A Great Loss in Cinema

Tuesday, August 29, 2017 - 09:16

It is with great sadness that the School of Cinema share with the SFSU Community the tragic news that Associate Professor Jennifer Hammett's life was cut short on August 20, 2017.

Jennifer valiantly faced severe illness for many years.   Despite all her courage and amazing strength of will, she could not defeat the insurmountable odds that kept stacking against her health.  Her friends, colleagues and students are reeling from the loss of a most precious spirit and comrade, but are grateful for all she did for us, our students and the School.

The School of Cinema has lost a brilliant Professor and scholar of American and International film history and criticism, whose work in feminist and post-modern theory was internationally admired.  Hammett was on the cusp of publishing a ground-breaking new book excavating the structure, expressive potential and poetic ontology of short-format film.   With the help of her colleagues and partner, any last work needed to complete the manuscript will be done and delivered to the publisher.

Professor Hammett's devotion to excellence in teaching was legendary among students, her colleagues and across the University.  Her brilliant lectures and assignments, dovetailed by her rigor of thought and high expectations for student work, were graced with a caring and compassionate humanity, sense of humor and insightful feedback.   She specialized in the development of clear, concise and analytic critical writing, having developed the School’s "writing across the curriculum" course (CINE 303), as well as spear-headed Cinema's GWAR program.  In line with her interest in short format film, she introduced a highly popular lecture course on the history and analysis of short films.  A committed pragmatist, her formal training in law and in rhetoric informed  her approach to theory and aesthetics.

Hammett not only wrote about film -- she was also a filmmaker.   She produced (in collaboration with noted photographer Camille Seaman) Habits of Faith, an experimental documentary about an 86-year-old female print artist, as well as a short documentary on sexual assault in the military in association with the Veteran Documentary Corps.

Hammett's watchword for the graduate students she trained to teach was "believe in your students -- don't judge them;  always assume they are acting in good faith."  A scholarship is being created in her name to support excellence in student teaching practice, and an on-campus celebration of Hammett's life, work, spirit and convictions.  Donations to the Jennifer Hammett Memorial Endowment Fund can be made here: