Issue 20_The Geopolitics of Cinema and the Study of Film / La géopolitique du cinéma et les études cinématographiques

Edited by / Sous la direction de Tim Bergfelder, Vinzenz Hediger, Francesco Pitassio

Following the psychoanalytic and poststructuralist debates of the 1970s, and the New Film History of the 1980s and early 1990s, one of the key concerns in the study of film over the past fifteen years has been what one may call the geopolitical or the topographical turn. Instead of attempting to define the essence of film (according to the old medium specificity paradigms), the more important problem to solve has become how to locate the space, or rather the spaces, of cinema. In order to answer that question, one needs, in the first instance, to engage with the multiple consequences of the proliferation of media platforms, of new modes of production, circulation, distribution and consumption since the end of the 20th century. While digital moving images are seemingly everywhere, from iPhones to YouTube and Netflix to in-flight entertainment, cinema in the traditional sense of a fixed space of theatrical exhibition has become an ancillary function. Film studies methodology has adapted to these changes, branching out into research investigating developments and new practices of production in an expanded field of creative industries, as well as studies into distribution and consumption in the digital age. Topics include areas such as production research, film policy at national and supranational levels, investigations into the rise and fall and rise of 3D, the ubiquity of film festivals, the prevalence of piracy and other forms of informal distribution, the reading strategies of audiences, and the creative activities of virtual cinephile and fan communities.

Tim Bergfelder, Preface

Dudley AndrewIs cinema contagious? Transnationalism and the case of Korea

Overused and under-theorized, the term “transnational” remains crucial for any dynamic examination of problems and processes in World Cinema. It sits between local context and global context. While national and international approaches have the advantage of clear demarcations, they do not respond to the unofficial life that cinema lives transnationally. Like other bottom-up phenomena (fashion, religion, even disease), films do not obey national boundaries. In this regard the position of Korea is anomalous, for here a national policy put into effect in 1995, aims directly at transnational results. This article looks briefly at pre-1995 Korean films and then at those that have come since, in order to gauge the extent to which a national policy can promote a transnational consequence (different from mere export).

Alexandra SchneiderTraveling styles: or the challenge of approaching commercial Hindi cinema as world cinema

This article proposes a contribution to a methodological and theoretical discussion in contemporary film studies: how to study and teach cinema cultures in the age of globalization? In a first step, the approach to World Literature proposed by literary scholar Franco Moretti is re-visited and discussed in terms of its productivity and limitations the article then asks if cinematic traditions can be understood in a comparative perspective, as the result of processes of mutual exchange, circulation and friction beyond the confines of a paradigm of national cinema, and along pathways of circulation not necessarily shaped and controlled by the supposedly inevitable forces of Western capitalism. Commercial Hindi cinema is used as a case study – the article in particular discusses the temporal-spatial constellation of “Pakeezah” (“Pure One”, Kamal Amrohi, 1972).

Nathalie Boheler, De-locating “Independence:” the discourse on Southeast Asian Indipendent Cinema and its trajectories

This essay examines the ways Southeast Asian Indipendent Cinema can be located – or, perhaps, de-located -, departing from traditional concepts of film studies, by examining the discourse on this cinematic movement as it is shaped by local and foreign voices. The paper focuses on the nexus of independence, political involvement and regionalism and asks how these meanings are negotiated in their transfer from various previous concepts of cinematic independence and alternativeness into the local context. As Southeast Asian Independent Cinema challenges conventional notions of film studies (the frame of national cinemas; the binary system of Hollywood vs. World Cinema; and the pre-digital cinematic apparatus), it presents an opportunity to rethink and expand traditional concepts and the underlying epistemologies in an innovative, non Eurocentric way.

