societal problematics discussed in the course

  • Articulate original positionings about the essay film in relation to relevant course themes in both writing and speech


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

The course consists of:

  • Lectures

  • Film screenings

  • Excursion

  • Research: peer-feedback reflection writings

  • Seminar: final symposium

Assessment method


The course is assessed through a written examination with closed questions (midterm), an oral examination during a final symposium (final), and active participation to the lectures and related learning activities.


Mid-term: 25%
Final: 50%
Active participation: 25%


The mid-term can be retaken. The final oral examination can be retaken in the form of an individual oral examination.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required titles:

  • Alter, Nora and Timothy Corrigan, eds. Essays on the Essay Film (New York: Columbia UP, 2017)

  • Hollweg, Brenda & Igor Krstic, eds. World Cinema and the Essay Film: Transnational Perspectives on a Global Practice (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2021)

  • Rascaroli, Laura. The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film (London: Wallflower Press, 2009).
    Additional texts will be announced at the beginning of the course.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.

Registration Contractonderwijs.

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Rogier Schneemann (


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