Law & Film

Quick Info
(3200.03)  Seminar
Professor R. Buchanan
3 credit(s)  2 hour(s);
Seminar, discussion
Upper Year Research & Writing Requirement

Images form an increasingly important vehicle of communication in the digital era, and the legal field is not exempt from these developments.  This course will provide students with tools for critically engaging with the expanding landscape of visual media in public culture, courtrooms and other legal advocacy settings through the study of images on screen.  In addition, through the close consideration of a diverse selection of films, both documentary and fictional, the course will examine of key legal/cultural concepts such as justice, judgment, retribution, memory and reconciliation.  It will assess, analyze and seek to understand the visual and cultural contexts through which the meanings and institutions of law are understood, interpreted and constantly re-negotiated in Canada and in the world.   We will study the contestations of legal power by examining the ways in which lawyers, the legal system, and issues of justice are represented by a variety of filmmakers.   Among other questions, the course will consider whether insights gained from the study of film might help to engender a more responsive and inclusive legal order, within Canada as well as internationally.  Films to be studied will include Black Panther, Unforgiven, Minority Report, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.  
Students will be guided towards the development of critical and generative attitudes to the role and value of the visual in law through the readings, reflective writing exercises, mini-lectures and focused seminar discussion.  Most weeks during the semester, students will be expected to preview a feature length film as well as assigned readings in advance of the seminar. Weekly seminar participation, one class presentation and five short online reflections will make up (40%) of the course grade, while the primary evaluation (60%) will be based on a student’s final essay, on a topic to be determined in consultation with the Professor. This course will satisfy the upper year writing requirement.