Archive

CfE Archive

Special Issue no. 29

Re-intermediation: Distribution, Online Access, and Gatekeeping in the Digital European Market 

Edited by Stefano Baschiera, Francesco Di Chiara and Valentina Re

Deadline for abstract proposal: March 10, 2017

This special issue seeks to examine the on-going transformation in the gatekeeping systems regulating the digital distribution of audiovisual content in the European context.

The past decade has witnessed a weakening of the role of traditional intermediaries in the screen industries such as distributors, exhibitors and broadcasters. This is due to a series of phenomena affecting the traditional patterns of film distribution and consumption, such as the shrinking of the theatrical window; the crisis of home video physical formats; the evolution of online streaming, especially after the arrival on the European territory of OTT behemoths like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video (Cunningham and Silver 2013); and finally the dissemination of informal services such as P2P portals and linking sites/cyberlockers.

Many of the early contributions to this field of research underline the disruptive role of these factors in what has been defined as a welcome process of disintermediation (Iordanova and Cunningham 2012; Jenkins, Ford and Green 2013). However, an excessive emphasis on the supposed disappearance of intermediaries could lead to a rhetoric of unconditioned, limitless and ubiquitous content access, and of the democratization of audiovisual culture in the digital age.

On the contrary, this special issue draws on the assumption that, rather than disappearing, intermediaries are instead changing shape through a process of re-intermediation involving a negotiation between several subjects, all interested in maintaining control over content access (Gubbins 2014; Tryon 2013; Crisp 2015; Vonderau 2015). Therefore, the current digital scenario is characterized by the emergence of new forms of intermediation, which include legal battles over licensing and distribution rights, film festival networks as additional distribution circuits, the interface design of digital archives and catalogues, the role of content aggregators, the online positioning of public-service broadcasters facing digital competition, and the “social distribution” made by online communities.

In fact, this process of re-intermediation also concerns informal distribution platforms (e.g. P2P portals and linking sites connected to cyberlockers), which feature new forms of gatekeeping through their own strategies, goals and the constant interaction with formal distribution and its main players (Lobato and Thomas 2015).

The need for an understanding of the main transformations in gatekeeping mechanisms is also important in the field of supranational policymaking. We refer, for instance, to the heated debate surrounding the European Digital Single Market strategy, in which the removal of geoblocking mechanisms (Lobato and Meese 2016) and the possible abolition of exclusive territorial licensing (Cabrera Blázquez, Cappello, Grece and Valais 2016), elicited different responses in a variety of stakeholders, including European producers and distributors, European public-services and commercial broadcasters, global OTT giants or smaller European VOD services, and consumer organisations.

Finally, considering online distribution simultaneously as an opportunity, a challenge, and a threat, also affects the policies and practices of audiovisual archives, which are increasingly compelled to regulating online direct access, for both professionals and non-professional users (such as scholars and students), to their catalogues.

Based on this general theoretical framework, the special issue aims to focus in particular (but not exclusively) on the following topics:

  • Interactions between formal and informal services and practices;
  • Tradition and innovation of the business models in the audiovisual sector;
  • Legal issues (copyright holders’ rights and consumers’ rights) in the audiovisual sector;
  • The relationships between policymakers (i.e. the EU) and the audiovisual industry with respect to online distribution and the access to audiovisual products;
  • Strategies of control and curatorial styles in VOD platforms and especially SVOD platforms;
  • Strategies of control and customization of the viewing experience;
  • The organization of on demand catalogues, and its role in shaping the access to audiovisual products and the visibility of content;
  • Interactions between distribution platforms and social media;
  • “Piracy” and “social distribution”;
  • Strategies of control and curatorial styles in unauthorized VOD platforms like P2P portals and linking sites;
  • The organization of catalogues and the visibility of content on unauthorized VOD platforms;
  • Day and date releases and other attempts to re-shape the traditional window system;
  • Ongoing processes of re-definition of the audiovisual sector (production, circulation, consumption), with particular reference to phenomena of hybridization between cinema and television;
  • Synergies and competition between SVOD services and pay TVs;
  • The main features and gatekeeping functions of “catch-up TVs”, with particular reference to public and commercial broadcasting services;
  • Synergies and cross-promotion strategies between traditional film festival and online distribution;
  • The role of film festivals and Awards in the organizing strategies and curatorial approach of VOD catalogues;
  • The main features and gatekeeping functions of online film festivals;
  • The main features and gatekeeping functions of digital, online audiovisual archives;
  • Forms, strategies and difficulties faced by traditional film archives when moving online;
  • Strategies of control and curatorial styles in the online platforms of audiovisual archives;
  • The organization of the cataloguing of online archive platforms, and its role in shaping access to audiovisual products and the visibility of content;
  • Personalization strategies and interactions with social media in online archive platforms.

