April 29 marks the one year anniversary of when I handed in my senior thesis at Mount Holyoke, ending a year-long research project on post-9/11 independent cinema. The entire thesis process was an emotionally, mentally, and even physically draining experience. I never wanted to hear the words “Neorealism,” “American Dream,” “immigrant,” or “identity” ever again.
Something has changed in the past few weeks. My post-college life hasn’t been exactly thrilling. As boredom continues to settle in, I find myself wanting to revisit my former academic life. I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the conclusions I reached and because of that I find that my thesis is on my mind more than ever. How can I improve on it now? I am going to take this stage of my life as opportunity to fix what I was never content with.
One thing I never did while writing my thesis was blog about it. I always intended to in hopes of getting feedback from others about the films and theoretical concepts I was exploring. So that is what I am going to do now — really dive into this project in a way I was not afforded to before. Maybe it will help me get some real satisfaction from the project.
So what was it all about? This is the short version.
My official thesis (the one that is allegedly somewhere in the MHC library) is titled “The Spirit of Solo: Neo-Neorealism and American Identity in Independent Cinema after September 11″.
Using a 2009 NY Times article as a jumping off point, I examined three films identified as “American Neo-Neorealist” film- Frozen River (dir. Courtney Hunt, 2008), In Between Days (dir. So Yong Kim, 2006) and Goodbye Solo (dir. Ramin Bahrani, 2008). Across these three films there are several overlapping themes and concepts: Neorealism, immigration, nationalism and art, American identity, the American Dream. I contextualized the films place in the history of American independent filmmaking and what they say, if anything at all, about post-9/11 America. And I came to some overwhelmingly positive conclusions. (The American Dream isn’t dead; Americans loves immigrants more than ever.) In retrospect, it was huge undertaking with so many layers that required more background research than I ever expected and really feel that I got into.
Where do I go from here?
There are many movies, concepts, theories, and readings that I want to revisit. My first step is to reread my entire thesis for the first time since I handed it in. (Hopefully, 100 pages later, I don’t hate myself and realize that I really wasted my time.) Then I plan on rewatching every movie related to my thesis – everything from Bonnie and Clyde to Killer of Sheep t0 Taste of Cherry to Nobody Knows to Meek’s Cutoff. And I’ll blog as I trek along. (If I don’t blog while I do it, I will never finish.) Hopefully something new and interesting comes along.
While I go through this project, please share any opinions you may have about the topic. After a year going on and on about how much I love Neorealism to biology majors who looked at me like I was crazy, it would be refreshing to hear from people who know, for instance, who Roberto Rosselini is. I think this could be a lot of fun and intriguing for people to think about, especially if they have seen the movies. I’ll post my complete filmmography (with pictures!) sometime tonight or tomorrow.
Let me know what you think.