Tuesday, December 09, 2014

CFP: Visible Evidence XXII

CALL FOR PAPERS

Visible Evidence XXII conference
Toronto

August 19-23, 2015
proposals due February 7 & 15

Visible Evidence, the international conference on documentary film and media, now in its 22nd year, will convene August 19-23rd, 2015 in Toronto, Canada. Hosted by the Institute of Cinema Studies, University of Toronto; the School of Image Arts, Ryerson University and the Department of Cinema and Media Arts, York University, Visible Evidence 22 will address the history, theory, and practice of documentary and non-fiction cinema, television, video, audio recording, digital media, photography, and performance, in a wide range of panels, workshops, plenary sessions, screenings, and special events.

Proposals for pre-constituted panels, individual papers, workshops, and screenings are invited according to the following guidelines.

Themes
While proposals may address any aspect of documentary screen cultures, histories and practices, potential presenters should be aware that the conference will highlight the following themes:

1. Documenting the North.

2. Expanded Documentary and Immersive Technologies.

3. The Charge of the Real.

4. Counter-Surveillance and Citizen Journalism.

5. Archival Activism.

6. Genocide/ Trauma/ Memory Projects.

For a fuller description of these themes and instructions for online proposal submission, see the conference website.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

CFP: Emerging Documentary Practices symposium

CALL FOR PAPERS

Emerging Documentary Practices

Symposium and Exhibition

Temple University, Philadelphia
Friday April 3, 2014

An interdisciplinary one-day symposium and exhibition about how emerging technologies are transforming nonfiction image-making practices in cinema, art and ethnography.

Deadline For Proposals: January 12, 2014.

The Department of Film and Media Arts (FMA) at Temple University is delighted to host a one-day interdisciplinary symposium on Emerging Documentary Practices. The symposium is particularly focused on documentary forms that use interactivity, locative and mobile technologies in innovative ways to transform the concepts and practices of documentary cinema and media arts.

The symposium welcomes documentary practitioners from across fields of social sciences, humanities and arts, from ethnographers to eco-poets. Interweaving choices of content and of form, a new generation of practitioners is reaching across creative and scholarly disciplines. This symposium embraces this discourse on theoretical and practical levels. The conversions are presented concurrently with an exhibition of documentary works using interactivity and other innovative practices.

Each session will be launched with a 15 minute keynote. Each panelist will have the opportunity to present an elaborated 5 minute "proposition/question/provocation" to the panel to stimulate open conversation. Proposals will be peer reviewed.

The symposium is complemented by a multi-kiosk exhibition offering speakers and others opportunities to exhibit works in the curated, peer reviewed show. The kiosks that will be available for viewing on the day and throughout the week. Longer papers supporting the discussions may also be linked, and participants may later be invited for to offer submissions for publication. The symposium is sponsored by Temple University's Department of Film and Media Arts, the Center for Humanities at Temple (CHAT) and Temple Libraries.

Primary themes include:
·       SPATIAL PRACTICES
e.g. geo-spatial mapping and storytelling; actual and augmented sites of memory; spatial poetics; infrastructure, industrialization and climate change; actual and imaginary cities.

·       SOCIAL PRACTICES
e.g. forging community; bringing diversity and indigenous voices;oral histories and imagined futures; performing and protesting through social media; user generated works.

·       EMBODIED PERFORMANCE
e.g. computer materiality and embodied actions of making, viewing; story-telling through web series, live feeds and digital happenings; practical implications of using alternative and interactive software like Korkasow, Mozilla Popcorn, Zeega, or Moviestorm upon how stories are told and image edited; the body as a source of data; disembodiment and narrative fracture.

PROPOSAL INSTRUCTIONS
Proposals for participation, short papers (5 minute "proposition/question/provocation") and the digital exhibition of works on the dedicated kiosks should consist of a proposal statement  (max 500 words), a URL if available/relevant, and brief biographic statement (max 150 words).

Submissions should be sent in electronic form to:  edocs@temple.edu

Questions can be directed to FMA Faculty Roderick Coover and LeAnn Ericksen
Conference registration will occur in February. Conference fee is $40 and includes lunch.
The fee is waived for Temple students and faculty.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Conferences Winter 2014 edition

Here is my current list of English-language conferences of interest to those in film studies (and some for TV and media studies). Upcoming conferences are listed in order by date or, for open calls, by abstract due date. Please let me know if I should add anything.  I will update this post throughout Winter 2015 and will do an update post in Spring or Summer 2015.

(updated December 9)

Closed calls:
“Film Festival Cartographies” Symposium - Modena, Italy, Nov 20-21, 2014 [website]
Visible Evidence XXI - New Delhi, Dec 11-14, 2014 [website]
MLA -  Vancouver, Jan 8-11, 2015 [website]
CAA - Chicago, Feb 12-15, 2014 [website]
SMCS - Montreal Mar 25-29, 2015  [website]
The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema - EYE/University of Amsterdam, March, 29-31 2015 [call]
Console-ing Passions - Dublin, Ireland, June 18-20, 2015 [website]
BAFTSS 2014 conference Manchester Metropolitan University, Apr 16-18 2015 [call]
PCA (Popular Culture Association) - New Orleans, April 1-4, 2015 [website]
ICA - San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 21-25, 2014 [website ]