Selected bibliography

Cabrera Blázquez F. J., Cappello M., Grece C., Valais S., “Territoriality and its impact on the financing of audiovisual works”, Iris Plus, 2, 2015.

Crisp V., Film Distribution in the Digital Age, Palgrave Macmillan 2015.

Crisp V., Menotti Gonring G. (eds), Besides the Screen, Palgrave Macmillan 2015.

Cunningham S., Silver J., Screen Distribution and the New King Kongs of the Online World, Palgrave 2013.

Curtin M., Holt J., Sanson K. (eds), Distribution Revolution: Conversations about the Digital Future of Film and Television, University of California Press 2014.

Dixon W. W., Streaming: Movies, Media and Instant Access, University Press of Kentucky 2014.

Gubbins M., Audience in the Mind, CineRegio 2014.

Havens T., “Towards a Structuration Theory of Media Intermediaries”, in Making Media Work. Cultures of Management in the Entertainment Industries, ed. by Derek Johnson, Derek Kompare and Avi Santo, London-New York, New York University Press 2014

Holt J., Sanson K. (eds), Connected Viewing, Routledge 2014.

Iordanova D., Cunningham S. (eds), Digital Disruption: Cinema Moves On-line, St Andrews 2012.

Jenkins H., Ford S., Green J., Spreadable Media, New York University Press 2013.

Lobato R., “The politics of digital distribution: Exclusionary structures in online cinema”, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 3:2, 2009.

Lobato R., Shadow Economies of Cinema, BFI/Palgrave 2012.

Lobato R., Thomas J., The Informal Media Economy, Polity 2015.

Lobato R., Meese J. (eds), Geoblocking and Global Video Culture, Institute of Network Cultures 2016.

McDonald, K. P., “Digital dreams in a material world: the rise of Netflix and its impact on changing distribution and exhibition patterns”, Jumpcut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 55, 2013.

Perren A., “Rethinking distribution for the future of media industry studies”, Cinema Journal, 52:3, 2013.

The Velvet Light Trap, special issue “Media Distribution”, 75:1, 2015.

Tryon C., On-demand Culture, Rutgers University Press 2013.

Vonderau P., “The Politics of Content Aggregators”, Television and New Media, 16:8, 2015.


Submission details

Contributors are asked to send an abstract in English or French (300-500 words, 5 keywords, and 5 bibliographical references) and a short biographical note (150 words) to: submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by March 10, 2017.

All notifications of acceptance will be sent no later than April 1, 2017.

If accepted, 4,000 word essays will then be required for peer review by July 31, 2017.


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Download Call for Essays No. 29 (pdf)

SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 28

Scattered Subalternities: Transnationalism, Globalization, and Power

Edited by Ilaria A. De Pascalis, Judith Keilbach and Maria Francesca Piredda

Deadline for abstract proposal: April 30, 2016

Since its worldwide diffusion in the 1980s, postcolonial theory has questioned the problematic location of subalternity in cultural products and in the materiality of everyday life vis-à-vis the position reserved for the hegemonic subject – described as coherent, uniform, auto-determined, Western, individualistic, efficient, and so on. Despite its continued actuality and urgency, however, the figure of the Other/Subaltern has largely disappeared as a central concern from public discourse of the last few years. In the meantime, discussions of subalternity have fragmented and scattered across various academic disciplines, art projects, and (sub)cultural practices.

This special issue of Cinéma&Cie aims at picking up and tying together these now far-flung discussions to reconsider the location of the Other/Subaltern within the contemporary world. It seeks to address a number of fundamental questions: Who is the Other/Subaltern in the global frame? Is the Other/Subaltern entitled to agency? How is s/he related to her/his communities? What aspects contribute to the configuration of the Other/Subaltern, and are there current changes that affect the concept of the Other/Subaltern? To discuss these questions we invite contributions that deal with theoretical as well as artistic reflections on and media representations of subalternity and alterity.

