Portia Cobb, Associate Professor/Instructor

Portia Cobb, Associate Professor/Instructor

Film 150 Multicultural America

Spring 2012

Portia Cobb, Associate Professor/Instructor

229-6015 film

Office-hours by appointment Tu/Thu between 1p and 2pm or following class on Fridays.

Mitchell b73a

Film 150 Multicultural America is a cross-cultural and interdisciplinary study of U.S. ethnic and racial identities and experiences shown through film, related media and performance-based art.

This humanities and cultural diversity course is designed to fulfill part of your general education (GER) requirements. You are required to complete a Service Learning component as part of this course. Service learning will involve approximately 1.5 to 3-hours a week for no less than 36-hours for the full the semester in a placement with a partner organization coordinated through agreement with me the course instructor and in compliance with UWM’s Institute for Service.

Options for Service partners are available on the ISL website


The emphasis should be on learning in the placement environment. It is not possible to pass this course if you do not register for or keep your agreed upon commitment to participate and complete a service-learning assignment during the full semester.

Course objective:

My aim in this course is to heighten your awareness of our collective role in the construction of race, ethnicity and difference through the viewing of films, and interactive engagement with media, media art and new genre. The end result that I hope for is that the stories in these examples inspire the story or stories that you will create and present at the end of this semester. These are stories will reveal the experience you gained while learning about community.

Through social engagement, research, reflection and applied production, the desired outcome is the development of a creative and collective body of works expressed by each of you in the form of an artifact that might be a digital essay, artist book, musical composition or video. In essence, a public-history document.

Each spring semester, I recommend that you take advantage of public programs on campus through the Union Cinema Theater and Social-Cultural programming-which reflect the celebration of a diverse student body and community. Please pick up calendars in the Union, the film office (Mitchell B-70) or distributed on the event table outside this classroom. You will be given .5 credits for every 3 events you attend and write about. You are only required to attend 3 public screening events and post a reflection about the experience in discussion on D2L.

Institute for Service Learning office is located in Holton Hall, G26. Their phone is 229-2348 and email is .

There are two forms that you will need to download from the ISL home page. One is the Service Learning Agreement and the other is the actual Service Learning Contract.

Please take time to read all of the information on their web site http://www4.uwm.edu/isl/

so that you will be prepared to ask any questions when a representative from that office visits our classroom next week on Feb 3rd.

Important Deadlines/ and dates to remember:

ISL Student assistance with placements: Feb 3 class presentation by ISL staff

Placement selections close February 24th

Final Time sheets due: Last day of this class Friday, May 4th, no later than May 11th.

Last day of Service Learning: May 11th

Recommended texts: The primary text for me is film, however, I will assign directed reading from book chapter or essays I place on reserve for this course through the UWM Golda Meir Library electronic reserves (found under my name and course number). Some selections will be taken from these individual books.

  • Beat of a Different Drum: The Untold Stories of African Americans Forging Their Own Paths in Work and Life. By Dax-Devlon Ross
  • The Zinn Reader, Writings on Disobedience and Democracy, by Howard Zinn
  • Privilege, Power and Difference 2nd edition by Allan G. Johnson
  • A Different Mirror, Ronald Takaki
  • *Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World, Wangari Maathai (Nobel Peace Prize Winner) we will be reading this book during the semester-chapter by chapter and it chronicles the story of the Green Belt Movement in East Africa.


Media Tools:

The Film Department Equipment checkout is located here in Mitchell Hall and you will be eligible to check out flip cameras and basic HD camcorders for this course. You will have to comply by the rules of the department and will be liable for costs associated with late returns, damage or loss of the equipment you borrow. Those policies will be discussed in detail prior to your first production assignment.

You also have the option of borrowing equipment from The UWM Libraries Equipment Checkout Program located in the west wing of the Golda Meir Library, lower level. As a current UWM student, you are eligible to borrow equipment-on a first come, first served basis. You can reserve equipment (flip cameras, laptops, digital photo cameras, digital video cameras, etc): go to their web-site for specific information: http://www.uwm.edu/Libraries/media/media.html

The goals of the Learning and Service experience for this course are:

  • To gain a better knowledge of Milwaukee's distinct communities and cultures.
  • To grow one's capacity for working productively with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • To learn more about oneself by reflecting on the opportunities and challenges provided by community engagement.
  • To deepen one's understanding of the issues raised by film and media which speak to or represent those who are marginalized in American Culture/society-by engaging discussion and action toward cultivating diverse human relationships.
  • To expand powers of critical thinking by analyzing issues and problems from unfamiliar points of view (i.e. putting yourself in someone else's shoes).

Other resources:

The Golda Meir Library has an extensive digital media archive that you may access electronically from your computers. You will find information about the collection at: http://www4.uwm.edu/libraries/digilib/


Because this class meets once a week, 3 or more unexcused absences will result in the loss of a full grade point. Grades are weighted.