Current calls:
Due date: Nov 15, 2014 Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium - Indiana University, April 29-May 2, 2015 [call]
Due date: Dec 15, 2014 Film and Media in the Classroom - University of Florida, Feb 26-Mar 1, 2015 [call]
Due date: Dec 15, 2014  World Cinema and the Essay Film - University of Reading, England,  30th April – 2nd May 2015  [call]
Due date: December 17, 2014 The Annual Conference of the Film Studies Association of Canada - June 2-4, 2015 Theme: “Capital Ideas” [website]
Due date: Dec 22, 2014  Society for Cognitive Studies of the Moving Images (SCSMI) Jun 17-20, 2015, Birkbeck, University of London [call]
Due date: Jan 11, 2015 Screen - Univ of Glasgow, June 26-28, 2015 Theme: "Screening Animals and the Inhuman" [call]
Due date: Jan 30, 2015 NECS - Łódź, Poland, June 18-20, 2015 Theme: "Archives of/for the Future" [callwebsite]
Due date; Feb 2, 2015 The Resnais Archipelago conference - Duke University, October 29-31, 2015 [call]
Due date: Feb 7 & 15, 2015 Visible Evidence XXII - Toronto, Aug 19-23, 2015 [call | website]

Upcoming calls:
UFVA - American University, Washington, DC, Aug 4-8, 2015 [website]

CFP: Screen Conference 2015

CALL FOR PAPERS

25th Annual Screen Studies Conference
26-28 June 2015
University of Glasgow, Scotland

proposal due date: 11 January 2015

The theme of the forthcoming Screen Studies Conference, organised by the journal Screen and programmed by Screen editor Karen Lury, will be “Screening Animals and the Inhuman”.

Chiming with the increasing interest in the representation and agency of animals and non-human others in film, television and other audio-visual texts, we invite papers that address questions, representations and the performativity of the animal and of the ‘inhuman’ on and with screen based media.  Presentations and papers on wider aspects of film and television will also be considered. Panel submissions will be considered but not prioritised.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Michael Lawrence (University of Sussex), Susan McHugh (University of New England) and Anat Pick (Queen Mary, University of London).

This year we would also like to invite poster presentations. Selected posters will be displayed in the central reception area of the conference, with a scheduled session for delegates to discuss content and ideas with presenters. The editors will also award a small prize for the best poster of the conference, to be announced at the final plenary session. Delegates may submit proposals for a paper and a poster but the editors will select only one mode of presentation per delegate.

The deadline for submissions is midnight (GMT), Sunday, 11 January 2015.  Notifications of the outcome will be sent before end February.

To submit your proposal, please visit the conference website for further instructions:

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Joshua Malitsky Interview

I would like to thank Joshua Malitsky for agreeing to talk about his work and his book, Post-Revolution Nonfiction Film: Building the Soviet and Cuban Nations, out recently from Indiana University Press. I've found it a valuable book, not only for its examination of both canonical and non-canonical films but also for its willingness to think beyond the documentary/newsreel divide that often structures the field of documentary studies. I asked him about the book and its methodology.

Could you talk a little about the genesis of the book? How did you land on the topic and choose these national cinemas?

This book began as my dissertation project at Northwestern.  It came out of two projects on which I’d been working.  I had been looking into nonfiction films made in Ghana during the period of Kwame Nkrumah’s rule—during and immediately following independence.  I’d been in contact with a filmmaker who worked closely with Nkrumah who told me that he had stashed in London a lot of the films that were presumed to have been lost.  There was a time I thought this would be my dissertation project.

At the same time I started thinking a lot about Shub’s compilation trilogy—not just in terms of her role in film history but how her work can help us to think about the development of or transitions within avant-garde movements.  I was dissatisfied with the way the transition from the experimentalism in the 1920s to (the imposition of) Socialist Realism in the 1930s was characterized.  It didn’t seem to me that movements operate that way—that there are internal dynamics that such a story doesn’t account for, that artists often try to adjust their choices so as to align with state goals in subtle ways, and that movements often die out or transition pretty dramatically on their own accord.  I found Ian Christie’s work on the 1930s and the transition to it to be a much more convincing account and I wanted to think about how that functioned for nonfiction film.  The piece that inspired me to do so more than any other was Mikhail Iampol’ski’s short but really rich essay “Reality at Second Hand.”

I realized while working on the Ghanaian project that the questions I was asking were much more documentary and nonfiction film driven than nation or area studies-driven.  It was then that I decided to do the comparative project.  It was to be a comparative Soviet, Cuban, and Ghanaian nonfiction film project.

The Ghana part ended up dropping out because it just became unmanageable.  It was going to require raising lots of money, spending lots of time in London working with the High Commission and coordinating that activity with the people in Accra, and working with Reuters, who had come to own many of the film rights.  It moved me too far from the critical project that really drove my interest.

How did you come to the book's organization? I found the alternating chapters on Russia and Cuba to be an effective conceit that maintains the specificity of each nation while creating the through-threads of your conceptual framework.

At various points I was contemplating a more thematic-driven structure.  But I decided on the alternating chapters for three reasons.  First, there is so much historical detail that needs to be covered in terms of artists, institutions, players, topics, etc… that I thought it would be asking too much for people to keep it all straight.  And I think that historical detail matters.  Second, I wanted people coming at the book from an area studies perspective to be able to isolate the sections that would be useful to them.  And third, I wanted to highlight the interconnectedness between newsreels and documentaries at a given moment so that they could be understood as part of project.

Some of the films you analyze will be familiar to those who know Russian or Cuban cinema. But for those who are less familiar, is there a film you'd particularly recommend that scholars or cinephiles watch? 

In terms of the Soviet example, I find A Sixth Part of the World to be a tour de force and The Eleventh Year (not a film I focus on in the book) to be provocative and innovative, a film about which there is so much more to say.