Ilaria De PascalisTransnational subjects in a multiple Europe: Auf der anderen Seite and Almanya: Wilkommen in Deutschland

The aim of the article is to address the different production strategies and formal solutions proposed by two European films by German-Turkish directors, “Auf der anderen Seite” (“The Edge of Heaven”, Fatih Akin, 2007), and “Almanya: Willkommen in Deutschland” (“Almanya: Welcome to Germany”, Yasemin and Nesrin Samdereli, 2011). The article will analyze the role of the spatial configurations and the temporal fragmentations in the representations of cultural conflicts and problematic identities. Both narratives address migration and border crossing issue, exploring the contemporary relations between (neutral) Germany and (exotic) Turkey. However, the approaches of the two films to these issues are very different, also because of the context of production and distribution. The analysis of these films will therefore be conducted in relation to the European cinematographic market, spatial-temporal configurations, and border thinking. It will be shown how European cinema responds to deep changes on imaginary, economic, and social levels, representing geopolitical mutations through narrative, formal, and productive choices.

Angela Prysthon, Peripheral realism: the regional and transnational dynamic of contemporary Brazilian cinema

This article concerns the redefinition of realism from the perspective of its impact on contemporary Brazilian cinematography, commenting on and analyzing the stylistic strategies of filmmakers who are situated at the margins of the traditional centers of film production in Brazil. My focus will be on films from the Northeast, and even more specifically those produced in the state of Pernambuco from the late 2000s. For instance, a brief overview of the most recent production by directors such as Gabriel Mascaro, Marcelo Pedroso, Marcelo Lordello and especially Kleber Mendonça Filho shows that this “realist turn”, breaks with a naturalist and caricatured tradition of filmmaking in Pernambuco (as it is the case of the previous regional cycle in the state). A more detailed analysis of Mendonça Filho’s “Neighbouring Sounds” (2012) will be helpful to demonstrate under what conditions this rupture occurred and how it is related with the emergence of a peripheral aesthetics of realism.

Valerio Coladonato, Moving picture and people across the U.S.-Mexico Border: the critical reception of Sin nombre and The three burials of Melquiades Estrada

The declining sovereignity of nation-states intensifies the symbolic functions performed by physical borders. The frontier between Mexico and the U.S. is one of these ideologically charged places: it plays a defining role in national identities and narratives, and contributes to their hybridization. Nevertheless, in films involving a partnership between the U.S. and Mexico, critical discourse is predominantly shaped by separate “national” paradigms. The paper considers as case studies two films concerned with border narratives: “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005) and “Sin nombre” (Cary Fukunaga, 2009). Their critical reception is traced by examining reviews, articles and interviews both in the U.S. and in the Mexican press. The central premise of the two movies is, in fact, a journey towards the opposite side of the frontier (South-bound in the former, and North-bound in the latter). Concerns regarding the permeability of the national territory – which characterize contemporary surveillance culture – are filtered through the movies’ genres and their different “mise-en-scène”. Migration emerges as the primary geopolitical framework through which the films are interpreted: the emphasis lies on the economic dimension and/or the “national security” issues: hence, the dynamics of cultural hybridization are significantly overlooked.

Jakob Nilsson, Concept-cognitive mapping: third cinema as cartography of Global Capitalism

This article returns to the experimental theory and practice of Third Cinema as developed in the late 1960s in parts of Latin America. It focuses on two of its aspects that have not been systematically researched: Third Cinema as conceptualizations and maps of global capitalism. In doing so this article takes up and reconfigures Fredric Jameson’s notion of “cognitive mapping” and introduce the theory concept-cognitive mapping. This latter theory aims to contribute new thoughts and perspectives to ongoing debates on aesthetic forms capable of a critical grasp of the mechanisms of advanced capitalism.

