Religion in Film


    General Information

    Professor Information

    Professor Photo
    Erin Weston
    (305) 348-1329
    DM 322B
    (305) 348-1879
    By appointment
    Please use Blackboard Messages

    Course Description And Purpose

    Cinema is probably the most popular art form of the modern era. It has been highly influential in how society understands itself, and while it is not necessarily meant to be factual or historical in nature, it is often perceived as such. One cannot deny the influence of this medium generally, but also specifically, on our broader ideas of religion. In this course, students will examine religious themes, images, symbols, and characters in various feature and short films, a specific method of critical analysis, and the religious and societal effects of contemporary films.

    Course Objectives

    Students will be able to:

    • Examine the role of media in the production of belief and understanding.
    • Identify several basic dimensions of religion in film. 
    • Evaluate how artistic choices impact the viewer’s perception of the religion, and analyze how theologically accurate these depictions may be. 
    • Examine the relationship between artistic choices and mythmaking.
    • Recognize how artistic choices can impact our understanding of our own religions and other religious traditions around the world.
    • Explore world religions through various film depictions. 

    Important Information


    Please review the FIU's Policies webpage. The policies webpage contains essential information regarding guidelines relevant to all courses at FIU, as well as additional information about acceptable netiquette for online courses.

    Technical Requirements & Skills

    One of the greatest barriers to taking an online course is a lack of basic computer literacy. By computer literacy we mean being able to manage and organize computer files efficiently, and learning to use your computer's operating system and software quickly and easily. Keep in mind that this is not a computer literacy course; but students enrolled in online courses are expected to have moderate proficiency using a computer. Please go to the "What's Required" webpage to find out more information on this subject.

    Please visit our Technical Requirements webpage for additional information.

    Accessibility And Accommodation

    Please visit our ADA Compliance webpage for information about accessibility involving the tools used in this course.

    Please visit Blackboard's Commitment Accessibility webpage for more information. 

    For additional assistance please contact FIU's Disability Resource Center.

    Course Prerequisites

    There are no prerequisites for this course.

    Proctored Exam Policy

    Please note that the information contained in this section applies only if your course requires a proctored exam.

    Through a careful examination of this syllabus, it is the student’s responsibility to determine whether this online course requires proctored exams. Please visit our Student Proctored Exam Instructions webpage for important information concerning proctored exams, proctoring centers, and important forms.

    Expectations Of This Course

    This is an online course, which means most (if not all) of the course work will be conducted online. Expectations for performance in an online course are the same for a traditional course. In fact, online courses require a degree of self-motivation, self-discipline, and technology skills which can make these courses more demanding for some students.

    Students are expected to:

    • Review the how to get started information located in the course content
    • Introduce yourself to the class during the first week by posting a self introduction video in the appropriate blog
    • Take the practice quiz to ensure that your computer is compatible with Blackboard
    • Interact online with instructor/s and peers
    • Review and follow the course calendar
    • Log in to the course at least 3 times per week.
    • Respond to discussion boards, blogs and journal postings within 3 days
    • Respond to messages within 3 days
    • Submit assignments by the corresponding deadline

    The instructor will:

    • Log in to the course at least 5 times per week
    • Respond to discussion boards, blogs and journal postings within 3 days or sooner
    • Respond to [emails/messages] within 3 days or sooner
    • Grade assignments within 2 weeks or sooner of the assignment deadline

    Course Detail

    Course Communication

    Communication in this course will take place via Messages

    Messages is a private and secure text-based communication system which occurs within a course among its Course members. Users must log on to Blackboard to send, receive, or read messages. The Messages tool is located on the Course Menu, on the left side of the course webpage. It is recommended that students check their messages routinely to ensure up-to-date communication. 

    Visit our Writing Resources webpage for more information on professional writing and technical communication skills.

    Structure Of The Course

    This class is a religious studies course where we will be looking at religion through the lens of film. The course is constructed in three main modules. The first section will cover a brief introduction to film. We will be introduced to some of the key elements of film making in order to help us better understand and analyze the films that we will be watching over the course of the semester. The second module uses Ninian Smart’s Seven Dimensions of Religion as the basis to explore various world religions as they are portrayed in specific films. The third module will focus on student film critique presentations and film wiki project.