The Eleventh Year (Vertov, 1928)

In terms of the Cuban films, Alvarez exhibits such a range of styles and approaches in his films.  I find 79 Primaveras to be incredibly moving and politically astute whereas I find LBJ needs more attention.

It seems that "nonfiction" is an operative word in your title, since the book reads newsreel and documentary in relation to one another. Do you see larger implications for how documentary studies as a field treats newsreels?

It’s an interesting and important question.  Brian Winston and I had a recent exchange about this, noting that of all the nonfiction genres it’s newsreels that are never subsumed under the “documentary” tradition.  Educational films, science films, and industrial films, for example, are all at times considered subsets of the documentary tradition.  So what is it about newsreels?  Brian thinks is starts with Grierson’s dismissal of them as “just a speedy snip-snap” and a “series of catastrophes ended by a fashion show” but we both agree that he was wrong and that the traditions need consideration.

In terms of documentary studies, I believe strongly that historical, theoretical, and critical considerations of various nonfiction forms is one of the key future directions.  As you know, there’s been so much great work on nontheatrical film in the past decade.  Scholars have demonstrated how educational films, industrial films, science films and other “useful” cinemas have communicated new ideas, shaped subjectivities, and been employed by institutions for both public and private purposes.  And we know that these questions align with those that scholars have long asked in studies of documentary, a field that also takes into account a range of institutional contexts (for funding, distribution, and exhibition), purposes, production models, and audience constituencies.  But there’s still some methodological and conceptual divergences between those who see themselves as part of a community that focuses on nontheatrical films (goes to Domitor and Orphans) and those who see themselves as part of this growing field of documentary studies.  To be sure, there are many who overlap sub-fields but I do think that each area would benefit from teasing out the conceptual and historical convergences and divergences, which would help us to create a vocabulary and space for a larger umbrella.    

There's an extended and nuanced argument about documentary "objectivity" in your book, but would you mind speaking a little more to this aspect? How do we need to adjust our conception of objectivity?

This is an issue I’d been wrestling with for a while and which emanated from my thinking about Shub.  I was trying to work through what I saw as nuanced shifts in aspects of documentary production methods and aesthetics that gets privileged or celebrated within a movement or period of time.  Shub was trying to lessen her own directorial influence but not doing so with any naivete about her role.  And that involved a host of choices about materials (found), process of working with them, and formal choices (longer takes, stiller views).  It struck me that she was trying to make the films more “objective” (removing aspects of the self) than works like Vertov’s A Sixth Part of the World and Stride Soviet! while still accounting for her own role.  But the way we discussed objectivity and subjectivity in reference to documentary was by locating them as singular and pure concepts.  I wanted to highlight the relationship between objectivity and subjectivity as well as point to a more historicized and multifaceted notion of objectivity.  Historians of Science were useful in working through such thorny territory (as well as in the related topic of realism).

There's clearly a lot of research behind this book. What was involved? Did you see most of the films in archives? 

I did.  For the Soviet case I was fortunate to have obtained copies of Vertov’s kino-nedelia and kino-pravda newsreel series, his early documentaries that are available, his feature films, and Shub’s films.  I first saw the full runs at Pordenone in I think 2004 when Yuri Tsivian programmed them.  Yuri then gave me access to a number of the features and some of the newsreels for the writing of the dissertation.  I spent time researching at the Austrian Filmmuseum, which has an incredible collection of Vertov’s papers and films and Shub’s features as well, for the book research.

The Cuban example was, as you’d anticipate, more of a challenge.  I made multiple trips to Havana.  During that time I had access to Alvarez’ materials and documentaries at ICAIC (and conversations with his widow, those who worked with him, Cuban film scholars).  Some of those I was able to obtain copies of, some I wasn’t.  Colleagues in Havana made me copies of a number of documentaries by other Cuban directors of the 1960s—Sara Gomez, Nicolasito Guillen, Octavio Cortazar to name a few.  For the newsreels, I was able to watch about 6 per year.  They wouldn’t let me select topics.  I decided that I would watch 6 consecutive issues, figuring that would give me a sense of how they approached a news story across issues and would give me the opportunity to have a keener awareness of what might appear to be subtle changes.  I obtained copies of a handful of those but I was not always confident of the issue # they gave me.

The good news is that UNESCO announced that all existing negatives of the newsreel series would be preserved and digitized as part of its “Memory of the World” register.  Cuba and France have been working together to make this happen.  I hope and suspect that this will generate lots of great work.

One aspect of the book I really love is its ability and willingness to take seriously films that others dismiss, such as Alvarez's De America Soy Hijo. Are there general areas you feel that prior studies have overlooked? 

Conceiving of these projects as bodies of post-revolutionary nonfiction films required attending to films that don’t necessarily highlight what’s unique about an individual “auteur’s” work or about the singularity of this context formally and/or ideologically.  I understood why people chose to celebrate certain Cuban newsreels, for example, as distinct from the established newsreel tradition and as artistically valuable.  But those examples often feel cherry-picked and don’t exemplify the tradition as a whole.  So I had different criteria.  But in the process, in being open to different kinds of efforts, I hope I was able to point to works that are aesthetically and politically interesting even if they don’t appear that way at first glance.  

De America Soy Hijo (Santiago Alvarez, 1972)

You've been active as an organizer for Visible Evidence, a long-running documentary conference and scholarly community.  Speaking for yourself, what do you see as the some of the major institutional or disciplinary challenges for documentary studies?

