Personal profile

Research Interests

Film/Visual Culture, Documentary Cinema, Postcolonial Criticism, Gender/Sexuality Studies, Asian American Studies, Philippine Studies


Film/Visual Culture, Post-colonial, Theory & Criticism, Gender/Sexuality Studies


  • Documentary Film and Video
  • American Documentary
  • Film Historiography,Cultures of US Imperialism
  • American Independent Cinema
  • Survey of International Cinema I
  • American Cinema Since 1950, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese
  • Introduction to Film
  • Proseminar in the Teaching of Film


Ph.D. in Radio/Television/Film, Northwestern University
M.A. in Radio/Television/Film (Film Production), Northwestern University

B.A. in Communication, Ateneo de Manila University

Personal profile

José B. Capino is a two-time Fulbright fellow, a winner of the Association for Asian American Studies book prize, and a grand prize winner of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies dissertation award.  His work is informed by rigorous multi-archival research and engages both cultural theory and critical perspectives in cinema studies. With fellowship support  from the University of Illinois and the Andrew Mellon Foundation he is learning ethnography and methods associated with the digital humanities to shape his future work.

Capino is a scholar of narrative and documentary cinemas in the US and in the Philippines.  His primary areas of interest are in colonial and decolonial visuality, transnational and transcultural media, melodrama, film historiography, and sexuality in the cinema.

His most recent book, Martial Law Melodrama: Lino Brocka’s Cinema Politics, studies political imagery and discourse in the films of the pathbreaking and internationally renowned Filipino director. Drawing extensively from primary sources and archival material, the book offers a textured account of anti-authoritarian politics in commercial and independent films. Martial Law Melodrama intervenes in broader discussions of how popular cinema--and especially melodrama--registers and responds to authoritarian spells in nations with robust film and media cultures. 

He is completing two related book projects: The Transcultural Archives of US Empire and Projections of Empire: A Decolonial History of US Documentary Cinema. In The Transcultural Archives of US Empire, Capino uses historically overlooked archival objects to illuminate the fundamental role played by US imperialism in the Philippines on four genres of internationally themed or oriented 20th American cultural productions, namely: stage and film melodrama, Orientalist travel films, colonial travel writings, and anticommunist docu-drama. Focusing on the historiography and interpretation of forgotten and neglected texts, many of which Capino has uncovered through two decades of researching minoritized objects, this book intervenes in scholarship on decolonial investigations, the workings of transculturalism under US empire, and how the colonial management of alterity shaped US cultural productions.

Projections of Empire examines the changing ways in which US empire has been constructed in nonfiction films and videos about its former colonial possession. This study of colonial and decolonial visuality considers a wide range of films, from late 19th-century re-enactments of the Philippine-American War to 21st-century direct cinema documentaries about Filipino émigré teachers in American inner cities. The product of longstanding research at archives all over the US and in the Philippines, this book is based on “Cinema and the Spectacle of Colonialism,” winner of the 2003 Dissertation Award from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies.

Capino's first book, Dream Factories of A Former Colony: American Fantasies, Philippine Cinema (Minnesota, 2010) illuminates the decolonial imaginary of Filipino movies, focusing on work from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The book, a reconsideration of Philippine film history through the lens of postcolonial critique, won the prestigious cultural studies book prize from the Association of Asian American Studies in 2012.

Capino has published essays on melodrama, American independent film, documentary cinema, sexuality in the cinema, Philippine cinema and others in such venues as Film Comment, Cinema Journal, and Animation Journal. He penned the teleplay of a landmark documentary on the Philippine National Hero José P. Rizal and has translated both classic and contemporary world drama for the Cultural Center of the Philippines. His essay "A Proletarian Inferno" appears in the Criterion Collection's DVD and Blu-ray editions of Brocka's "Manila in the Claws of Light" (1976). His video essay and liner notes are featured in a newly announced Blu-ray disc on Lino Brocka's Cain and Abel from Kani Releasing/Vinegar Syndrome. His slew of new essays on Deep Throat, Scorpio Nights, Philippine indie cinema, American Sniper and others are due soon.




Office Address

English Bldg, 608 S. Wright St., M/C 718, Urbana, IL 61801

Honors & Awards

Fulbright Research Fellowship, January-May 2016
Winner of the 2012 Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies
Asian Cultural Council Research Project Grant, 2001-2002
Dissertation Award (Grand Prize), Society for Cinema and Media Studies, 2003
Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, 1996-1999
Prize for Research in the Humanities, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities, 2017


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