20 points

  • Co-operative and considerate and active engagement in the curricular activities which make up this course (discussion, reflection, directed reading, web research & film and video and media viewings).
  • Learning through service commitment and completion. Failure to obtain and sign up for and complete the hours expected of you, will result in a fail (F) grade in the course. Completed paper work (time sheet and signed contract) must be returned to me or directly to the Institute for Service learning by deadline (to be determined).


  • The successful development and completion of a final public history video, artist book, blog, digital diary, or digital story that examines critiques or responds to your individual or collective service and learning experience.

Changes will be made with ample notification to this timeline.

Week One: January 27 Who Are We?

In Class exercise:

With Paper and pen or pencil answer these questions

  1. Religious Practice: Then and Now
  2. Class background (working class, middle class, poor) Then and Now
  3. Number of parents (both parents, single parent, father or mother)
  4. Number of siblings-your position (#1, 2, etc)
  5. One thing you like about your family
  6. One thing you found difficult about your family
  7. Finish this sentence: In my family my role was/is…
  8. How has this shaped your role as citizen in the community.

Film shown: Taking Root: The Vision of Maathai Wangari

We will not see it in its entirety. It is on 2-hour reserve for our class in the Media area at the GM library on campus (lower level).

I recommend that you read her book “Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World” by Wangari Maathai

Reading assignment for next week: “Privilege, Oppression and Difference.” (author Allan Johnson) found on Electronic reserve through Golda Meir under my name and course number.

  • D2L discussion topic on this reading will be active following class today. Discussion activity must be submitted 24-hours prior to each class.

Week Two: Friday, Feb 3rd

Screening of documentary: Freedom Riders

Power-point review of Allan essay on Privilege with discussion.

ISL visitor and process of selecting a venue.

Homework: View T.E.D. Presentation titled, The Danger of a Single Story.

Reflection about this topic in d2L due before class next week.

First production assignment given (recording of your own story).

Feb 10: screening of “You Can’t be Neutral on a Moving Train.” Biography of radical historian, Howard Zinn

In class reflection and discussion to follow.

(Monday, Feb 13th Recommended screening in the Union: Black Power Mix tape.” at 7pm)

Feb 17: Screening of “Weather Underground.”

Production assignment and prep

Feb 20, 7pm Union Cinema Screening recommendation: “Louder Than A Bomb,” doc about Chicago Area Schools an its annual spoken word competition.

Feb 24: Screening of “Better This World.”

Begin “Actualities” project and framework for Public History Project

(recordings that touch on these themes: Memory, home, & community).

*Collaborative in-class assignment and workshop.

Recording and editing assignment given.

Feb. 27th 7pm-Recommended Union Cinema film: “Seven Songs for Malcolm X.” Dir. Isaac Julien.

March 2 (Service Day)

Listen and respond to “Third-siders” NPR link to be posted on d2L

Reading assignment given.

March 9: Screening Reel Injuns. Discussion

Service Learning review.

March 16: Screening of I-Hotel about the brutal displacement of disenfranchised residents of a low income hotel in San Francisco

Reading to be decided. First

-March 18 through 25 spring break-

*Special Recommended participation credit: Community event and Screening of film Precious Knowledge. Filmmaker Eren McGinnis from Tucson, Arizona present-details to be announced.

March 30: Class presentations of works in progress (more details to come)

Reading assignment given

April 6: Film Taking Root about activist Wangari Maathai.

Planning & organizing final presentations.

In class reflection.

April 13: The Garden

*Latin American Film Festival in Union begins through the 15th

April 20: Work in progress reviews. Service-learning reviews.

April 27: Final project discussion/with possible community involvement

May 4: Last Day of Class Special presentation with invited guests

May 11 optional (last day I will accept any signed time sheets).



If you will need accommodations in order to meet any of the requirements of this course, please contact me as soon as possible. Feel free to visit me at my office by appointment to discuss assignments or any questions or requests you have.

The Department of Film follows UWM academic policies which are posted on the departmental bulletin board or available online at


Religious observance: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/acad%2Badmin_policies/S1.5.htm

It is the policy of the board of regents that students' sincerely held religious beliefs should be reasonably accommodated with respect to all examinations and other academic requirements. The board of regents adopts this chapter in order to ensure that all institutions of the university of Wisconsin system have in place appropriate mechanisms for ensuring the reasonable accommodation of students' sincerely held beliefs, and for appeals related to these matters.

Military: http://www4.uwm.edu/current_students/military_call_up.cfm

incompletes: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/acad%2Badmin_policies/S31.pdf

Discriminatory conduct: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/acad%2Badmin_policies/S47.pdf

Academic misconduct: http://www4.uwm.edu/acad_aff/policy/academicmisconduct.cfm

Grade appeal procedures: http://www4.uwm.edu/secu/acad%2Badmin_policies/S28.htm

Complaint Procedures