Another great and large question.  As you know, Visible Evidence and Documentary Studies as a sub-field of Film and Media Studies are really growing.  What I really want to see (and I’m sure this will come as no surprise) is an increased attention on the study of nonfiction media from both a historical and theoretical perspective.  I would like us to draw more early cinema folks working on nonfiction film projects and grow in that direction.  At the same time, I want documentary studies to maintain its connection to artists and activists.  It’s one of the things that makes VE and working on documentary exciting and somewhat distinct in the humanities.

The other direction I see opening up for studies of documentary involves much more trans-disciplinary work.  There’s been a real growth in university (and non-university) degree programs, centers, and institutes related to documentary or “reality-based” media.  We’re hoping to do something at IU.  Along with two colleagues (a law professor and a historian), I am in the process of proposing a Center for Documentary Research and Practice (CDRP).  Our working board consists of filmmakers, historians, film archivists, anthropologists, lawyers, and hard scientists, as well as film and media scholars.  The goal of the Center is to bring together scholars and artists from across the university to explore how we express ourselves, critically and creatively, when we speak about, and with, the lived world.  And we will do so by studying how some of the most innovative historical and contemporary documentary filmmakers have approached the multiple challenges inherent in documentary work, as an art and as scholarship.  So we’ll be working closely with IU archives and IU Cinema.  We hope to have post-docs and visiting filmmakers.  It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m very hopeful we will be able to procure funding.

Are there any other scholars' work you've found particularly useful or inspirational lately - on documentary or otherwise?

Right now I’m knee-deep in Yugoslavian and Balkan history, preparing to do archival work in Serbia, Macedonia, and Montenegro starting in a couple of weeks.  I’m also reading some documentary (and film history) anthologies, seeing how they are organized and conceived, as Malin Wahlberg and I have agreed to co-edit a Blackwell Companion to Documentary History.

In terms of work I’ve found inspirational lately, I’d point to three examples: Devin Fore’s Realism After Modernism, in which he rethinks the politics and aesthetics of interwar realism in film, painting, and literature; Masha Salazkina’s work on transnationalism, film theory, and institutional film cultures, focusing on the Soviet Union, Italy, and Cuba; and Lee Grieveson’s work with Colin MacCabe on the Empire and Film collection as well as his own work on how states promoted liberal economic views through nonfiction film projects throughout the century.

Joshua Malitsky is Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

CFP: Music in European Postwar Cinema

Music in European Postwar Cinema
Call-for-papers for an essay collection

Over the last few decades a well-established theoretical framework for Hollywood and post-Hollywood cinema has emerged, while music in the European cinema has not been given the same scholarly attention. Except for a small number of disparate and unrelated articles, several monographs and one anthology, there is no published scholarly study available which puts forward a theory for music in European cinema. One reason why the void exists is because of the varied and diverse aesthetic approaches to film music in Europe over the last century, as well as the different genres and different production formats, from experimental and art, to mainstream and commercial cinema. The objective of the book project is to bring together the numerous threads and create a theoretical model for the music in European cinema within a well-defined historical period, the postwar years up to the fall of the Berlin wall (1946–1989). The anthology would contain contributions on the music in


  •       Italian Neorealism
  •       Italian cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s
  •       French mainstream cinema of the 1950s
  •       French New Wave cinema
  •       French art and mainstream cinema from the 1960s to the 1980s
  •       Neues Deutsches Kino
  •       West German mainstream cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s
  •       Cinema in the GDR
  •       British Cinema from the 1950s to the 1980s
  •       New British Cinema
  •       Dutch and Belgian cinema
  •       Spanish cinema during the Franco regime
  •       Spanish post-Franco cinema
  •       Scandinavian cinema from Bergman to Trier
  •       Czech, Polish and Hungarian cinema (in particular of the 1960s and 1970s)
  •       Cinema of the Balkans
  •       Greek cinema
  •       Soviet cinema from Stalin to Glasnost

The music in films from these countries and stylistic periods should be ideally analyzed by expanding the horizon of music in cinema to include the following historical, social, political and cultural topics particularly relevant to the life in postwar Europe:

  •       Memory, trauma and the (recent) past
  •       History, politics and cultural identity
  •       Migration, diaspora, displacement and crossing borders
  •       Political repression and self-censorship, dissent and stagnation
  •       Nationalism and “postnationalism”
  •       Images and identity of the self and the other
  •       Human relationships, sexuality, and gender representations

The collection will be edited by Ewelina Boczkowska (Youngstown State University) and Michael Baumgartner (Cleveland State University).  Please submit a 300-word abstract and/or a max. 5,000-word essay or any inquiries to m.baumgartner29-AT-csuohio.edu and eboczkowska-AT-ysu.edu before October 15th, 2014.

CFP: Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium

Orson Welles: A Centennial Celebration and Symposium
Indiana University
April 29-May 2, 2015

proposal due date: November 15, 2014

Indiana University plans an academic symposium welcoming scholars, archivists, filmmakers, and others interested in celebrating the centennial of Orson Welles’s birth. The event will be held April 29-May 2, 2015 on the beautiful Bloomington, Indiana campus and hosted by Indiana University’s newly established Media School; the Indiana University Libraries (including the Lilly Library, home of the Orson Welles Papers, and the IU Libraries Moving Image Archive); and Indiana University Cinema, which has earned an international reputation for the high quality of its facilities and programming.

Accompanying the symposium will be a series of Welles films and an exhibition featuring rare and unique items from the Welles collection. Renowned Wellesian scholars such as James Naremore, Joseph McBride, Patrick McGilligan, and Jonathan Rosenbaum, along with filmmakers who have worked with Welles or made films about Welles, are expected to give talks, introduce films, and appear in Q&A sessions following screenings.

