Cinema and Violence

Friday, September 28, 2012 - 8:00am
Language House (St. Mary's Hall) Multipurpose Room

The Graduate Field Committee in Film Studies, the School of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, and the Department of English held a Symposium on Cinema and Violence on Friday, September 28. This event was preceded by a screening of Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible at 6:30 PM on Thursday, September 27 in the Hoff Theater.

The film screening and symposium are both free. Registration is not required, but it is requested for the symposium. Please contact Brian Real to RSVP.

Preliminary Conference Schedule Friday, September 28, Language House (St. Mary's Hall) Multipurpose Room

8.00—8.30: Breakfast & Coffee 

8.30—9.15: Introductory Remarks

9.15—10.30: James Cahilll (U of Toronto): "The Cinema of Animal Attractions: Painlevé and Eisenstein"

The cinema of animal attractions addresses both a violent fascination with animals on film and the violent animal attraction of film in the work of the French biological filmmaker Jean Painlevé and the Russian constructivist filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein. Juxtaposing Painlevé's and Eisenstein's personal correspondences between 1929-1933 with their seemingly appositional creative and critical output made during the transition to sound film, particularly Eisenstein's writings on Disney and Painlevé's series of documentary films about crustaceans, this paper speculates on the productive manner in which each filmmaker, when read together, suggest the contours of a filmic practice premised upon a radical critique of the necessary.

10.30—10.45: Coffee Break

10.45—12.00: Saverio Giovacchini (UMD): “European Westerns, Violence, and the Métaphore Coloniale

Historian Philippe Roger and cultural critic Monique Selim have recently documented the development of themétaphore coloniale in European, and in particularly French, discourse about America in the second postwar period. 1950s and 1960s European intellectuals often represented themselves as colonial subjects of the United States often ignoring their own, and their countries’, investment in the historical articulation of the European colonialist project. This paper examines visual aspects of the European, in particular Italian, western and recasts the interpretation of the violence so prevalent, and so remarked upon, in these films onto the decolonization process ongoing in the world in the 1950s and 1960s.

12.00—1.00: Lunch

1.00—2.15: Valerie Anishchenkova (UMD): “The Empires Strike Back: Recycling Cold-War Rhetoric in the Filmic Representations of Wars in Iraq and Chechnya”

With the historic collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a sophisticated machine of Cold-War propaganda, which over decades generated a distinct pop-cultural genre in both the Soviet Union and the U.S., was seemingly destined to vanish. However, I argue that when the two superpowers began engaging in military conflicts in the Caucasus and the Middle East, the rhetorical tools from the old propaganda were reappropriated for a new ideological purpose – a cultural formation of the Chechen/Arab/Muslim Other. The wars in Iraq and Chechnya had a profound effect on American and Russian pop-cultural production, in particular film. Over the last twenty years, cinematic works dedicated to the two Iraq Wars (Desert Storm and the 2003 war) and the two Chechen Wars (1994 and 1999) evolved into separate subgenres of war film. My research project offers an analytical framework to the post-Cold War, post-Soviet war film in the U.S. and Russia with respect to the newly emerging notions of otherness, whereas in this paper I discuss some conceptual influences of the Cold-War propaganda on the construction of the new ideological enemy.

 2.15—3.30: Hilary Neroni (U of Vermont): “The Tortured Body and the Suffering Subject: Theorizing Contemporary Scenes of Violence”

The past decade has seen a remarkable rise in scenes of torture in film and on television.  How the scenes are formally depicted and how they are situated in the narrative reveal not only America's various cultural reactions to 9/11 and the Abu Ghraib scandal, but also the newest structural shift in deploying violence as a signifier.  This signifier has new meaning today as it oscillates between the biopolitical body and the psychoanalytic subject.  My paper takes up the political importance of this oscillation.

3.30—3.45: Coffee Break

3.45—5.00: Nico Baumbach (Columbia University): “Blood and/or Red: How to Politicize Violence Today”

To the extent that factions of the mainstream press have shown sympathy with the Occupy movements, it has been on the condition that the protests remain nonviolent.   The most effective videos for garnering sympathy for the cause have been images of violence by police against protesters, whereas images in which protesters themselves can be labeled violent get circulated widely to discredit the cause. By placing protest movements and the coverage of them in the context of mainstream and independent cinema in which violence is increasingly depicted in the form of terror or disaster, this presentation takes a closer look at how discourses about violence in the US today get circumscribed. Violence today is less likely to be the “cartoon violence” that Hollywood is often accused of; rather, in the decade since 9/11 we often encounter extreme hyper-realistic violence that is purely contingent and outside human control or else an example of radical evil or divine retribution.   In other words, violence is taken out of the realm of politics.  What would it mean to politicize violence today?

5.00—5.15: Break

5.15—6.45: Round-table Discussion: Conference participants + Caroline Eades, José María Naharro-Calderón, Oliver Gaycken, Liz Papazian, Orrin Wang, Eric Zakim