The world produced by globalization is not a homogeneous and neutral space opened to individual action, but is made of interactive networks. These grids and currents continuously overlap with one another, are produced through an asymmetric distribution of power, and give different access to different subjects (S. Sassen). Nation-states are not weakened by this dynamic; to the contrary, the global flows often confer new strength upon them. Moreover, the states now emerge as “fortresses”; their interactions and tensions thus require a properly transnational approach to be read (Ch.T. Mohanty).

However, the defined borders of the hegemonic positions must confront the possibilities opened by identity models and cultural contents gaining a new power; in such a scenario, the forms of creative acquisition and artistic production of the Other/Subaltern become part of popular and public discourses. The contemporary metropolis can be specifically read as a laboratory for the multiplicity of cultural production in the global world; for instance, the diasporic subjects relocate themselves in the urban tissue, creating new networks of influence and exchange. In this sense, they can even reconfigure their “culture of origin” through an orthodox lens, generating a “fanatic” narrative of themselves (A. Appadurai).

The special issue will consider the role of the postcolonial theoretical framework and the eventuality of a reflection on neocolonialism as still efficacious, if not essential, tools to interpret the contemporary world. Contributors are therefore invited to take into consideration theoretical issues as well as specific case studies related (but not limited) to these themes:

  • The necessity of remapping the positions of Subalternity and/or Alterity beyond the traditional reflections of anthropology and older postcolonial theories (e.g., the need for a renewal of Gramsci’s dialectic between hegemonic and subaltern positions, considering their political implications for the global scenario; or the new focus toward the unconscious as site of subversion in relation to the uncontrollable proliferation of phantoms, phantasies, and desires and the role attributed to jouissance in neoliberalism).
  • The new models of configuration for subalternity and alterity, open to multi-sensorial and synesthetic dimensions of contemporary cultural expression.
  • The configuration of subalternity and alterity by media narratives and by ideas of identity and (the impossibility of) belonging, addressing both media products included within or excluded from the entertainment industries.
  • The relationship between dislocation and media devices and practices.
  • The forms of cultural and artistic (self-)production generated by subaltern subjects in relation to both the hegemonic industrial system and the tradition of independent production.
  • The mainstream configurations of subalternity and alterity produced by hegemonic cultural industries, with particular attention to the representation politics of global conglomerates.


Submission details


Contributors can send their abstract (300-500 words, 5 keywords, and 5 bibliographical references) and a short biographical note (150 words) to submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com and ilaria.depascalis2@unibo.it by April 30, 2016. All notifications of acceptance will be sent no later than June 1, 2016. If accepted, 4,000 word essays will then be required for peer review by September 1, 2016.

SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 26-27

Post-what? Post-when? Thinking Moving Images Beyond the Post-medium/Post-cinema Condition

Edited by Vinzenz Hediger and Miriam De Rosa

Deadline for abstract proposal: November 30, 2015

According to the dominant paradigms of contemporary film theory, cinema has not merely come to its end, it has entered what appears to be a perpetual state of having just ended. Cinema, the paradigmatic art of the 20th century and once, according to an earlier incarnation of dominant film theory, the site where the fate of the subject in late modern society was decided, is now living the “haunted un-life” (Christian McCrea 2008) of one of those animation characters who step over the abyss, hang in the air and fall, only to be revived and repeat the exercise in the next shot. Or, to put it in other words: for more than a decade now, we have been living in the age of post-cinema.

The concept of post-cinema revolves around issues of medium specificity and ontology. It focuses on the two classical markers of cinema’s specificity, namely the photographic index and the dispositive of cinema, and designates a condition in which both the index and the dispositive are in question and in crisis. While the most productive accounts of “post-cinema” rarely trace this filiation in an explicit fashion (Shaviro 2010, Denson 2014, Casetti 2015), the label is closely related to the concept of post-media as developed by Félix Guattari (Guattari 1990) in the early 1990s and later adapted into art and media theory by Rosalind Krauss, who speaks of a “post-medium condition” (Krauss 1999), Lev Manovich, who postulates a “postmedia aesthetics” (Manovich 2000) and Peter Weibel, who diagnoses the emergence of a “postmedia” condition (Weibel 2005). What unites these concepts and approaches, from philosophy to art history to film theory, is a tendency not just to diagnose, but to mourn the loss of medium specificity.