Interested participants are invited to submit paper proposals on any aspect of Orson Welles’s work in cinema, theater, radio, television, or journalism. As this will be the inaugural symposium of the IU Media School, the theme of Welles as a pioneer or innovator in media is a welcome topic. However, papers need not be limited to any particular critical, theoretical, historical, or political subject or method. We hope to receive proposals that deal with previously unexplored issues, but we are also interested in proposals that offer fresh approaches to much-discussed work.

Proposals should be limited to 300 words in length and consist of a brief description of the paper’s theme or focus, plus a one-page vita. Proposals may be submitted for individual papers or for sessions featuring two or three panelists. Proposals for panels should be submitted as a group by the organizer, along with a short explanation of the unifying theme. In addition, each panel proposal should consist of individual paper descriptions (limited to 300 words in length), names of panelists and their vitae.

Please email your proposals to Jon Vickers, Director of the IU Cinema, at jwvicker-AT-indiana.edu by November 15, 2014. The Symposium Program Committee will evaluate all submissions and notify all candidates of the results by December 15, 2014. We look forward to your proposals, and to celebrating Orson Welles’s 100th Birthday in style.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

CFP: NECSUS journal on Vintage

NECSUS, The European Journal of Media Studies, has announced the next topic, "Vintage," for its Autumn 2015 edition

Abstracts of 300 words, 3-5 bibliographic references, and a short biography of 100 words due by 10 October 2014.   On the basis of selected abstracts writers will be invited to submit full manuscripts (5000-7000 words) which will subsequently go through a blind peer review process.


Few issues are as pertinent today as the relationship between old and new, past and present, obsolescence and progress. Paradoxically, as the obsession with the new in contemporary society intensifies, so too does our interest in older technologies, styles, and artefacts. Advertising and marketing in particular have tapped into the selling potential of nostalgia and references to the past permeate just about every cultural domain from film, television, art, and music, to fashion, food, tourism, and interior design. Terms such as ‘retro’ and ‘vintage’ have become commonplace, both frequent appendages to item searches on Ebay and other shopping sites/outlets. How do we define and distinguish these terms, and how might they be unpacked to shed light on the processes by which history is evaluated, appropriated, and consumed?

Unlike retro and nostalgia, vintage has received little critical attention despite its ubiquity in the fields of fashion and furniture. The complexity of the term derives from its relationship to taste and value and rituals of acquisition and exchange. Situated somewhere between retro irony and antique sobriety, vintage carries a host of connotations that shift in relation to contextual and historical markers. From the ragpickers of flea markets and car boot sales to the affluent consumers of highly-priced rarities, vintage traverses disparate spaces, identities, and practices, encompassing both mainstream and alternative attitudes and ethics.

A host of historical and philosophical commentators, from Benjamin to Baudrillard, have grappled with our relationship to history through modes of representation and ways of seeing. Whilst for Benjamin an engagement with the past can mean redemption in the present, Baudrillard sees our cultural obsession with history as emptied of meaning – a reflection of the postmodernist decline of the real. How to consolidate these different positions within a theory of vintage? What can a study of vintage with its shifting meanings, its complications and contradictions, reveal about our attachment to the past and its significance in the present? What is the relationship between vintage and practices of remembering, both personal and collective, and how might these practices be activated in ways that go beyond consumerism? Notable here are recent studies of media and nostalgia – Amy Holdsworth’s Television, Memory and Nostalgia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), Lucas Hilderbrand’s Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright (Duke University Press, 2009), and Katharina Niemeyer’s edited collection Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). How do we negotiate the fine line between nostalgic reification (Baudrillard) and critical interrogation (Benjamin)? How does vintage connect with popular culture and what Simon Reynolds has termed ‘retromania’ in his book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past (Faber & Faber, 2011)?

This NECSUS special section aims to answer some of these questions, building a theory of vintage that stretches across different media. It will bring together a wide range of new perspectives on and critical approaches to the theme of vintage, opening up the topic to related fields of enquiry and making connections across disciplines and theoretical paradigms.

A full call and submission details available at the journal's website.

Monday, September 22, 2014

CFP: Film Festival Origins and Trajectories

Special issue of the peer-reviewed journal New Review of Film and Television Studies
Guest-edited by Lydia Papadimitriou and Jeffrey Ruoff

Oct. 1, 2014 deadline for submission of proposals
(For accepted proposals, the deadline for completed 6,000-9,000 word essays is December 15, 2014.)

This special issue of NRFTS explores the genesis of festivals, in different countries, to trace the distances festivals have travelled from their origins, how changes are sometimes intentional and at other times the results of socio-political and economic transformations. The guest editors are interested in proposals that break new historical, methodological, and theoretical grounds and, with certain regions already represented in the issue, are especially interested in proposals about festivals in Latin America, underrepresented areas of Asia, as well as North Africa and the Middle East.

Email an abstract of 100-200 words and a 50-word bio to L.Papadimitriou-AT-ljmu.ac.uk  and Jeffrey.k.ruoff-AT-dartmouth.edu no later than Oct. 1, 2014.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Documentary Aestheticization

There's a broader debate to be had with the aestheticization of documentary subjects, but I would like to visit the documentaries that signal themselves as aestheticizing, poetic, or otherwise formally rigorous approaches to nonfiction. These, I feel, invite the critique, often on the ground that aestheticized documentary not only resists documentary's Griersonian mission but actively perverts it.