    Introduce Yourself Video Blog

    Blogs are an open communications tool for students to share their thoughts. Here you can post text, images, links and attachments, open for comments.

    1. This course has 1 assignment untilizing the Video Blog tool. Within the lesson 1 folder you will find information on how to upload a video to YouTube and how to upload a video through Video Everywhere into the Introduce Yourself blog.  Students will upload all course videos to their personal YouTube channel and then into the assignment's particular blog by the due date noted in the Blogs portion of this syllabus:
    2. Blogs can be found in the Bog portion of the course menu or within the content area of the course.


    Blogs are an open communications tool for students to share their thoughts. Here you can post text, images, links and attachments, open for comments.

    There will be eight blog topics. The topics will be posted on "Blog Topics" folder in the Course Content. Students must post well thought-out comments based on the required work throughout the semester. Participation is required and represents 10% of your final grade. Both the quantity and the quality of your posts will contribute to your grade. All students are required to participate in all the eight topics (at least 200 words). Blogs must be posted during the period they are assigned and are due by noon on the Monday after the end of the lesson.

    Once you have composed your original posting, take some time to carefully review other postings within your discussion group. Pick two that are most interesting to you and provide meaningful, detailed, and constructive feedback.

    Keep in mind that your discussion forum postings will likely be seen by other members of the course. Care should be taken when determining what to post


    A Journal reflection will be due at the end of each lesson, which will only be seen by you and the professor. These reflections will only be graded that they were completed, but not for content. This will provide an opportunity for students to interact privately with the professor in regards to the course content feel free to share your personal views on the film and how it affect your life. Journals may be a short paragraph, but must be turned in on time to receive credit. Altogether, the journal entries will be worth 9% of your overall grade.


    There will be fully online quizzes covering each lesson. Your quiz scores will be averaged together for a final quiz score worth 20% of your final grade. All quizzes consist of 10 multiple-choice questions, and each question will be worth 10 points. A quiz will be available from Tuesday 12:00 am till Monday 11:59pm. Once you open a quiz, you will have 20 minutes to complete and submit it. You will have two attempts to take a quiz. The highest score will be counted.

    In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the "Practice Quiz" from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. It is your responsibility to make sure your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements.

    Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet. If you need further assistance please contact FIU Online Support Services.


    There will be one cumulative exam based on the readings and materials covered throughout the course. The exam will be worth 20% of your final grade. The exam consists of multiple choice and true/false questions worth 2 points each. Exams will be available for one week from 12:00am to 11:59pm. Once you open an exam, you will have 100 minutes to complete and submit it.

    In order to mitigate any issues with your computer and online assessments, it is very important that you take the "Practice Quiz" from each computer you will be using to take your graded quizzes and exams. It is your responsibility to make sure your computer meets the minimum hardware requirements.

    Assessments in this course are not compatible with mobile devices and should not be taken through a mobile phone or a tablet. If you need further assistance please contact FIU Online Support Services.

    Capstone Essay

    Throughout the course of the semester you have learned about the basic dimensions of religion, and how they manifest in various world traditions. We have explored and enhanced this knowledge through the use of film. For your capstone essay, you will write a film analysis that emphasizes the Religious Studies theory that we focused on in class. You will choose your own film with religious content, and then analyze it using the theories and ideas covered in class and present it in a traditional film review. You may also add additional methods of film criticism if you desire.  Before writing, you should familiarize yourself with the suggested resources on how to write a film review, but remember our analysis will emphasize the seven dimensions of religion. 

    This essay ought to thoughtfully reflect your learning throughout the semester. Remember to use examples from the film and citations to support your ideas. 

    Each essay will be between 1250 to 2000 words long and will be worth 25% of your grade. This is a formal academic essay, and students must cite their sources. MLA is the preferred citation style in Religious Studies. Do not present other people’s film reviews as your own.  

