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‘Watching the Classics’ with Richard Peña: Focus on Alfred Hitchcock

Start date:
May 31, 2021
Ability Level:

Doha Film Institute is delighted to present ‘Watching the Classics’, an online programme during which filmmakers and cinephiles alike can deepen their knowledge of film history.
Presented by renowned scholar Richard Peña (Professor of Film Studies at Columbia University and Director Emeritus of the New York Film Festival), this series of three lectures/discussions each focuses on an undisputed world cinema classic.

In the weekly sessions, Professor Peña will present a given film within its aesthetic, economic, technological and social/political context, detailing each director’s formal techniques while teasing out the implications of these artistic and technical decisions.

To get the most from the programme, participants are recommended to view the films before each session, and all are readily available through various streaming services. During the lecture, select images and clips will be included for discussion, and participants will be able to send Professor Peña questions, which will be addressed at the end of each session.

Join us for this chance to revisit some of your favourite films—or to discover works that have helped change the course of film history.

Alfred Hitchcock: The Master of Suspense…and Much Else

Last year, ‘Watching the Classics’ chose to go “wide,” studying cinematic masterpieces from the USA, France and Hollywood. This time, we decided to go “deep”: to burrow in the work of a single filmmaker and explore the development of his themes, techniques, and ideas. And perhaps there is no better candidate for this than the great Alfred Hitchcock, a director whose work is loved and admired equally by everyday film fans as well as filmmakers, critics, and academics. Focusing on three of his American films—‘Shadow of a Doubt’ (1943), ‘Rear Window’ (1954) and ‘Psycho’ (1960)—this series will each offer analyses of that week’s film as well as seek to place that film within both the context of American film history and the director’s own unique universe. So, join us for this fun if occasionally scary ride into the world of one of cinema’s unquestioned masters, Alfred Hitchcock.

‘Shadow of a Doubt’ | 1943 | Alfred Hitchcock | USA

After seeing playwright Thornton Wilder’s Broadway hit ‘Our Town’, Alfred Hitchcock expressed a desire to work on a project with Wilder, something that would be set in a “typical American town”. Meanwhile, he read a draft of an unpublished novel, ‘Uncle Charlie’, about a serial killer on the run; that happy combination of forces resulted in ‘Shadow of a Doubt’. In sleepy Santa Rosa, California, Charlotte, known as Charley, a recent high school graduate, dreams of something, or someone, that can shake up what she already perceives as her dull, middle-class life. Amazingly, her wish comes true—in the form of her uncle, the legendary “Uncle Charlie”—man of the world, legendary business tycoon, and her mother’s younger brother. Uncle Charlie arrives and is quickly enveloped in the love of his adoring family—but gradually, another side to this somewhat mysterious “visitor from the East” begins to emerge. Reportedly Hitchcock’s favourite among his many films, ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ was the director’s first truly American film—his first film to seriously grapple with the often-contradictory reality of his newly adopted country. With Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotton.

‘Rear Window’ | 1954 | Alfred Hitchcock | USA

Based on a short story by perhaps the bleakest of film noir novelists, Cornell Woolrich, Hitchcock and screenwriter John Michael Hayes in ‘Rear Window’ managed to keep the darkness of the original while adding layers of romance and offbeat humour in what for many critics is perhaps the director’s single most perfect film. Daredevil photojournalist L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries is stuck in his Greenwich Village apartment waiting for a broken leg suffered on the job to heal, tended to by his physical therapist Stella and his on-again/off-again fiancée Lisa. He spends much of his time looking through the telephoto lens of his camera at the apartment building across the courtyard from his, cataloguing his neighbours’ loves and losses, peculiarities and routines. Then one day, one of the mini-dramas he’s been following changes: the man constantly fighting with his bed-ridden wife now seems suspiciously alone. Jeff is sure something terrible has happened, and eventually, so do Stella and Lisa. With James Stuart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter and Raymond Burr.

‘Psycho’ | 1960 | Alfred Hitchcock | USA

By the late 1950s, Hitchcock was at the very pinnacle of his power: besides making a series of major box-office hit films, he was also producing a very successful TV series, as well as a mass-market mystery magazine. Yet when he announced his intention to shoot an adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel ‘Psycho’, his studio, Paramount, hesitated; the story just seemed too weird, too potentially upsetting to audiences. So, Hitchcock would end up mainly paying for the film himself, returning to black and white and accepting a production schedule and budget more suited to his TV series. Happily, Hitchcock’s bet paid off: the film was an enormous hit, making the already well-to-do Hitchcock an extremely wealthy man. The film follows a Phoenix, Arizona secretary who steals $40,000 from her employer and heads out on the road, hoping to connect with her boyfriend. But a one-night stop in a motel gets in the way of her plans, and the rest is film history. With Janet Leigh, Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles and John Gavin.

Dates: 31 May, 7 June, and 14 June 2021 (3 sessions)

Hours: 5:30 to 7:30 PM (Doha Time)

Language: English

Fee: 350 QAR (includes all three sessions of the workshop)*
*Qatar Museums Culture Pass members will receive a 10% discount on this lab’s fee. To avail of the discount, simply include a copy of your Culture Pass when applying.

This programme is open to applicants over the age of 18. The sessions are best suited for those with some knowledge of filmmaking and who wish to expand their understanding of film history.

Registration Process

Session 1 has already passed. You can now purchase individual tickets for the next two sessions as below:

● 7 June
Watching the Classics with Richard Peña: Alfred Hitchcock – Session 2 – ‘Rear Window’ (1954)

Standard Price – 115 QAR
Qatar Museum’s Culture Pass Discount – 103 QAR

● 14 June
Watching the Classics with Richard Peña: Alfred Hitchcock – Session 3 – ‘Psycho’ (1960)

Standard Price – 115 QAR
Qatar Museum’s Culture Pass Discount – 103 QAR

If choosing the discount option, please email a copy of your Culture Pass to

● Your registration will be confirmed once your payment is processed.
● You will receive all necessary webinar links via email reminders before the sessions.

Richard Peña
Richard Peña was the Programme Director of the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Director of the New York Film Festival from 1988 until 2012. At the Film Society, Peña organised retrospectives of many film artists, as well as major film series devoted to numerous national cinemas. Together with Unifrance, in 1995 he created Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, the leading American showcase for new French cinema. He is Professor of Film and Media Studies at Columbia University, where he specialises in film theory and international cinema, and has served as a Visiting Professor at the Sorbonne, Beijing University, UNAM-Mexico City and the University of São Paulo. He also currently hosts WNET/Channel 13’s weekly ‘Reel 13’.