Tom Rosten, for instance, remarks of Oxyana:
The problem arises largely because Oxyana is depicting serious social problems (poverty, drug addiction). And the aestheticization of real social issues can feel like documentary voyeurism or slumming. Some of the more wretched cases (a guy with clear mental impairment) reminded me of fetishistic quality that I’ve seen in the films of Harmony Korine and Larry Clark.
I've not yet seen Oxyana, so let me the example of Detropia. In some ways the film is purposive in its aestheticizing treatment, since one response to postindustrial decline in Detroit has been to reclaim the ruin as a positive. And yet, there is potentially something problematic in ruin porn, both ethically and politically. I happen to like Detropia, since I think it's engaged on more public sphere matters than ruin porn, whereas I gather the film has garnered some negative criticism among Detroiters. Still, I can see how the desire to hold the postindustrial as a perfect aesthetic object can get in the way of more productive engagement with community and social space.



But stepping back from the debate, I find myself interrogating the aestheticization effect. Take Nikolas Geyrhalter's Our Daily Bread (2005), a documentary about the agriculture industry. It's almost a textbook example of a poetic documentary, eschewing exposition, voiceover, and testimony in favor of static, well composed shots of plants, animals, and agri-industrial processes.


Like in this shot: the pigs are being taken to slaughter in a semi-industrial manner, yet the film shoots them in a formal, symmetrical composition and the long take lingers to invite our contemplation of them just as art cinema might a landscape or cityscape. 

And, yet, phenomologically, the spectator does not mistake the aestheticizing treatment for the qualities of the subject matter itself. The frisson of Our Daily Bread is the spectator by and large does not want to see the soulless mechanics of agribusiness as beautiful. We're aware that the reality is not pretty, and aestheticization in fact opens up in that gap the vantage of knowledge and institutional critique. 

I am not holding up the poetic documentary as an inherently superior format in this respect. There are certain disadvantages vis-a-vis issue documentary, just as there are some advantages. But I wish to think more about how spectatorial structures are actually operating in them. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Conferences late 2014 edition

Here is my current list of English-language conferences of interest to those in film studies (and some for TV and media studies). Upcoming conferences are listed in order by date or, for open calls, by abstract due date. Please let me know if I should add anything, and I will update this post. Also, I plan to do an update post in winter 2015.

Closed calls:
Vocal Projections: Documentary and the Voice - University of Surrey, Sept 19, 2014
Flow 2014 - Austin, TX, Sept 11-13, 2014 [website]
Literature/Film Association Conference - University of Montana (Missoula), Oct 2-4, 2014 [website]
Screenwriting Research Conference - Potsdam, Germany, Oct 16-18, 2014 [website]
Film and History conference - Madison, Wisconsin, Oct 29 - Nov 2, 2014 [website]
ASA (American Studies Association) - Los Angeles, Nov 6-9, 2014 [website]
World Picture Conference - ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Nov 7-8, 2014 [website]
“Film Festival Cartographies” Symposium - Modena, Italy, Nov 20-21, 2014 [website]
Visible Evidence XXI - New Delhi, Dec 11-14, 2014 [website]
MLA -  Vancouver, Jan 8-11, 2015 [website]
CAA - Chicago, Feb 12-15, 2014 [website]

Current calls:
Due date: Aug 29, 2014 SMCS - Montreal Mar 25-29, 2015  [call]
Due date: Sept 2, 2014 The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema - EYE/University of Amsterdam, March, 29-31 2015 [call]
Due date: Oct 1, 2014 Console-ing Passions - Dublin, Ireland, June 18-20, 2015 [website]
Due date: Oct 31, 2013 BAFTSS 2014 conference Manchester Metropolitan University, Apr 16-18 2015 [call]
Due date: Nov 1, 2014 PCA (Popular Culture Association) - New Orleans, April 1-4, 2015 [website]
Due date: Nov 4, 2013 ICA - San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 21-25, 2014 [website | call]
Due date: Dec 15, 2014 Film and Media in the Classroom - University of Florida, Feb 26-Mar 1, 2015 [call]

Upcoming calls:
The Annual Conference of the Film Studies Association of Canada - May, 2015 [website]
NECS - Łódź, Poland, June 18-20, 2015 [website]
Screen - Univ of Glasgow, June 26-28, 2015 [website]
UFVA - American University, Washington, DC, Aug 4-8, 2015 [website]

Monday, August 18, 2014

Cinematography essay

As regular readers of this blog will now, I've had a long-running interest in Hollywood cinematography, an interest that has grown from my 1947 project and has culminated in what will be a chapter in my book. Happily, too, I've been able to write a wide-view essay about cinematography during the (sound) studio era.

This essay appears in an edited volume on Hollywood cinematography titled simply enough Cinematography. It's one the first volumes in Rutger's Behind the Silver Screen series, a collection of volumes each tackling a different trade in Hollywood filmmaking. It's an overdue idea, in my view, and I'm thrilled to be in such good company.

Thanks to Patrick Keating for including me and for his editorial input. I can definitely say his guidance improved the final essay. Moreover, I've been gaining a lot of insight from my fellow contributors. Hopefully the volume will help make scholars more aware of cinematography as art and practice and will equip them with historical narratives to embark on research projects on the visual style of commercial cinema.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Nicholas Ray volume

I have a couple of items coming out in book form this summer. I'm a little late in noting it, but my essay on Knock on Any Door appears in Steven Rybin and Will Scheibel's edited collection on Nicholas, Lonely Places, Dangerous Ground: Nicholas Ray in American Cinema. It's out from SUNY Press.

