Course Details

Title Environmental Issues in Korean & North American Cinema
Field of Study Communication, Humanities, Social science
Professor Bradley Allen Rappa (brappa@ithaca.edu)
Type Academic course
Delivery Type Hybrid Track (2 weeks online + 2 weeks offline): Real-time
Credits 3
Contact hours 45
Schedule Evening
Course code ISS1157
Course number 18052

This course is a survey of the environmental issues covered by contemporary Korean and
North American filmmakers who are raising our awareness of the connections between
economic, social, and environmental justice. Throughout the month we will screen films, read
texts, and engage in discussions that emphasize the importance of building cohesive
international policies that address global issues of industrialization, climate change,
environmental pollution, and antiquated energy policies. As a class, we will consider how the
stylistic choices used in both documentary and narrative storytelling can help to highlight
developments in technology, ethics, and taking an active role as an audience. Upon completion
of the course, students will have a greater understanding of the political and social issues that
confront contemporary environmental issues, and will begin to develop their own strategies for
educating the public about the importance of living a more coherent and sustainable lifestyle.


Throughout the month, our primary goal will be to learn how film can be a powerful educational
tool in environmental advocacy as well as a motivator of positive social change. A coursereader containing excerpts by authors such as Rachel Carson, Naomi Klein, and Elizabeth
Colbert will provide a greater context to the diverse collection of media that is being presented
in class. Each day a topic specific film is screened, followed by a lecture and discussion. In
addition, student groups (3-4) will select, research and highlight a topic-specific film of their
choice, that covers a and noteworthy aspect of economic, environmental or social justice with
an emphasis on achieving a more cohesive relationship between humans and the natural world.
• To gain a more comprehensive understanding of films that highlight environmental
issues, and how they might impact social, political and environmental policies
• To build a vocabulary of terms that help us to effectively articulate the problems,
solutions and challenges to achieving local, national and international environmental
• To develop a greater understanding of the three primary categories (or pillars) of
sustainability (social, economic, and environmental)
• To learn to actively engage in the subject matter through self-directed research,
writing, discussion and reading
• To develop persuasive public speaking and discourse skills through panel discussions
and in-class presentations
• To carefully consider our own individual responsibilities as caretakers of our natural
• To develop the potential to become effective social and environmental advocates
All of the above will be introduced, discussed and demonstrated through a midterm exam,
journal entries, writing assignments, discussions and presentations. Students will be graded on
their ability to demonstrate these objectives in their course work. Below (under Explanation of
Projects) you will find the specific criteria for grading each assignment.


Be on time for class; To contribute to class discussions, and to write interesting, informed
papers, it is essential that you keep up with the reading assignments and attend ALL class
sessions. Chronic lateness is highly distracting, will compromise your grasp of the material, and
be reflected in the attendance component of your final grade. Complete all readings and
assigned material before the due date specified in the course schedule. Work handed in after
the due date will be decreased one letter grade per day. Type all work written outside of class.
Keep a comprehensive weekly journal of reflections and responses to the films, texts and
presentations. Thoughtfully participate in discussions and activities. Be prepared to dedicate a
significant amount of time for self-directed research, collaboration and discussion. All assigned
work must be completed in order to pass the course; No incompletes will be given. I will give
students time to work with their groups in class to prepare their presentations, so be sure to
contact me before-hand if you will be late or absent.