Giorgio AvezzùThe rhetoric and aesthetics of world cinema: film studies as a place for the “Persistence of Geography” in contemporary cinema

This article aims at considering the world cinema “perspective” in contemporary film studies as an approach that adopts a cartographical rhetoric and a worldist aesthetics. This reveals a nostalgia for the geographical discourse, which has many implications and can be even considered reactionary. Indeed, being the effect of a sort of osmosis between “cartographic cinema” and “cartography of cinema,” world cinema promotes a worldview that is allegorical of the old modernist cinematic mission of making the whole world visible. By reinserting geography in contemporary film studies and in the filmic texts today, it is compensative of new anxieties about film referentiality and the difficult mappability of informal film distribution. On a broader level, a symptomatic reading of world cinema shows how its geographical/geopolitical gaze tries to overcome a crisis of authority and of representation, and the “crisis of the cartographic reason.”

Delphine WehrliLuckàcs, précurseur d’une esthétique géopolitique? Le concept de totalité au service du cinéma postcolonial

Can we still consider Lukács as a model of the “universalist” intellectual? And, in the geopolitical study of cinema, does the concept of totality have a relevant applicability? The matter of the legacy of Lukács’ method, especially in Jameson’s work, implies an insistent focus on his work, a re-reading and a survey of his fundamental elements, for it is precisely in what could be named his “method” that the unity of his project and his particular vision could recover their shape. Lukács’ writing on realism, Marxism and literary criticism, his contributions on the history of aesthetics, the prolegomena to a Marxist aesthetics and other parts of his work, would let us clarify some fundamental problems. This article questions a new proposition: the reviving of film studies by a non-dogmatic “come back” to the remaining lessons of Lukács and the possibility of their practice in the postcolonial studies.

New Studies

Cosetta G. SabaExtended cinema: the performative power of cinema in Installation practices

This essay will try to present the theoretical-conceptual points of a research route which concerns cinema’s modes of being in the “wider field” of art, in the form that is ontologically most distant from itself and which, nevertheless, acts with an intense “cinematic” performative force and a high degree of “modelling” impact. It is a complex modality which manifests itself through the “format” of installation where “the cinema,” starting from the discursive nucleus of the installed “work,” triggers, among the heterogeneous and disconnected elements that it might be composed of (sculptures, photographs, videos, objects), a series of relations regarding which it maintains a double utterance location: “internal” because it is one of the compositional elements (among others) and “external” because through it the performative path, which implicates the critical action in the spectator-visitor, is activated and revealed.

Luca TaddioThe Cinematic Performance of the Real: Aesthetics, New Realism and Cinema

The return of realism that followed the Postmodern years, marks an ontological “turn” which is not free of consequences also in relation to theories on cinema. This essay aims at analysing the existing relationship between the aesthetic-perceptive experience – through the notion of “immediate experience” – and the notion of “reality” in the cinematographic image. The link image-reality is considered here as a “phenomenon” in itself. If the phenomenal experience could be intended as such, without a subject, the cinematographic image too could be intended as a look without subjectivity. Cinema takes us beyond phenomenology, or rather, inside a “heretic” phenomenological perspective.

Projects & Abstracts

Nicholas Baer, Absolute Relativity. Weimar Cinema and the Crisis of Historicism (University of California, Berkeley / Ph.D. Thesis Project)

Mimmo Gianneri, From Sceneggiata to YouTube. The Contemporary Form of Production and Consumption of Neapolitan Neomelodic Music (IULM University, Milan / Ph.D. Thesis Abstract)

Reviews / Comptes-rendus

Saverio Giovacchini, Robert Sklar (eds.), Global Neorealism. The Transnational History of a Film Style [Paolo Noto]

Lúcia Nagib, Chris Perriam and Rajinder Dudrah (eds.), Theorizing World Cinema [Stefano Baschiera]

Marc Cerisuelo, Fondus enchaînés. Essais de poétique au cinéma [Valentina Re]

Gertrud Koch, Volker Pantenburg, Simon Rothöhler (eds.), Screen Dynamics. Mapping the Borders of Cinema [Mariagrazia Fanchi]

Download Introduction and Abstracts and Contributors’ bios

Vol. XII, No. 20, Spring 2013

This issue on RivisteWeb

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