The book compiles a series of essay on Ray's work, more or less one essay for each film in his career. The result is an interesting kaleidoscope of critical approaches. Though it was never coordinated, it's interesting to me to see how those writing on Ray's lesser known films make the case for their centrality despite the neat fit with the auteur persona critics have identifies in Ray. For instance, Alexander Doty gives a queer reading of Born to Be Bad and A Woman's Secret. And Tony Williams argues that Ray is doing something more interesting with color in Flying Leathernecks than critics have given credit for.

As for my essay, it's a reading of the discourse of criminology and sociology in Knock on Any Door, Ray's most straightforward example of the social problem film. As such it's a trailer of sorts to my argument about popular sociology in my book-to-come.

In any case, thanks to Steven and Will for their work in putting together a great collection of essays.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Interview with Felipe Pruneda Sentíes

At last year's SCMS conference, one of the best panels I attended was on Film Theory Beyond the Euro-American Canon, a two-part panel that argued for the inclusion of national film theory traditions lost in the focus on France, Germany, and (occasionally) Italy.  In this it dovetailed with some work being done under the auspices of the The Permanent Seminar on Histories of Film Theories' Translation Project.

I suggested on Twitter would be a welcome regular part of SCMS, so I wanted to talk to one of the panel organizers, Felipe Pruneda Sentíes, about the issues the panels raised. He graciously agreed.

What was your goal in organizing or participating in the "Film Theory and Criticism beyond the Euro-American Canon" panels?

On a very basic level, to draw attention to the very presence of non-canonical approaches to theories of film ontology (some present in criticism) and to interrogate if the field has some linguistic and geographic limitations. Even before we get to the complexities and value of those writings, simply insisting that these writings are acknowledged was a central goal for me.... I hoped to highlight the fact that there is a concerted effort to destabilize the canon and to see what we can learn from exploring histories of cinematic theories and criticism that do not follow the most widely available narratives for the dominant centers of the field. The panels were an affirmation of this project as a larger collaboration rather than as relatively isolated studies.

Does work in other national contexts challenge how we value theoretical forms beyond high theory, such as manifestos or journalistic criticism?

I believe so, especially since in many countries, the most insightful and influential writings on cinema might have been produced outside academia, often considered the territory of high theory and in particular classical film theory. I’m put in mind of a great article Adrian Martin wrote in response to David Bordwell’s book Making Meaning. Martin points out that Bordwell’s history of film studies inevitably ends in the university, after a few “freelance heavies” like Bazin and Eisenstein first showed the way. Martin counters with his experience of the “field” (and these are his quotation marks, immediately questioning what we might mean by a “field of knowledge”), in which his mentors in cinema studies often never held professorial positions, and where the most exciting works on the subject did not appear in “theory journals,” but rather in independent magazines without academic credentials. It is necessary to realize that film thought (a term I prefer to “film studies” in this case, for it does not distinguish between theory, criticism, and other forms of inquiry) happens in very different sectors of human activity, and they all hold the potential to develop rich, productive frameworks. The goal is to create dialogues with them that avoid constructing a hierarchy between regimes of knowledge, but that establish links that would make these frameworks available in all their forms – to borrow a few words from Benjamin – in the classroom.

Emilio García Riera, one Mexico’s premiere film historians, once wrote “most of the most interesting work on cinema is written in or translated into English,” expressing his own desire to master that language so he can access some examples of high theory. Even though my own work was inspired by the absence of theories from outside Europe and North America in many survey courses of film theory, it is fueled, perhaps with greater intensity, by how Mexican scholars themselves participate in that absence. I admire efforts by scholars like Lauro Zavala to establish film studies as an academic field in Mexican universities, but some of those efforts admit to a dearth of information on local theories while underscoring the necessity to become familiar with the theories that constitute the existing field.

Should SCMS have an ongoing engagement with non-canonical theory? What form might this take?

The answer to the first question I think is yes, it should, and in some ways it does, if we define non-canonical theory as not just transnational approaches, but also theories of underrepresented perspectives. An overview of panels and workshops tells me that there’s interest in non-canonical classical film theory outside of scholarly groups and caucuses.

But the second question is harder. I once thought that I would not want non-canonical theories of film ontology to become a section or an offshoot of the broader conference, which to me might be a way of keeping non-canonical theory in check by giving it a token legitimacy, a presence that does not spill outside the boundaries of a niche because it feels like an earned acknowledgement. But now I don’t think creating a scholarly interest group or a caucus, for example, always accomplishes a kind of neutralization. Indeed, it would be a great start for gaining traction and attention. But really I would like to see non-canonical theories informing every investigation, producing research that constructs wildly diverging genealogies, so that a canon would at least become a blurry historical entity, a distant, rather than looming, shadow.

What other efforts are going on currently to translate and popularize non-canonical theory and criticism in the field?

I am mostly aware of collections, some in translation, some in their original language, that bring to the table previously unknown or understudied work. Viviane Mahieux collected the works of pioneering Mexican film critic Cube Bonifant in Una pequeña Marquesa de Sade (A Little Marquise de Sade) in 2009, and 2012 saw the release of a mammoth edition of Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante’s complete works on film. I also know of a great book by Elizabeth Nazarian called The Tenth Muse: Karol Irzykowski and Early Film Theory, which looks at the writings of the Polish intellectual of the title and provides an excellent example of how locate an original contribution to film thought without overemphasizing the historical and geographical context that would anchor her chosen theorist’s work.