    If you have questions regarding how to cite or what to cite, ask me BEFORE you submit your essay. If you turn in your paper and you "accidentally" plagiarize parts of your essay, you will fail the assignment & be reported to the dept. It is better to be safe than sorry! To reiterate, ask me before the due date if you are unsure about how to cite your sources.

    How to Write A Film Analysis Essay

    From Notes to Essay:  Writing a Film Analysis (From A Short Guide to Writing about Film)

    Review the detailed Turnitin Instructions on how to submit your assignments and how to review the Grademark comments (feedback) from your professor.

    Individual Wiki Page

    After you have written your analysis, you will also create your own wiki page for your film.  This wiki will be part of an ongoing Religion & Film Wiki project that your class will start.  You will make a public page presenting your analysis of the film and applying the Religious Studies concepts, as well as presenting other relevant, important information. This assignment is worth 15% of your overall grade. 

    You may research other wikis, but you must write and create your own page. Please see the sample wiki in module 3 content area. 

    Other Resources:

    Wiki How to Write A Movie Review

    EHow – How to Write a Movie Critique

    Seven Tips for Writing a Film Review

    How to Write A Film Analysis Essay

    Film Analysis Critique Guidelines:

    Wikipedia Film Criticism

    *** Critic’s Corner: A Guide to Film Critique by Philip C. Congleton

    Course Requirements

    In addition to the completion of writing assignments, blogs, quizzes, and exams, a key requirement for successful completion of this course will be an open mind. Students are expected to exhibit respect to all religious traditions and peoples at all times. Thus, disrespectful or derisive commentary will not be tolerated in this course. Religion is, after all, a very personal and sensitive subject for many.

    On the other hand, class participants can expect academic freedom to express their views. Although religion can be personal, this is an academic course taken for college credit and thus students are expected to examine the topics rigorously. Religion shall not be exempt from the scrutiny placed on any and all academic subjects.

    Protocol For Technical Issues

    If you have any technical problems,

    1) Contact tech support to file a report, and
    2) Contact me by email to let me know what is going on.

    If you are having technical problems and an assignment is due,

    1) E-mail me a copy of the assignment, so it is on time, and
    2) Contact tech support.


    Course Requirements Number of Items Weight
    Intro Video Blog 1 1%
    Journal 8 9%
    Blogs 8 10%
    Individual Film Wiki  1 15%
    Capstone Esay 1 25%
    Quizzes 8 20%
    Exam 1 20%
    Total   100%
    Letter Range Letter Range Letter Range
    A Above 93 B- 80 - 82 D+ 67 - 69
    A- 90 - 92 C+ 77 - 79 D 63 - 66
    B+ 87 - 89 C 73- 76 D- 60 - 62
    B 83 - 86 C- 70 - 72 F < 59

    Course Calendar

    Weekly Schedule

    All assessments and assignments in this course are conducted fully online and, unless otherwise noted in your syllabus, are due on the Monday of a given week at noon.

    Date Tasks Date

    Jan. 12 - Jan. 19

    1. Course Introduction Review and fully familiarize yourself with the course and site. Print and read the course syllabus and course calendar.


    1. Student Introduction Video Blog 
    January 26th
    Module 1

    Lesson 1
    Jan. 12 - Jan, 26


    • Introduction to Film
    • The Nature of Narrative in Film
    • Modes of Screen Reality


    • Film Book Chapters (PDFs)
    • “Film, Movies, Meaning” David Browne
    • “Mise-en-scene Reference Guide” 
    • “Cinematography Reference Guide” 
    • “Editing Reference Guide”  
    • “Film Sound and Music Reference Guide”


    1. Quentin Tarantino Discussing Making Films
    2. Scorsese Discussing the Difference between Plot and Story


    1. Introduce Yourself Video Blog
    2. Quiz 1 
    3. Blog Post 1  
    4. Journal 1 Reflection
    January 26th
    Module 2

    Lesson 2
    Jan. 26 - Feb. 9


    • Introduction to Module 2
    • The Emotional & Experiential Dimension of Religion


