Wednesday, April 23, 2014

CFP: Film Festival Cartographies symposium


“Film Festival Cartographies” Symposium
20-21 November 2014
University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Modena, Italy

The organisers invite prospective participants to submit abstracts for paper presentations at “Film Festival Cartographies”, a two-day symposium hosted by the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Studies, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia and promoted by the Film Festival Research Network (FFRN) and the Ozu Film Festival.

The Film Festival Cartographies symposium endeavours to reflect on issues of global distribution, transnationalism, and on the social imaginaries and political economies embedded in film festivals. The symposium looks for contributions seeking to tackle the ‘social production’ of festival spaces (Lefevre, Harvey, Massey). Based on the idea of ‘critical cartographies’ (Harley, Wood), the event aims to explore the ways in which the festival ecosystem is constituted and marked in the world chart, and how festival maps could be understood as sites of power and knowledge. This involves thinking critically about the mapping strategies of both the festivals and the people working in the festival world. It also implies addressing the ways in which the festival circuit is imbedded in a particular ‘geopolitical aesthetic’ (Jameson) and how they reproduce certain ‘geographical imaginaries’ (Said). The discussion will be open to reflect on the various articulations between the dynamic structures of festival circuits and subjective festival experiences. Thus, it seeks to tackle, for example, the overlapping ‘mental maps’ (Jodelet, Lynch) that come into play at the festivals, related both to the personal trajectories at the festivals (Benjamin, de Certeau), and the festival‘s global position.

Therefore, we are interested in contributions that aim to explore, or challenge, the maps of international and regional film festivals. This mapping can be theoretical (on the various socio-political, morphological and economic aspects of festivals), as well as methodological, introducing new research approaches to the festival ecosystem. The symposium seeks to continue enhancing the field of film festival studies, promoting the encounter between professionals and scholars from different academic backgrounds, and encouraging an interdisciplinary debate.

Confirmed keynote speakers are Dina Iordanova (University of St Andrews) and Marijke de Valck (University of Amsterdam).  English will be the only official language of the symposium.

Please send a 200-word abstract proposal, and 3-5 keywords, along with your full name, institutional affiliation and short biography (ca. 50 words) to Enrico Vannucci and María-Paz Peirano at modenasymposium -AT - by 4th July 2014. The full call for papers is available at the FFRN website.

Registration for the symposium will be available on later in the year.

CFP: Conference on Color in Silent Cinema


The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema

29 to 31 March, 2015
EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam

Twenty years on from the groundbreaking Amsterdam workshop ‘Disorderly Order’: Colours in Silent Film, the conference will celebrate this milestone anniversary by providing a new forum to explore contemporary archival and academic debates around colour in the silent era. The conference will explore a diverse range of archival and academic topics and provide a stimulating environment for specialists from across different disciplines. It will also include screenings of restored and/or rarely seen films. The event will be held at EYE (Amsterdam) on 29 to 31 March, 2015.

We welcome papers and in particular pre-formed panel proposals on the following themes: avant-garde and abstract colour; restoration and preservation; technologies; animation; intermediality; aesthetics and cultural contexts. We also welcome papers working with films from EYE’s Open Beelden website ( Proposals of 300 words for papers should be sent to no later than 1 September 2014.

The conference is co-organised by EYE, Giovanna Fossati (University of Amster- dam), Tom Gunning (University of Chicago) and the Leverhulme Trust research project ‘Colour in the 1920s: Cinema and Its Intermedial Contexts,’ run by Sarah Street (University of Bristol) and Joshua Yumibe (University of St Andrews / Michigan State University).

In conjunction with the conference, a new book on silent film colour, Fantasia of Color by Gunning, Fossati and Yumibe will be published by the University of Amsterdam Press and presented at EYE.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Documentary and Political Modernism

I have a feeling I'm going to have more research and thoughts to develop about the legacy of political modernism in documentary. As a child of 1970s film theory, I'm drawn to political modernism as an agenda for film theory, not because of the normative claims that 1970s film theorists made about cinema (I tend to disagree with those) but because they give a continued opportunity to think through the relation of ideology and aesthetics. Documentary has always given political modernist theorists a particular frisson because of its spectatorial experience of the real is such a tempting target for debunking. And yet I have a similar relation to these theories: sympathetic with their agenda but disagree with their normative claims.

Having recently watched Rithy Panh's The Missing Picture, I've been mulling over these issues. Not primarily because the film invokes self-reflexivity in its theme (clay figures capture what images don't, spectator wants to see the real of genocide in dodgy ways, etc). But because the film does a terrific job at having a polemic while understanding its opposite. Colin McCabe's 1970s formulation that realism cannot understand the real as contradictory is apt here.

And yet, it's not merely self-reflexive documentaries that understand the real as contradictory, more traditional ones do - quite frequently in fact. Take as an example another documentary I recently watched, The Other Chelsea: A Story from Donetsk (Jakob Preuss and Radim Procházka, 2010), a German documentary that gives a portrait of a city in Eastern Ukraine and its strong support for the Blue party and by extension Russia. There's nothing radical about the filmmaking, essentially a Europeanized version of the character-driven/issue doc hybrid. And yet, it gives voice to a young Blue Party politician who is able to articulate a view the film and its intended spectator are probably initially not in agreement with. The film is critical, yet it also presents the Real in Ukraine as precisely contradictory. It does so through structure and narration, but also through the relation of documentarist to social actor. And its means of suggesting contradiction are not rare in documentary.

So we have two means of suggesting historical contradiction. The first is to have a voiceover/filmmaker say in essence "the real is contradictory." The second is to have the social actor say it. I'm not sure one approach is inherently superior to the other.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Hegelianism and Historical Poetics

I do find historical poetics useful and enlightening as a method, even though I was not trained in it nor is it the only approach I use. But something I've mentioned before is that there's a common narrative behind its model of historical change: A B A' - or thesis-antithesis-synthesis. Stable aesthetic norms get disrupted by some external event (usually technology), causing disruption, experimentation, then finally recuperation into a new stable norm largely adapted to prior norms. One can see this narrative in works on sound (James Lastra), deep focus (David Bordwell), or Technicolor (Scott Higgins), or in one essay I always enjoy reading and teaching, Paul Ramaeker's account of the split-diopter lens.

There's a good reason this narrative appears often: culture industries, particularly those as capitalized and convention-oriented as Hollywood, place a premium on stability and regularity so filmmakers do a lot of professional work to find stability in an unstable context.

But I keep toying with the possibility that there might be other ways to narrativize stylistic change. Maybe the old stable system was never all that stable (Miriam Hansen), or maybe stylistic genesis does not come primarily from external shocks to the system (what I argue in a forthcoming essay on cinematography). Or maybe things don't re-stabilize, or to borrow a metaphor stabilize only around multiple equilibria. Quite possibly the case of digital cinematography is an instance of this.