This section serves as a dictionary of film terminology and concepts. Depending on the term or concept being addressed, the explanations may range anywhere from a short paragraph to 750-1,000 words. Explanations will ideally include not only a definition, but also examples and — where appropriate — links to short films or scenes.

List of Terms

A list of the film terms to be included in this section is available in .pdf format.

Suggest/Define a Term

If you want to suggest a term that does not appear on this list or if you would like to volunteer to define a term, please send an e-mail to film@filmstudies.info.

The basic film structure will be discussed in terms of Tzafar (2011) In this film, a Greek couple react negatively to a Pakistani man who they encounter in a doctor's waiting room. They do not let their daughter sit next to him and the father stands rather than sit next to the man. It turns out that the man was the daughter's bone marrow done.

Exposition: In the exposition, we are introduced to the main characters as the scene is set for the film. The exposition in Tzafar introduces us to a Pakistani man and a Greek family in a doctor's waiting room. The Exposition lasts from 0:09-0:22.

Initial Incident: The initial incident is the action that starts the action of the film. In Tzafar, the initial incident takes place at 0:22 when the mother has her daughter move from the seat next to the Pakistani man.

Rising Action: The rising action are the events that take place in the film building to the climax of the film. During the rising action, we do not know whether or not things will go for or against the protagonist. In Tzafar, the protagonist is the Pakistani man. We see the family switching seats so that no one sits next to him. Will he remain marginalized or will the story turn in his favor. I would argue that the rising action lasts until 1:31 when the doctor introduces Tzafar to the family.

Climax: At the climax, we learn whether or not things will work out in favor of the protagonist. I would argue that the climax takes place at 0:59 when the nurse invites Tzafar into the doctor's office with the family. Because he is being invited into a medical consultation for which he would not ordinarily be a part, we realize that the narrative will be favorable to him. I could understand how someone could argue that the rising action lasts until 1:30 when the doctor introduces Tzafar to the family. In fact, this was initially my position when analyzing the film. I bring up this point because I want to emphasize that it is possible for different critics to have competing interpretations of a film. What is vital, however, is the use of evidence to support our interpretations.

Falling Action: The falling action takes place after the initial incident. Because we know that the narrative will go in Tzfar's favor at 0:59, most of the remainder of the film is known as falling action. Typically, the falling action is much shorter than the rising action. In Tzafar, the falling action lasts until 1:30 when the doctor introduces Tzafar to the family. This introduction essentially ends the action of the film.

Denouement: During the denouement, the plot elements of the narrative are wrapped up. In Tzafar, the denouement begins at 1:30 and lasts to the end of the film.