Framing Rome: Exploration Seminar

Next Offered
Summer 2023

This exploration seminar offers 5 UW credits and will take place in Rome during early fall start (August 21-September 23, 2023). Students stay in furnished apartments shared by 3 to 5 students from the program.

As the seminar focuses on the way the city of Rome has been portrayed in cinema by Italian and American directors, Rome is an obvious choice for this course. Walking tours will help the students familiarize with the different parts of Rome and its unique history. Because of the still existing multiple layers of the different cultures that dominated Rome, the walking tours provide a unique visual opportunity for the students to understand how different is Rome from all other European cities.

The documentary that the students, divided in groups, are going to shoot as their final exam will put them even more in direct contact with the local culture. Most of these documentaries have topics that involve the everyday life in Rome (often a comparison between Italian and American culture) which put our students directly in touch with Italians and their way of thinking through interviews, discussions, etc. I believe this is a rather unique and effective way to truly stick to the label "Exploration Seminar" because the students get a formidable opportunity to truly explore and live the city of Rome.


The program does not require any language courses or strenuous work or any specific competence in shooting with a camera.


ITAL 356/CMS 320 Framing Rome (5 credits) A&H

The course is divided in two separate parts. the first which includes the first two weeks of the whole course is constituted by morning screenings of various movies (mostly by Italian and American directors). This is done to familiarize with some of the main features that form the base of the course. How is a director representing local culture? How do the main characters in the movie interact with the locals? How does the direct incorporate local monuments in the story? How does he/she portrays (frame) the city of Rome?

Students are helped in formulating these questions and finding answers by reading articles included in a course reader provided to them before the departure from Seattle. During the afternoons (two or three times each week) I lead walking tours where we visit some of the very same locations we saw in the movies. These first two weeks serve the purpose of providing the students with the tools to understand the difference between being a tourist and being a visitor in a foreign country and to verify what position they want to take in case they want to catch part of the reality they see around them in a film. During these first two weeks we also go out with camera to learn the basics of shooting with a camera. At the end of the two weeks the students divided in group of four are asked to write a storyboard in which they imagine their 15 minute film they want to shoot. After a revision with each group students are given a camera and they are invited to go out and shoot. They will also be in charge of editing the final version of the movie. This structure is what I have been using all the previous time I thought this course and it has been very successful.

Learning goals include:

To allow students to familiarize with the notion of the encounter between two cultures. Once people travel abroad they reach the foreign country with certain notions about the local culture. what happens is a sort of clash between one' own culture and the new culture. This can produce a number of reaction on the visitor as well as on the locals. Through cinema first and then when they make their own documentaries, students understand the active role they can take in breaking with stereotypes or continuing using them in representing the foreign culture with which they have become very familiar.


Program Status