24: Freshman Seminar: From Satire to Sadism: Films about Dictators

W 10-11 | 6331 Dwinelle | Instructor: Mia Fuller

Units: 1

In this seminar we will focus on how totalitarian rulers have been depicted in film. We will explore the range of portrayals of the ruler, from the dictator as buffoon to the dictator as monster. Our guiding questions will be: What purposes does it serve to regard the dead dictator as one-dimensional? How long after the end of dictatorship do sympathetic or nuanced portrayals begin to appear? Is it more controversial to treat him seriously or satirically? Beginning with Chaplin’s 1940 classic The Great Dictator, Hitler and Mussolini will feature prominently in our films; we will also visit an unnamed Latin American country, and dictator Idi Amin in Uganda.

Each student is responsible for watching the weekly film prior to our class meetings, and submitting a short written exercise to the whole group by midnight on the eve of class. In addition, each student will be responsible for one short classroom presentation, introducing the film before the class discusses it. Students are expected to attend class regularly and participate actively in discussion, and enjoy the films!


Prerequisites: none.