The premise of this issue of Cinéma&Cie is that, in the debate about post-cinema, we are rapidly approaching the point where mourning turns into melancholia. Taking a cue from Wittgenstein’s idea of philosophy as therapy for concepts, we propose that the time has come to ask when the post-cinema condition will end, what will come after it, and what exactly the “post” in post-cinema means. More specifically, it is time to ask which ontologies, if any can, do the moving image justice in a situation in which the cinema is merely one of many configurations of film, which other theoretical frameworks may be appropriate and which modes of temporality, and of historiography and analysis, from media archaeology to media ecology, can account for the steady transformation of film’s varying configurations. Moreover, if for film theory, cinema’s loss of medium specificity means the loss of the unity of its object of study, we need to ask whether it is possible to disambiguate the definition of post-cinema, to harmonize the various objects of study listed as “post-cinematic,” and to return to a unified perspective on what would, once again, be an unified object of study.

For this issue of Cinéma&Cie, we are looking for contributions that address the “post-what” and “post-when” of “post-cinema” with a view to the next step to be taken in film theory. Contributions may be based on historical case studies or specific works or bodies of work, or may address methodological, theoretical and philosophical issues of a more general nature. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary approaches on the threshold of film studies and economics, sociology, history, psychology and art history.

References

  • Casetti, Francesco, The Lumière Galaxy. Seven Key Words for the Cinema to Come, New York: Columbia University Press 2015.
  • Denson, Shane: Post-cinema / Post-phenomenology, Talk in the Dialogue Series at Texas State University, April 2014.
  • Guattari, Félix, “Vers une ère post-média”, in Terminal (51) 1990, translated into English as Towards
 a Post-Media Era, in Apprich, C. Berry Slater, J. Iles, A. Schultz, O.L. Provocative Alloys: A post-media anthology, Post-Media Lab – Mute Books, Lüneburg – London 2013, pp. 26-27.
  • Krauss, Rosalind E., Voyage on the North Sea. Art in the Age of the Post-Medium Condition, New York: Thames & Hudson, 1999.
  • Manovich, Lev, “Post-Media Aesthetics”, working paper available online at www.manovich.net/DOCS/Post_media_aesthetics1.doc.
  • McCrea, Christian, “Explosive, Expulsive, Extraordinary: The Excess of Animated Bodies”, in: Animation, Vol. 3, No. 1, 2008, pp. 9-24..
  • Shaviro, Steven, Post Cinematic Affect, New York: Zero Books 2010.
  • Weibel, Peter, “Die Postmediale Kondition”, in Elisabeth Fiedler, Christa Steinle, Peter Weibel (eds.), Id., Exh. catalogue. Graz: Neue Galerie Graz am Landesmuseum Joanneum, 2005, p. 6-13, translated into English as “The Post-Media Condition” in AAVV, “Postmedia Condition” Madrid: Centro Cultural Conde Duque, 2006 available online at http://www.medialabmadrid.org/medialab/medialab.php?l=0&a=a&i=329.

Submission details


Please send your abstract (300-500 words in English + bibliographical references) and a short biographical note to submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by November 30, 2015. All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than December 20, 2015. If accepted, 4,000-word essays will then be required for peer review by March 30, 2016.


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Download Call for Essays No. 26-27 (pdf)

SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 25

Between Cinema and Photography

Edited by Luisella Farinotti, Barbara Grespi, Barbara Le-Maître

Deadline for abstract proposal: June 30, 2015

For a long time, the comparison between cinema and photography has mainly been a matter of contrasts.

Cartier-Bresson defined cinema as “what comes next”, and vice-versa photography as “the decisive moment”; in his view, filmmaking records the dissolution of a frame into another, it works not on an image to be watched, but on “the image to come”, while the photographic act consists in freezing a fragment of time, immobilizing it in its signifying incompleteness. In the last decade, research on this fundamental aesthetic conflict was revamped and enriched through many other juxtapositions, which re-marked the boundaries between the two arts (instantaneousness vs. duration, contemplation vs. escapism, distance vs. immersion); those studies aim at answering such broad questions as the effects on photography of the invention of cinema, or the persistent attraction of film towards still image, or even the challenge of the digital revolution to both languages (Mulvey, 2006; Campany, 2007; Guido, Lugon 2010, Rossaak, 2011).

