Showing posts from November, 2012

IDFA reflections

I'm not a veteran film festival goer, partly out of habit, mostly out of geography. But the opportunity arose for me to attend the IDFA documentary film festival in Amsterdam so I eagerly pounced on it. I didn't attend the whole stretch, and there were many films I didn't see, but here are some trends and motifs I noticed:

- Investigation: I had tweeted that investigation might be thought of as an ur-ideology of contemporary doc. That's a hypothesis that will need more exploration, but it was striking to me how many of the films I saw were about crime -  C.K., about a dutch embezzler, Smash and Grab, about the Pink Panther jewel thief ring - or generally took the form of an investigative structure - Men at Lunch or Seconds of Lead. Much like the chase was a winning formula for transitional narrative cinema, the investigation captures the epistemology of narrativized doc. In fact in Seconds of Lead, an Iranian documentary reflecting on the revolution, the process of tra…

CFP: Visible Evidence XX

Visible Evidence XX 
Stockholm, Sweden
August 15-18, 2013

Call for proposals

In 1990, a group of American scholars were provoked by the marginalization of documentary in the scholarly field of film studies. Their initiative for an international conference series resulted in Visible Evidence, first organized in 1993 by Jane Gaines at Duke University. In concert with this initiative appeared a number of influential books, such as Representing Reality (Bill Nichols, 1991), Blurred Boundaries (Bill Nichols, 1994), Theorizing Documentary (Michael Renov, ed., 1993), and Claiming the Real: The Griersonian Documentary and its Legitimations (Brian Winston, 1995). Ever since, these volumes have been followed by related and complementary work in the growing academic field of documentary studies.

The annual event of Visible Evidence has infused and keeps on inspiring the cross-disciplinary research on documentary film and media. The conferences have also encouraged and provided an important dialog…

CFP: Film Criticism in the Digital Age

"Film Criticism in the Digital Age: Media, Purposes and the Status of the Critic”

Editors: Mattias Frey and Cecilia Sayad

The aims and status of arts and culture criticism, in general, and film criticism, in particular, are currently up for revision and under attack, according to a whole host of indicators. Numerous articles and academic monographs bemoan the crisis of criticism or mourn the death of the critic. Regular symposia and conferences dwell on the many, sometimes prominent film journalists made redundant at newspapers, magazines and other ‘old media’ in past years; Sean P. Means lists fifty-five American movie critics who lost their jobs between 2006 and 2009. It is clear that the reasons for the current situation include the worldwide recession, the recent drop in print advertising revenues and, more fundamentally, the declining circulations attributable to reluctant consumers of print media. These developments have brought forth ontological—if not exi…

Bourdieu and Film/Media Conference

It's been a couple of days since the New Uses of Bourdieu in Film and Media Studies conference, but I'm finally catching up from travel to write up my impressions and summary. Having taken to Bourdieu's scholarship during my graduate school years and having immersed myself in his work, I was excited to see a conference devoted to his thought, and I commend the organizers in pulling together a valuable and well-run event. It was a pleasure to hear both theoretical reflections on Bourdieu's concepts (habitus, field, capital) and applications to areas I had not considered before.

That said, the more I think about it, I do think there are a couple of areas where the conference did not go as far as I would like. For an event framed as an intervention into two disciplines, there seemed to be relatively reflection on the state of the disciplines. I know that speaks as much to my sensibility as anything, but as I saw more papers I noticed that few were humanities-oriented film…

Bourdieu conference/IDFA

I will be traveling this week, first to Newcastle University for their conference on New Uses of Bourdieu in Film and Media Studies. I'm excited for the conference, since Bourdieu's been central to my methodological thinking since graduate school. A full program is available at the conference website.

Afterward, I'll be attending the IDFA/ International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. I do believe that In Media Res will be hosting an IDFA-themed week on documentary, so keep an eye out for that.

I will try to post dispatches and summaries from each.

Documentary and Canonicity

If I can navel-gaze about my article for a minute, it occurs to me that I rely far more on a canon in my research on documentary than my research on classical Hollywood. By this I mean not only the films I selected (Helvetica might not be part of the canon but most of my other titles are in some way or another) but also the finite body of scholarship I draw on.

On one hand, I think documentary studies can do more to look beyond the canon. My own research fails to do so partly out of my limitations in time and imagination. Other scholars out there are doing a much better job of thinking outside the canon, though as I've suggested in my essay they often do so by privileging rule-breaking documentaries over ones which might be considered ordinary.

On the other hand, documentary as a field is a self-conscious tradition, so acknowledging the closed circuit of aesthetic reference and influence makes a certain sense. And many documentaries, mainstream and community-oriented alike, do not…

New article on contemporary documentary

I have an article in the newest Cinema Journal issue (Fall 2012). Titled "Postclassical Nonfiction: Narration in the Contemporary Documentary," the essay uses three documentaries, Hoop Dreams, Daughter from Danang, and Helvetica as examples of a postclassical style of documentary making that lies in between traditional docs and newer postmodern, post-Griersonian examples.

One thing that unfortunately got left out in the editing and review process was the inclusion of my acknowledgments: I really appreciate the comments and feedback from Bob Rehak, Roderick Coover, and the anonymous reviewers at Cinema Journal.

Also thanks to my classes, undergraduate and graduate, for being an audience as I tested out my ideas. I normally avoid 1st person in my writing but here decided as an experiment to start with the anecdotal. For me, the theoretical problems of documentary are connected to the pedagogical ones.

Helvetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007)