Short courses


Militant Cinema and Activist Film

  • Monday evenings (7pm to 9pm)
  • 5 weeks


This online evening course explores the concepts and techniques of filmmaking, film viewing and dissemination as forms of political action.

You'll study key histories, texts and audio-visual material spanning a multitude of militant film movements from around the globe. You'll also read essential texts and discuss topics such as international law, human rights, and contemporary genocide. 

Classes are held on Monday evenings, from 7pm to 9pm, over 5 weeks.

This course is run by the Open City Docs School, based in UCL's Department of Anthropology.

Who it's for

This course is open to anyone who is interested in the subject. You don't need any particular knowledge or experience to attend. 

Course content

Week 1: Emergency cinema and protest film 

This session considers the:

  • dichotomy and overlaps between protest films and films about protest
  • concept of “Emergency Cinema”
  • role of atrocity footage
  • politics of pixellation
  • spaces of non appearance
  • idea of “filming freedom”.

You'll analyse activist videos and footage of state-backed violence from across the globe, including Hong Kong, Iran, Palestine/Israel, Syria, anti-gay violence in Russia, and anti-black police violence in the USA.

Week 2: Terror, spectacle and world revolution

This session dissects the psychology and intentions behind the militant and terrorist actions of radical groups and their audio-visual documentation and representation. Crucial to this session are questions pertaining to the notion of mediating and remediating terror as a spectacle for audience consumption, owning publicity, self-promotion and “playing” global media outlets.

The session will start by analysing radical films from the early 1970s, such as those of the Japanese political avant-garde, and considering key texts on the concepts of “rerouting” and “hijacking”. You'll then look at a more contemporary setting, interrogating global media attention towards ISIS/ISIL circa 2015.

Topics covered will include terrorism, (re)mediation, (re)presentation, hijacking, and détournement.

Week 3: Revolt, genocide and resistance 

This session examines the audio-visual material that emerged in the context of popular revolution and mass extermination in Syria since 2011.

You'll study the legal and conceptual definition of genocide, as a means of demonstrating how the crime can be understood to have taken place in Syria in the 21st century. You'll also watch a series of Syrian activist films and video which resist the “narrative component of genocide”. The resistance concept of “wujoud” will also be introduced as a framework of interpretation and methodology underpinning a body of Syrian audiovisual activist praxis.

Topics covered will include: genocide, denial, dehumanisation, disinformation, frames of visibility, wujoud, resistance, atrocity footage, embodied resistance, and the absent image.

Week 4: “They do not exist” - Palestinian militant cinema 

This session will present a historical overview of Palestinian militant cinema, from its birth in 1968 following the establishment of the PLO and the Palestine Film Unit, to contemporary video art activism.

Palestinian films, in their post-six day war inception, strove to function as an extension of armed struggle, serving as a tool for self-representation and as an assertion of visibility in the face of global powers that had attempted to ignore their existence and their struggle for dignity and statehood. You'll analyse the representation of Palestinian people and their struggle by non-Palestinian filmmakers. You'll also consider contemporary Palestinian video art, against topics such as audience reception, awareness of the Palestinian cause, and evidence with regards to human rights violations and claim to land.

Topics covered will include: (self)representation, image construction, (in)visibility, and evidence.

Week 5: Whose voice? Third world liberation, “peaceniks” and visibility 

This session looks at the tensions, contradictions and competing narratives that continue to emerge among opposition and activist communities in the Western world and elsewhere.

You'll start by charting the division between Black students and non-black anti-Vietnam war groups in the USA (and Britain) in the 1960s. The former was primarily concerned with the livelihoods and liberation of their own community in their respective countries, the latter with opposing Western government interventions in foreign lands. This dichotomy will then be brought to a contemporary context through the reading of key texts in postcolonial theory, supplemented with screenings and discussion around the question of who controls the discourse of resistance, and who gets to be its spokesperson?

You'll then discuss the divisions between segments of self-styled “anti-war”/“anti-imperialist” groups in the Western world, and those at the receiving end of state-perpetrated atrocities by regimes in countries such as Syria, Iran, China or Russia. This discussion will involve a selection of films, incorporating works where these divisions have been recorded and interpreted in documentary and activist output. Discussion will include the topics of embodied knowledge of indigenous populations, their cases for armed struggle, and the critiquing of neo-isolationism, the fixity of colonial stereotypes, and a phenomenon referred to as the “markets of solidarity”.

Topics covered will include: representation, visibility, liberation, violence, imagined narratives, embodied knowledge, solidarity, stereotypes and fixity.

Course team

Mario Hamad

Mario Hamad

Mario is an activist filmmaker and genocide studies scholar engaged in a Militant and Expanded film practice. He's also a Visiting Practitioner at University of the Arts London, teaching experimental and activist audio-visual production.

His doctorate, gained from University of the Arts London, developed and contributed to resistance strategies in the context of state-perpetrated extermination in Syria. He's a participant in the cross-institutional Committee on Activism, and the founder of Wujoud Collective, a gathering of Syrian and Levantine civil society activists involved in the creation of audio-visual interventions as political action against tyranny. His film-based work has been exhibited, installed and presented at conferences, festivals and art galleries throughout the UK, Europe and the Arab world.

Course information last modified: 30 Nov 2022, 16:01