At the same time, attention to possible spaces of convergence between cinema and photography was increasing; maybe Barthes already prefigured them in his analysis of the frame as the core of the meaning of a movie, an obtuse meaning very similar to the idea of punctum in photography. There is still a growing interest in that broad territory when one language trespasses into another, in that “imaginary grey area where photos and film shots can co-exist, touch and assess each other, rival each other even, in a sort of incestuous aesthetic relation” (Toubiana, 2007). In such studies we meet the idea of the frame as “unknown flesh of the film”, of chronophotography as a crucial encounter of the two arts, of the still frame as some kind of resurfacing of the photographic into the cinematic, of the photonovel as cinema on paper, and ultimately of the latest photographic avantgarde as a re-enactment of the cinematic (Cindy Sherman, Jeff Wall, Richard Prince, John Baldessari). The photo-cinematic mixture, and especially the collapse of both languages into the hybrid space of video, represent moreover one of the main intermediate states of the image which Raymond Bellour precociously focused upon (2002), therefore becoming a key paradigm of the visible in contemporary culture (Krauss, 1999).

Within that boundless territory, the most obvious contacts between the two languages remain overshadowed: overlaps that may be too evident or too hidden. These are the experiences to which the present issue is drawing attention. On one hand, there is a broad trend in cinema which shapes time in a photographic way: authors like James Benning, the forefather of the so called contemplative cinema, introduced entre-images which are capable of blurring the differences between stillness and motion, while in the field of the cartoon, Bady Minck re-creates an old mechanic of movement, giving life to postcards and family album. On the other hand, there are some photographic experiences involved with the language of cinema. Some simply concerns cinema, while others find in its language their very aesthetic dimension: still photography is the major submerged land to represent this kind of contact. It is the image of an image, that is at once frame and/or still, pose and gesture, document and wish, memory and prediction, but it is also a “birth certificate” of an image, a liminal documentary form which raises also the problem of memory. In some ways akin to the approach of still photography, the work of artists like Gregory Crewdson or Simon Starling are another example of such fruitful crossing: Credwson denies instantaneousness in order to restate the idea of posing, of the body constructed according to the ways of the imaginary, while Starling translates his movie into a photobook, which he defines ciné-roman (actually, it was also the title of Chris Marker’s book made after La Jetée), in order to explore the possibility of installing into still images a specific gaze, and particularly an early cinematic one.

Contributors are therefore invited to take into consideration theoretical and historical issues, as well as specific case studies, strongly connected to these themes, or at least to the key-questions they raise:

  • The treatment of bodies between cinema and photography; the appearance and re-figuration of the body in frame, stills and shots (chronophotography and body sculpture; mise en pose and mise en geste; the meeting or clashing point between cinema and photography in the field of scientific body images);
  • The boundary between the inanimate and the living; the passage from photography to cinema has always been read as a technique for animating images, sometimes even an animistic technique (Epstein). But what happens of this umpteenth dichotomy if the mixture of the languages becomes unnoticeable?
  • The aesthetics of anachronism: the return to the photographic expresses the need to seek the origin of our gaze, and to retrieve lost ways of seeing (for instance the frequent re-enactment of slow photography and of early cinema styles in contemporary art and culture). The construction of new personal and non-artistic photographic archives can also be seen as a response to that need.
  • The study of “mixed-dispositifs” through which photographic and cinematographic aspects can interact (for instance, the stereoscopic dispositive restaged by Jean Eustache in Les Photos d’Alix), and consequently, the reflection upon the “de-specification of the mediums”.


Submission details


Please send your abstract (300-500 words in English + bibliographical references) and a short biographical note to submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by June 30, 2015. All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than July 15, 2015. If accepted, 4,000-word essays will then be required for peer review by September 30, 2015.


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Download Call for Essays No. 25 (pdf)

SPECIAL ISSUE NO. 24

Archives in Human Pain. Circulation, Persistence, Migration

Edited by Alice Cati and Vicente Sánchez-Biosca

Deadline for abstract proposal: January 15, 2014

Photomechanical images are always the mark of an encounter, which becomes a direct confrontation when its object is human suffering perpetrated by man. The archival images resulting from such confrontation (either in photography or in cinema) raise some inevitable questions: Who took them and with what purpose? Is it possible, observing them meticulously, to retrace the process that took place at a precise instant? What do they hide beyond the limits of their visibility, in the reverse-shot, so to speak? In this sense, the archive appears to be as a rip, due sometimes to the perpetrators’ hubris, others to an audacious act of resistance from the victims, but also to the compulsion/decision to see/ inform/ bear witness by the media professionals.