And there’s a great collection, Cinema All the Time: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939, edited by Jaroslav Andel and Petr Szczepanik and translated by Kevin B. Johnson. (It’s interesting to see how many of these efforts are also focused on early film criticism, most of them from the beginnings of cinema and contained in the first half of the twentieth century).

What is your personal research in this regard?

Latin American theory is my particular area of interest at this point, more specifically in Mexico, and finding the makings of theoretical ideas within non-institutional forms of film writing. There are two writers in particular whose work I would love to translate: José Revueltas and Jorge Ayala Blanco, the latter of which has an ongoing series of books on Mexican cinema that is a great example of ludic, poetic reflection as a form of creative inquiry into cinema, which is another central concern of mine, alongside how differences in technological availability and production influence the pathways of film theory and criticism.

Are there scholars whose work should be highlighted?

Well, besides our panelists Weihong Bao, Aparna Frank, Naoki Yamamoto, Jason McGrath, Katarina Mihailovic and Masha Salazkina of course, and Mahieux and Nazarian, I would also mention, from within North American film studies, Robert Ray, who offers a good springboard for thinking about issues of theory proliferation in his book How a Film Theory Got Lost. And I think a book like Andrew Klevan and Alex Clayton’s edited volume The Language and Style of Film Criticism is another place to get a sense of meta-critical work that questions what it means to produce knowledge about cinema, and thus begins to open up possibilities for studies of writings outside the academy. There is a piece in there by Adrian Martin that highlights work of three critics that were completely unknown to me: John Flaus, Shigehiko Hasumi and Frieda Grafe. These three were not scholars, so I would also advice to keep an eye on the work of a few non-academic critics. I wish I could mention many many more, but look forward to hearing about more works on this area.

What practices do you wish scholars who don't have area studies-specialization would adopt?

I’m not sure there’s anything specific that scholars who delve into national and transnational film cultures outside global Hollywood or Europe aren’t doing already (at least the ones I’ve read). I think it makes sense to seek the help of area studies scholars. Even though I grew up in Mexico – where I read criticism and some theory in Spanish – my entire academic formation has been squarely into academic film studies in the United States. My own knowledge of area studies has been acquired through dialogues with scholars who work in Latin American Studies, both in English and Spanish, and my own readings of their works. I think film scholars recognize and practice these collaborations and engage in these dialogues.

I do wonder, however, how many scholars make it a point of learning the language of a film culture that sparks their curiosity. How often does this happen? I don’t think you need to master a language to produce great research on a film culture in that language, nor am I saying that multilingualism should be a requirement in our field (some programs that I am aware of enforce it more than others). I know my own bilingualism came more from circumstances rather than only my own conscious work. But how feasible is it to undertake learning and even becoming reasonably fluent in a new language as part of our research projects? How much should we consider that our task? I think it is a good idea. I for one have future plans to work on Portuguese cinema and criticism, particularly after learning of an unfinished, multivolume work on film semiotics that a Portuguese electrical engineer, Fernando Gonçalves dos Santos Ferreira Lavrador, wrote in the eighties. I’m fascinated by the idea that it is an incomplete work from a non-academic perspective, and I believe I could only do it justice by learning its language. And doing so goes a long way in introducing us to concepts in area studies.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

CFP: Velvet Light Trap issue on technological change

Call for Papers: VLT Issue #76 - Case Studies in Technological Change

Submission deadline: August 17, 2014

Submit to: thevelvetlighttrap-AT-gmail.com

To paraphrase Robert Allen and Douglas Gomery in Film History: Theory and Practice, media depends on machines. Technology contextualizes industrial and stylistic change, reveals and obscures sites of cultural negotiation and meaning, and enables new modes of media production, circulation, and reception. The significance of technology to media studies has only become more acute with the proliferation of digital technologies, which have changed the methods and tools of our scholarship—to say nothing of the object of that study.

Too often, however, scholarship relegates technology to the background, rendering it less an object of study in and of itself than a cause of, or context for, broader situations. While useful and often necessary, this tendency can have unintended consequences. It risks the assumption that technological changes automatically engender concomitant changes in our “real” object of study, when representations and practices that endure despite technological change offer equally important insight. Similarly, focusing on broader trends may steer us away from failed efforts at technological change, where entrenched structures of cultural or industrial design are exposed and tested, while treating technology as the agent of change can ignore the roles of cultural and industrial demands in technological advancement or stasis.

This issue of The Velvet Light Trap specifically seeks case studies of historical and contemporary technological change that privilege technology itself as the object of study. We wish to focus the issue’s attention on specific technological changes in context rather than theories that explore how technology in broad terms is changing media and culture. We especially welcome studies that reexamine accepted histories of technological change, reveal little-known changes worthy of attention, or show important continuities despite technological change.

Potential topics include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Digital production, distribution, exhibition, transmission, and retail formats
  • Technology in media preservation, archiving, and historiography
  • National cinemas’ transitions to sound, widescreen, and color
  • Technology and marginalized producers or audiences
  • “Invisible” technological intermediaries: labs, servers, antennas, and codecs
  • Processing power, graphical interfaces, software, hardware, hacking, and modding in video and computer gaming
  • New formats, old media, nostalgia: reissues, videotape, and internet video
  • Craft practices, production cultures, labor, new and obsolete professions
  • Experimental and avant-garde media
  • Changing technology and representations of race, class, gender
  • Panchromatic stock, HD, FM: film, television, and radio style
  • Revising assumptions about the workings of technology
  • Failed, obscure, or forgotten technology
  • Technologies of fandom and fandoms of technology

For full call and submission guidelines, see the Velvet Light Trap's website.