Professor Rappa will provide a PDF file of the required course-reader titled:
Environmental Issues in Korean and North American Cinema Study Guide
A notebook and pen to keep a journal that records your responses and reflections of the
assigned texts, films and in-class presentations.
1. Participation (100 points)
Speaking and discussion may be difficult for those of us in the “shy persons” category. Yet I
expect that everyone will bring to the class a readiness to speak based on their own ideas and
relating to the topics at hand. If you are a “shy person” I recommend making a few notes
based on the previous class or reading that will allow you to break into the discussion.
However, for those of us who like to talk, grading may also represent your willingness to listen
to other points of view and not dominate the discussion.
2. Group Research Presentation & Panel Discussion (300 points)
Working in teams of 3-4, each group will be responsible for designing and delivering a 20-30
minute presentation & discussion on one of the films that are screened in class. The schedule
of these presentations will be determined by the order in which the films are scheduled. (See
the detailed outline below for screening and presentation dates.) To prepare for this
presentation, each student is required to write a two-page detailed response to the film that
they have been assigned. These response papers will be used to help the group outline and
organize their presentations. The papers need to be submitted to me by the start of class on
the due date of your presentation. Your presentations will follow the screening of the film, so
the group will need to make arrangements to watch their assigned film beforehand. Upon
completion of the response papers, the team will meet to determine how and what they want to
cover in their PowerPoint or Prezi presentations. Each presentation should consider: What is
the historical context behind the production of the film; What is intended message or purpose
of the film; Who is the intended audience; Has the film oversimplified the subject or failed to
consider alternate perspectives; Has the film ignored issues such as externalized social,
political and economic costs; Can/should this film be used to reach a wider audience; and is this
an effective/appropriate text to encourage individual or communal changes in non-cohesive or
unsustainable behaviors. After each the presentation, the team will form a panel to field
questions and to initiate further discussion or inquiry into the subject. An annotated
filmography/bibliography of supporting/critical texts should be included with each presentation.
3. Film Journals (150 points each)
To keep track of course material, you should begin a journal that includes summaries of all
films screened in class, and notes on interesting or puzzling aspects of the reading. This
journal will serve as raw material for your presentation assignment, so you’ll never have to
begin with a blank page and no ideas. You will be responsible for turning in (2) 500-word
(double-spaced typed pages) critical reflections on two of the films shown in class, developed
from your journal notes. See assignment sheet for details.

Group Project
Lesson Plan
Class 1: Lecture: Welcome to the course • Syllabus and Assignments • Screenings & Discussion: Rachel Carson, by Michelle Ferrari, The Story of Stuff, by Annie Leonard, and Losing Ground by Bradley Rappa
Class 2: Lecture: The three primary categories of sustainability • Screenings & Discussion: The Corporation, by Mark Achbar & Jennifer Abbott, Home, by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, and A Fierce Green Fire by Mark Kitchell
Class 3: Lecture: Setting the Stage: The Social & Political Landscape - Perspectives on corporate structure and the intersection between social and economic justice Screening & Discussion: Snowpiercer by Bong Joon-ho
Class 4: Lecture: Understanding Narrative Genres & Documentary Modalities - The challenges of effective and persuasive discourse • Screening and Discussion: Manufactured Landscapes by Jennifer Baichwal
Class 5: Lecture: An Introduction to Film Responses & Developing Strategies for Researching and Planning Team Presentations • Group Assignments • Screening & Discussion: Last Call at the Oasis by Jessica Yu
Class 6: Screening: Sky Blue by Kim Moon-saeng • Group 1 Presentation & Discussion – Portrayals of social and environmental issues in fantasy films • In-class group work time
Class 7: Screening: Gasland by Josh Fox • Group 2 Presentation & Discussion – The externalized costs of fossil fuels • In-class group work time
Class 8: Mid-Term Exam • Screening & Discussion: The House Belowby Lee Kyong-mi – Addressing issues of fine dust and air pollution in Korea
Class 9: Screening: Crude by Joe Berlinger • Group 3 Presentation & Discussion – The human toll of man-made environmental disasters • In-class group work time
Class 10: Screening: The End of The Line by Rupert Murry • Group 4 Presentation & Discussion – A look at the consequences unregulated sea fishing across the globe • In-class group work time
Class 11: Screening: Wasteland by Lucy Walker & Marion Delannoy • Group 5 Presentation & Discussion – Artist Vik Muniz humanizes the work of men and women who work in the world’s largest garbage landfill • In-class group work time
Class 12: Screening: Train To Busan by Yeon Sang-ho • Group 6 Presentation & Discussion – Social and environmental metaphors in zombie apocalypse films • In-class group work time
Class 13: Screening: If A Tree Falls by Marshall Curry • Group 7 Presentation & Discussion – An exploration into the darker side of a national environmental movement • In-class group work time
Class 14: Screening: Final Straw – food, earth, happiness by Suhee Kang & Patrick Lydon • Group 8 Presentation & Discussion – Natural farming practices in Korea, Japan and the US • In-class group work time
Class 15: Screening: Okja by Bong Joon-ho • Group 9 Presentation & Discussion – Addressing issues of genetically modified food and human compassion • In-class group work time
Last Updated April 15, 2021
Go to Top