Regardless of their aim, these images show an imbalance between the magnitude of the events they represent and the trace impressed in them. That’s the reason why archival images of atrocity are sensed suspicious if not illegitimate. In the last few decades, and especially in the aftermath of Shoah (C. Lanzmann, 1985) and the debates this film triggered among historians, philosophers and psychoanalysts, this inaccuracy has polarized the attitudes ranging from radical rejection to accepting mechanical use as illustration. Since then, however, numerous archives have been opened and new footage has been discovered in the former Communist countries contributing to a large number of exhibits and museums on communist atrocities. Adequate or inaccurate, confronted or complementary to the witnesses’ testimonies, the archival images of the past remain remnants in spite of all, sometimes the only artifacts that have survived capable of embodying the clash between two gazes.

However, the subject of this issue of C & C will not focus on the production of such images, even though their origin must be considered. The main theme will be their persistence on the synchronic level (i.e., between the media: newspapers, magazines, cinema, television, Internet, museums…) as well as in the diachronic axis (across time: mutation, re-editing, inversion…). Instead of being static, these archival images are constantly reedited and migrate as their meaning changes at each new occasion. From propaganda to counter-propaganda, from memory purposes to artistic aims, the circulation of these images proves that repetition is the first expression of difference.

In sum, by their defective nature, their “natural selection”, and their changes throughout history (iconization, archive fever), these image remnants strongly contribute to shape collective memory even becoming real sites of memory for social, ethnic or national communities, namely, a reservoir of images ready to stimulate grief or fuel action. Under these circumstances, this photo and film footage travels through public spaces, as museums, monuments, artworks, memorials, human rights activities and so on.

The proposals for this issue are invited to reflect on theoretical and methodological issues, but we strongly encourage the essays to focus on case analysis. Some of the topics we suggest are the following:

  • Circulation of photographic and cinematographic images in the visual sphere and their conversion into icons, collective images, mental images or socialized images through different means of communication and in different conjunctures. Study of the changes produced in rhetorical, social and political meanings taking into account a specific image or a group of images.
  • The life of the photographic, cinematographic and TV archival images in museums, exhibits and art installations: the dialectics between aesthetic sublimation, ethical imperative. Spatial and other strategies to make images talk, show, and/or hide what is off screen. The issue of the invisibility or the a-visibility in stimulating an emotional or intellectual reaction in the spectator.
  • New political uses of the archive since the fall of Communist regimes in Eastern Europe after 1989: new discoveries, new representations. The role of the representation of atrocities, using old and new footage. Reading the (images of the) past from the agenda (media: TV, the Internet) of the present. Clash of gazes: freelance or agency reporters shooting in Sarajevo, Rwanda, Cambodia, Argentina… and the globalization of these images.
  • Mental images and vicarious trauma. Social images and individual and collective trauma. Postmemory and affiliative memory.
  • The image as premonition of the catastrophe: retrieval and the study of images of the pre-catastrophe. The representation of normality and everyday life in home movies, documentary footages, etc. and the interception of revealing details, concealed to the acting subjects or represented in the images of a lost world.
  • The politics of disappearance. The challenge posed by the policy of cancelling traces and making the victims’ bodies disappear. How can a society attest the death of the victim? Which image can fix the ghostly shimmering of the missing person? How may politics of memory hold the ghoulish presence of a spectral community?

Submission details

Please send your abstract (300-500 words in English + bibliographical references) and a short biographical note to submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by January 15, 2014. All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than January 31, 2014. If accepted, 4,000-word essays will then be required for peer review by May 15, 2014.

Download Call for Essays No. 24 [pdf]

SPECIAL ISSUE 22-23 | Spring/Fall 2014

Neurofilmology. Film Studies and the Challenge of Neuroscience

Edited by Adriano D’Aloia and Ruggero Eugeni

Deadline for abstract proposal: September 15, 2013

Over the last two decades, discoveries made in the field of cognitive neuroscience have begun to permeate the humanities and social sciences. In particular, the philosophical and psychological implications of the function of so-called ‘visuomotor neurons’ have caused a breakthrough in the understanding of the mind-body relation and of phenomena such as human consciousness, empathy, intersubjectivity, affect, and aesthetic response to works of art. This special issue of Cinéma&Cie aims to evaluate, from a multidisciplinary and critical perspective, both the relevance of the neurological approach for the psychology and the aesthetics of the film experience and, more generally, the epistemological consequences of this approach in the humanities.

