Location: Bowdoin / Sarah Childress


Sarah Childress

Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies

Contact Information

Cinema Studies

Dudley Coe Building - 208

Current teaching schedule available on the public course finder.

Sarah Childress


  • Ph.D. English, concentration in Film Studies, Vanderbilt University, 2009
  • M.A. English, concentration in Film Studies, Vanderbilt University, 2005
  • B.A. International Studies, Emory University, 1994

Research Areas

  • Latin American Cinema
  • Experimental & Avant-garde Film
  • Film Theory & Criticism
  • Film Manifestos

Current Research

  • Beginning at Zero: U.S. and Latin American Avant-garde Film Theory and Practice in the 1960s
  • Seeing It All: The Panoptic Aesthetic of Post-9/11 Films
  • The Murderer Victim: Revolutionary Visions in Bill Gunn's Ganja & Hess
  • "Leave Your World:' The Revolutionary Fluidity of Sara Gómez's De Cierta Manera

Film Studies 230
The Reality Effect: Documentary Film
When we think about documentary, we might think of films that represent the real world or the world as it really is. But documentary films should be analyzed to account for particular points of view. The goal of this class is to introduce a variety of documentary forms to explore how these films re-present significant social phenomena and how these representations express particular perspectives and worldviews while reflecting or self-reflexively commenting on documentary techniques.
Syllabus [ PDF link will open a PDF - Portable Document Format ] »

Film Studies 315
New Waves in the New World: Latin American Cinema
Focusing on Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico, we will look at how films produced during two “new wave” periods – 1960-1970 and 2000-2010 – demonstrate transnational flows of culture and capitalism.1960s filmmakers worked outside of global cultural mainstreams that marginalized their nations and films while new-millennium filmmakers insert theirs into these realms for that purpose. Does this shift negate advances made by earlier filmmakers? Or does it signal more profound progress by demonstrating that cultural and economic influence comes not from standing outside of global forces but by harnessing them?
Syllabus [ PDF link will open a PDF - Portable Document Format ] »

Film Studies 218
Film as a Subversive Art*: The Critical Lens of Avant-garde Cinema
In French, avant-garde means "advance guard," a military term used for troops leading an attack across a battlefield. In film and art in general, the term describes a work that breaks new ground, often to experiment with the possibilities inherent within the medium or to express a different way of seeing the world and of living in it. As we will discover, this cinematic genre also thrives on critique, which occurs in part by challenging the aesthetic and social conventions held by film audiences. Avant-garde cinema is not easy to watch. It's difficult to "lose yourself" in these films, which demand that you engage with them – often on their own terms. As a result, avant-garde cinema has remained on the margins of the mainstream, generally ignored or rejected by mainstream audiences. But this cinema challenges us to examine how films make meaning and how they contribute to – or challenge – conventional notions of truth or reality.
Syllabus [ PDF link will open a PDF - Portable Document Format ] »

Film Studies 101
Film Narrative

Visual narratives have increasingly defined cultural values, opinions, and beliefs but we often don’t think about examining films in the same way we do other narrative arts or mass communication forms. This course will introduce you to the language of film and to the critical tools used to investigate how that language creates narratives with particular resonances. We will focus on the techniques formulated to exploit the possibilities inherent within the film medium in order to learn how to interpret films.
Syllabus [ PDFlink will open a PDF - Portable Document Format] »

“Poetic Justice: Creating Autonomy through Dialogue in Marjorie Keller’s Misconception.” Camera Obscura. Resubmitted.

“The Influences of ‘Avant-Garde Film.’” A review of Avant-Garde Film by Alexander Graf and Dietrich Scheunemann (eds.). Film-Philosophy. Commissioned.

“Directions: films curated by Harmony Korine.” number: an independent journal of the arts. Fall 2008. 


“New Waves in the New World: The New Latin American Cinemas.” Invited speaker. Paper delivered at the Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 23, 2010.

“The Subject of Film Manifestos.” The World Picture Conference, October 2009.

“Obligation, Politics, and Sexual Difference,” a conversation with Ewa Ziarek. Co-moderator. Vanderbilt University, February 23, 2009.

“Levinas, Feminism and Art,” a conversation with Tina Chanter. Co-moderator. Vanderbilt University, February 16, 2009.

“Seeing It All: The Panoptic Aesthetic in Post-9/11 Films.” Invited speaker. Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, March 2008 and 20th-Century Literature & Culture Conference, February 2009.

“The Role of Art in the Community.” Invited panelist. Frist Center for the Visual Arts, January 18, 2009.

 “New ‘American’ Cinema” (position paper). Seminar participant. Ameritopias: America in the Global Imagination/Globalism in America. Modernist Studies Association conference, November 2008.

“What It Means to be Human: The Horror and Science Fiction Film,” a conversation with John Belton. Co-moderator. Vanderbilt University, October 13, 2008.

“‘Leave Your World:’ The Revolutionary Fluidity of Sara Gómez’s De Cierta Manera.” Presentation. Florida State University Film and Literature Conference, February 2008.

“Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Mathew: Adaptation and Fidelity,” a conversation with Dudley Andrew. Co-moderator. Vanderbilt University, January 14, 2008.

“Being Present: Memory, the Social Encounter and the Other.” Presentation. North American Levinas Society Conference, June 2007.

 “Using Digital Video-based Multimedia Study Environments to Introduce Students to the Language of Visual Narrative.” Invited speaker. Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, March 2007.

“New Directions in Research and Writing: Docuscripts – Visualizing More Effective Communication Skills for Undergraduates.” Co-Chair. Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, March 2006.

“Presence in Absence: Patriarchal Affirmation in D.W. Griffith’s His Trust and His Trust Fulfilled,” Invited speaker. Vanderbilt University Discours Conference, February 2005.

  • Grant from the Blythe Bickel Edwards fund to sponsor film speakers, Bowdoin College, October 2010 and March 2011
  • Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, Vanderbilt College of Arts & Sciences, 2009
  • Thomas Daniel Young Award for Excellence in Classroom Teaching, Vanderbilt Department of English, 2009
  • Fellow, Vanderbilt University Center for Ethics, Fall 2008
  • “Best of Nashville” award for International Lens film series, 2008 & 2009
  • Tournées Festival Grant in support of International Lens film series, Fall 2008 & 2009
  • Fellow, Vanderbilt Center for the Americas, 2007- 2008

Institutional Service

  • Advisor, Bowdoin Film Society, 2010-2011
  • Advisor, International Lens Film Series, Office of the Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University, 2008-2010
  • Advisor, Creative Campus Community, a living-learning program for undergraduate Art majors, 2009-2010
  • Mentor for Graduate Instructors, English Department, Vanderbilt University, Fall 2009 and Spring 2010
  • Member, Upper Class Experience Committee, Office of the Provost, Vanderbilt University, 2008-2010