Special issue of Camera Obscura Volume 3, Issue 33 (99) (December 2018):
Women’s Film Authorship in Neoliberal Times:
Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema
Edited by Hester Baer and Angelica Fenner
"Introduction: Revisiting Feminism and German Cinema" (PDF)
--Hester Baer and Angelica Fenner
"All That Glitters Isn’t Gold: Auma Obama’s Nightmare of Postunification Germany"
"Willful Women in the Cinema of Maren Ade"
"Representation Matters: Tatjana Turanskyj on Women’s Filmmaking and the Pro Quote Film Movement"
--Hester Baer and Angelica Fenner
"Women’s Interventions in the Contemporary German Film Industry"
For more information about the issue, click HERE.
Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis (2018)
By Luka Arsenjuk
What can we still learn from Sergei Eisenstein? Long valorized as the essential filmmaker of the Russian Revolution and celebrated for his indispensable contributions to cinematic technique, Eisenstein’s relevance to contemporary culture is far from exhausted. In Movement, Action, Image, Montage, Luka Arsenjuk considers the auteur as a filmmaker and a theorist, drawing on philosophers such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Gilles Deleuze—as well as Eisenstein’s own untranslated texts—to reframe the way we think about the great director and his legacy.
Focusing on Eisenstein’s unique treatment of the foundational concepts of cinema—movement, action, image, and montage—Arsenjuk invests each aspect of the auteur’s art with new significance for the twenty-first century. Eisenstein’s work and thought, he argues, belong as much to the future as the past, and both can offer novel contributions to long-standing cinematic questions and debates.
Movement, Action, Image, Montage brings new elements of Eisenstein’s output into academic consideration, by means ranging from sustained and comprehensive theorization of Eisenstein’s practice as a graphic artist to purposeful engagement with his recently published, unfinished book Method, still unavailable in English translation. This tour de force offers new and significant insights on Eisenstein’s oeuvre—the films, the art, and the theory—and is a landmark work on an essential filmmaker.
New African Cinema (2017)
By Valérie Orlando
New African Cinema examines the pressing social, cultural, economic, and historical issues explored by African filmmakers from the early post-colonial years into the new millennium. Offering an overview of the development of postcolonial African cinema since the 1960s, Valérie K. Orlando highlights the variations in content and themes that reflect the socio-cultural and political environments of filmmakers and the cultures they depict in their films.
Orlando illuminates the diverse themes evident in the works of filmmakers such as Ousmane Sembène’s Ceddo (Senegal, 1977), Sarah Malodor’s Sambizanga (Angola, 1972), Assia Djebar’s La Nouba des femmes de Mont Chenoua (The Circle of women of Mount Chenoua, Algeria, 1978), Zézé Gamboa’s The Hero (Angola, 2004) and Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu (Mauritania, 2014), among others. Orlando also considers the influence of major African film schools and their traditions, as well as European and American influences on the marketing and distribution of African film. For those familiar with the polemics of African film, or new to them, Orlando offers a cogent analytical approach that is engaging.
With its increasing presence in a continuously evolving media environment, the essay film as a visual form raises new questions about the construction of the subject, its relationship to the world, and the aesthetic possibilities of cinema. In this volume, authors specializing in various national cinemas (Cuban, French, German, Israeli, Italian, Lebanese, Polish, Russian, American) and critical approaches (historical, aesthetic, postcolonial, feminist, philosophical) explore the essay film and its consequences for the theory of cinema while building on and challenging existing theories. Taking as a guiding principle the essay form's dialogic, fluid nature, the volume examines the potential of the essayistic to question, investigate, and reflect on all forms of cinema―fiction film, popular cinema, and documentary, video installation, and digital essay.
A wide range of filmmakers are covered, from Dziga Vertov (Man with a Movie Camera, 1928), Chris Marker (Description of a Struggle, 1960), Nicolás Guillén Landrián (Coffea Arábiga, 1968), Pier Paolo Pasolini (Notes for an African Oresteia, 1969), Chantal Akerman (News from Home, 1976) and Jean-Luc Godard (Notre musique, 2004) to Nanni Moretti (Palombella Rossa, 1989), Mohammed Soueid (Civil War, 2002), Claire Denis (L'Intrus, 2004) and Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, 2011), among others. The volume argues that the essayistic in film—as process, as experience, as experiment—opens the road to key issues faced by the individual in relation to the collective, but can also lead to its own subversion, as a form of dialectical thought that gravitates towards crisis.
Devices of Curiosity: Early Cinema and Popular Science (2015)
By Oliver Gaycken
Devices of Curiosity excavates a largely unknown genre of early cinema, the popular-science film. Primarily a work of cinema history, it also draws on the insights of the history of science. Beginning around 1903, a variety of producers made films about scientific topics for general audiences, inspired by a vision of cinema as an educational medium. This book traces the development of popular-science films over the first half of the silent era, from its beginnings in England to its flourishing in France around 1910.
Devices of Curiosity also considers how popular-science films exemplify the circulation of knowledge. These films initially relied upon previous traditions such as the magic-lantern lecture for their representational strategies, and they continually had recourse to established visual iconography, but they also created novel visual paradigms and led to the creation of ambitious new film collections. Finally, the book discerns a transit between nonfictional and fictional modes, seeing affinities between popular-science films and certain aspects of fiction films, particularly Louis Feuillade's crime melodramas. This kind of circulation is important for an understanding of the wider relevance of early popular-science films, which impacted the formation of the documentary, educational, and avant-garde cinemas.