The fundamental (and controversial) insight behind neuroscientific findings is that the complex processes of the human mind find in the brain’s architecture and functioning their neural correlates. This correlation is based on a functional link between observation of goal-directed actions or emotions and sensorimotor activation of the observer (Rizzolatti and Sinigaglia, Iacoboni). Unity of action and perception is allowed by an embodied simulation, a basic functional mechanism by means of which our brain-body system models its interactions with the world (Gallese). This proposal falls fully within the paradigm of embodied cognition, according to which cognition depends upon those experiences that come from having a body with various sensorimotor capacities that are embedded in a biological, psychological and cultural context (Varela, Thompson and Rosch). In turn, this paradigm is based on both a phenomenological account of the body and human experience (Husserl, Merleau-Ponty) and on the ecological approach to visual perception (Gibson).

Although at an intuitive level the activity of visuomotor neurons and the mirroring mechanism appear to constitute the ground for a new and empirically-based study of film participation, to date a few steps have already been taken in the direction of a neuroembodied theory of the film experience. Indeed, some neuroscientists not only consider cinema as a metaphor for the human mind (Damasio), but also carry out neuroimaging tests on audiences, aiming to outline a ‘neurocinematics’ (Hasson et al.). Since neuroscientific methods and procedures seem not suited to point out aesthetic, cultural or ethical implications, this proposal has been received with scepticism, as problematic and potentially subject to reductionism. Yet philosophical reflections drawn on neuroimaging experiments provide new tools of analysis and interpretation for film theory. For example, tests showing that human beings learn and relate with each other (and with fictional worlds) on the basis of an immediate pre-reflexive and empathetic kind of comprehension would give empirical consistency to the intuitions of the first aesthetic film theories (Epstein, Balázs, Eisenstein) and would revitalised classical filmology (Cohen-Séat, Souriau, Michotte).

In fact, the project of a new multidisciplinary approach to the film experience – Neurofilmology – would remain unproductive if not concretely applied to film aesthetics and viewer participation. More than metaphorically conceivable as an experimental laboratory setting, the film experience offers a space for testing formal solutions (in terms of point-of-view, editing, camera angles, camera movements, colour, lightning, etc.) that provide, control and regulate sensorimotor activation and emotional involvement. While neuroimaging methods cannot provide an aesthetic judgment on the cinematic style, they may serve as ‘an objective scientific measurement for assessing the effect of distinctive styles of filmmaking upon the brain, and therefore substantiate theoretical claims made in relation to them’ (Hasson et al.).

In contemporary film theory, the development of neuroscientific-based models for the study of spectatorship is part of the project of ‘psychocinematics’ (Shimamura) as a natural evolution of the centrality attributed to emotions by cognitivist film scholars (Grodal). Conversely, phenomenological film theory (Casebier, Shaviro, Sobchack) still seems to harbour some resistance to neurophenomenology (Varela), although the search for a post-dualistic neurological foundation of the film experience could allow it to overcome continental philosophy’s rejection of natural science. The study of the neural substratum of the film experience arises as a terrain of encounter and dialogue between cognitive and phenomenological film studies.

Submission details

Please send your abstract (300-500 words in English + bibliographical references) and a short biographical note to both adriano.daloia@unicatt.itand submissions.cinemaetcie@gmail.com by September 15, 2013. All notifications of acceptance will be emailed no later than September 30, 2013. If accepted, 4,000-word essays will then be required for peer review by January 31, 2014.

SPECIAL ISSUE 20 | Spring 2013

The Geopolitics of Cinema and the Study of Film

Edited by Tim Bergfelder, Vinzenz Hediger, Francesco Pitassio

In the last few years, one of the key topics in film studies has been world cinema and what Fredric Jameson in 1995 proposed to call “the geopolitical aesthetic” of cinema. World cinema has variously been described as a cinema that evolves on an elevated plane comparable to that of “world literature”, Goethe’s term for literary works with an appeal that transcend the boundaries of the language and culture of their origin, or as a hybrid form of cinema that combines a variety of cultural codes rather than reflect or express one particular national culture.