    • “Can the Guilty be Faithful?” by Flesher & Torry
    • “Understanding the Charismatic Movement” by Ed Stetzer
    • “The God Chemical: Brain Chemistry and Mysticism” by Barbara Bradley Hagerty 


    1. Introduction Video
    2. The Apostle
    3. Renegade
    4. Ayahuasca – Visions of Jungle Medicine: Adam Oliver Brown TEDxUOttawa


    1. Quiz 2   
    2. Blog Post 2 
    3. Journal 2 Reflection
    February 9th

    Lesson 3
    Feb. 9 - Feb 23


    • The Mythic and Narrative Dimension of Religion


    • “Tormenting Christ” Flesher & Torry
    • “The Uses of Film in Theology” David John Graham
    • “Redeeming Violence in the Films of Martin Scorsese” David John Graham
    • “On Reappreciating Kazantzakis” by Martin Scorsese


    1. Introduction Video
    2. The Last Temptation of Christ
    3. Kundun


    1. Quiz 3 
    2. Blog Post 3  
    3. Journal 3 Reflection
    February 23rd
    Lesson 4
    Feb. 23 - Mar. 9


    • The Ritual Dimension of Religion


    • “Shinto and Buddhist Metaphors in Departures” by Yoshiko Okuyama
    • “Jai Santoshi Maa: On Seeing a Hindu Mythological Film” by Philip Lutgendorf


    1. Introduction Video
    2. Departures
    3. Jai Santoshi Maa


    1. Quiz 4 
    2. Blog Post 4 
    3. Journal 4 Reflection
    March 9th
    Mar. 9 - Mar. 16


    Spring Break


    Lesson 5
    Mar. 16 - Mar. 23


    • The Ethical and Legal Dimension of Religion


    • “Fill the Void Film Review” by John C. Lyden
    • “Orthodox Jewish Weddings”
    • “Misconceptions About Arranged Marriages”
    • “Shidduch” – Wikipedia 
    • “A Practical Approach to Talking About Honor Killing” by Deepak Chopra
    • “Turkish Girl Buried Alive for Talking to Boys” by Adam Taylor
    • “‘Honor Killings’ Have Morphed into ‘Honor Suicides’ in Turkey” by Ramita Navai
    • “LGBT – Targets of Honor Killings” by Jodi Hilton


    1. Introduction Video
    2. Fill the Void
    3. Bliss (Mutluku)


    1. Quiz 5 
    2. Blog Post 5 
    3. Journal 5 Reflection
    March 23rd
    Lesson 6
    Mar. 23 - Mar. 30


    • The Doctrinal and Philosophical Dimension of Religion


    • Timeline: Remembering the Scopes Monkey Trial by Noah Adams
    • “Taking Darwin Personally” by Diane Roberts


    1. Introduction Video
    2. Inherit the Wind


    1. Quiz 6
    2. Blog Post 6
    3. Journal 6 Reflection
    March 30th
    Lesson 7
    Mar. 30 - Apr. 13


    • The Social and Institutional Dimension of Religion


    • “Whale Rider: The Re-enactment of Myth and the Empowerment of Women” by Kevin V. Dodd
    • “Anti-Muslim Discrimination in Post 9/11 America” by Nadine Epstein
    • "The Emerging Phenomena Of Post-9/11." by Ahmed Abdur Rashid, Shaykh


    1. Introduction Video
    2. Whale Rider
    3. Mooz-Lum
    4. How 9/11 Shaped the Lives of American Muslims


    1. Quiz 7 
    2. Blog Post 7 
    3. Journal 7 Reflection
    4. Capstone Paper
    April 13th
    Lesson 8
    Apr. 13 - Apr. 20


    • The Material Dimension of Religion


    • “Devotional Cinema” Nathaniel Dorsky
    • The Global Religious Landscape – Pew Research


    1. Baraka


    1. Quiz 8
    2. Blog Post 8
    3. Journal 8 Reflection
    April 20th
      Module 3

    Lesson 9
    Apr. 20 - May 2


    • “Film Reviews”


    1. Final Exam - Due April 25th
    2. Wiki Presentation Due April 29th

    April 25th

    April 29th