At stake in discussions of world cinema and the “geopolitical aesthetic” is nothing less than the epistemology that has long sustained, and in fact helped establish, film studies as an academic discipline. Only against the backdrop of an idea of film as an art closely tied to concepts of the nation and national culture, or of an understanding of cinema as a set of films by major auteurs from important nations, does an aesthetic that transcends national boundaries even become an issue. This is the epistemology of cinema that has long informed academic discourse and the institutional practices of film studies. Film scholars tend to study and extol specific national cinematographies, and their institutional affiliations and even their careers are organized accordingly. Film archives tend to host and preserve national cinematic patrimonies. But as the debate about world cinema seems to indicate, this epistemology no longer appears to be sufficient to provide a comprehensive working definition of the object of film studies. What is more, over the last few years “cinema” has come to include previously neglected or unknown traditions, from Bollywood cinema to the informal networks of moving image production and distribution in Africa and Asia, aptly termed “subcinema” by Australian scholar Ramon Lobato, to marginal films such as science, educational and industrial films. If Alexander Horwath is right to claim that we live in a post-cinematographic condition where film has left the cinema and has become ubiquitous in a process of “relocation” (Casetti), it is also true that we have lived for some time now in a world where a geopolitical framework calls into question and supersedes an older discursive and institutional politics of cinema.

So how does film studies account for the “relocation” of cinema not just in spatial, but in geographic and geopolitcal terms? What are the implications and possible consequences of these challenges for the institutional frameworks of film studies and the theoretical frameworks and paradigms that help build, and continue to inform, the discipline?

In recent years, film scholars have started to address these questions by redefining a disciplinary tradition that attributes a central role to the study of classical film, understood as both the (inter)national aesthetic-economic complex known as Hollywood cinema and its various counter-formations (nouvelles vagues, national cinemas, early cinema). Instead, a series of new lines of research emerged in various ares. These include:

— A renewed focus on the cinematic apparatus – The relocation of film experience (Casetti) pushed researchers to inquire into the nature of film experience, and thus question long-standing assumptions about the structure and effects of the cinematic apparatus. Increasingly, scholarly attention has shifted to alternative forms of film viewing, possibly not dominant within the cultural context of film studies, but no less relevant, from public screens to film displays on portable digital devices. Moreover, the debate about the changing shape of the cinematic apparatus has been reframed in significant ways through contributions stemming from academic traditions outside the Western/Eurocentric context.

— An increased focus on the channels of distribution – mostly a consequence of technological innovation and the “digital turn”, the shift in film distribution and consumption away from the cinema theater as the main paradigm of film culture occurred at a different pace in different geographical areas. The new paradigms call into question a series of well-established concepts that constitute some of the cornerstones of film studies as a discipline, such as “text”, “author”, but also “copyright” and require further inquiry into geographically and culturally specific varieties and variations of the new film experience.

— A critical evaluation of the concept of national cinema – The idea of national cinema has been called into question both as a current imaginary formation and a regulative concept in concrete practice, from film production to festival programming (Elsaesser). Shifting the attention away from a framework of analysis related to (Western) national state entities to different geographical and cultural contexts and traditions, recent contributions (Bergfelder, Shohat-Stam, D’urovičová-Newman, Hjort-Mackenzie, Marciniak-Imre-O’Healy, Pisters-Staat) have proposed various strategies to supplement and/or supplant the concept of national cinema. However, propositions such as the concept of “transnational cinema” continue to refer, albeit in oblique or dialectical fashion, to an underlying order of the nation state and national culture and point to a continuinig need for debate.

— A renewed attention to technology – Following the lead of André Bazin, film scholars including Stanley Cavell, Philip Rosen, David Rodowick and others have long identified the indexical nature of the photographic image as the cornerstone of film’s specificity as a medium, a technology and an art form. As the recent shift to digital image production has put the concept of indexicality and of the image as a physical trace of the object in crisis, approaches to defining the specificity of film on the basis of technology have acquired a new urgency. But to what extent are approaches focusing on film as a technology rooted in a specific cultural tradition? How do they play out in different film studies contexts? And what is the role assigned to technology, both on a phenomenological and an epistemological level, in different geopolitical contexts?

The special issue of Cinéma & Cie devoted to The Geopolitics of Cinema and the Study of Film takes the current epistemological crisis of film studies as a point of departure and an opportunity to revise and reframe some of the discipline’s conceptual tools and objects of inquiry. We welcome contributions that inquire into various strands and traditions of the study of film, particularly from a non-European point of view, discuss methodological issues and institutional and cultural aspects of academic research on moving image culture. Taking stock of recent work on the history of film studies (Polan, Grieveson-Wasson), this special issue calls for papers that describe the ways in which concepts and narratives related to various geopolitical contexts have affected academic policies, informed approaches to writing film history, to film festival programming, national or international funding programs, distribution strategies, film archiving and preservation work.

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