Weapons of Democracy: Propaganda, Progressivism, and American Public Opinion (New Studies in American Intellectual and Cultural History) (2015)
By Jonathan Auerbach
Following World War I, political commentator Walter Lippmann worried that citizens increasingly held inaccurate and misinformed beliefs because of the way information was produced, circulated, and received in a mass-mediated society. Lippmann dubbed this manipulative opinion-making process "the manufacture of consent." A more familiar term for such large-scale persuasion would be propaganda. In Weapons of Democracy, Jonathan Auerbach explores how Lippmann’s stark critique gave voice to a set of misgivings that had troubled American social reformers since the late nineteenth century.
Progressives, social scientists, and muckrakers initially drew on mass persuasion as part of the effort to mobilize sentiment for their own cherished reforms, including regulating monopolies, protecting consumers, and promoting disinterested, efficient government. "Propaganda" was associated with public education and consciousness raising for the good of the whole. By the second decade of the twentieth century, the need to muster support for American involvement in the Great War produced the Committee on Public Information, which zealously spread the gospel of American democracy abroad and worked to stifle dissent at home. After the war, public relations firms―which treated publicity as an end in itself―proliferated.
Weapons of Democracy traces the fate of American public opinion in theory and practice from 1884 to 1934 and explains how propaganda continues to shape today’s public sphere. The book closely analyzes the work of prominent political leaders, journalists, intellectuals, novelists, and corporate publicists, including Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, George Creel, John Dewey, Julia Lathrop, Ivy Lee, and Edward Bernays. Truly interdisciplinary in both scope and method, this book will appeal to students and scholars in American studies, history, political theory, media and communications, and rhetoric and literary studies.
Steven Spielberg (2014)
By Mauro Resmini
Popular filmmaker par excellence, media mogul, and emblem of Hollywood hegemony over the global imaginary, Steven Spielberg has been one of the most influential directors of his generation. Confronted like his peers with the void left by the crisis and collapse of the old studio system in the late Fifties, Spielberg was forced to invent Hollywood anew, and he did so in a largely idiosyncratic way, uniting a nostalgia for classical cinema with an obsessive desire of being contemporary with one’s own times. His films, spanning a wide spectrum of genres, have often been sensitive seismographs, capturing for better or for worse the fleeting Zeitgeist of the American (and global) present. In this extensive analysis of his filmography, Resmini discusses Spielberg’s idea of cinema as one that is suspended—at times uneasily—between childlike fascination and auteurist vocation, yet always grounded in an unwavering belief in cinema as a fundamentally narrative medium, capable of bestowing order and intelligibility onto an otherwise chaotic reality. Irreducible to a mere technique or style, storytelling is for Spielberg the essence of cinema itself: a cinema where there is no reality outside of the one filtered through the eye of the camera and ordered on the cutting table.
Autobiographical Identities in Contemporary Arab Culture (Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature Eup) (2014)
By Valerie Anishchenkova
This original exploration of Arab autobiographical discourse investigates various modes of cultural identity which have emerged in Arab societies in the last 40 years. During this period, autobiographical texts moved away from exemplary life narratives and toward more unorthodox techniques such as erotic memoir writing, postmodernist self-fragmentation, cinematographic self-projection and blogging.
Valerie Anishchenkova argues that the Arabic autobiographical genre has evolved into a mobile, unrestricted category arming authors with narrative tools to articulate their selfhood.
Reading works from Arab nations such as Egypt, Iraq, Morocco, Syria and Lebanon, Anishchenkova connects the century’s rapid political and ideological developments to increasing autobiographical experimentation in Arabic works. The immense scope of her study also forces consideration of film and online forms of self-representation and builds a new theoretical framework for these modes of autobiographical cultural production.
Global Neorealism: The Transnational History of a Film Style (2013)
Edited by Saverio Giovacchini and Robert Sklar
Intellectual, cultural, and film historians have long considered neorealism the founding block of post-World War II Italian cinema. Neorealism, the traditional story goes, was an Italian film style born in the second postwar period and aimed at recovering the reality of Italy after the sugarcoated moving images of Fascism. Lasting from 1945 to the early 1950s, neorealism produced world-renowned masterpieces such as Roberto Rossellini's Roma, città aperta (Rome, Open City, 1945) and Vittorio De Sica's Ladri di biciclette (Bicycle Thieves, 1947). These films won some of the most prestigious film awards of the immediate postwar period and influenced world cinema.
This collection brings together distinguished film scholars and cultural historians to complicate this nation-based approach to the history of neorealism. The traditional story notwithstanding, the meaning and the origins of the term are problematic. What does neorealism really mean, and how Italian is it? Italian filmmakers were wary of using the term and Rossellini preferred "realism." Many filmmakers confessed to having greatly borrowed from other cinemas, including French, Soviet, and American.
Divided into three sections, Global Neorealism examines the history of this film style from the 1930s to the 1970s using a global and international perspective. The first section examines the origins of neorealism in the international debate about realist esthetics in the 1930s. The second section discusses how this debate about realism was "Italianized" and coalesced into Italian "neorealism" and explores how critics and film distributors participated in coining the term. Finally, the third section looks at neorealism's success outside of Italy and examines how film cultures in Latin America, Asia, and the United States adjusted the style to their national and regional situations.
Contemporary Chinese Art and Film: Theory Applied and Resisted (2013)
Edited by Jason Kuo
In the past two decades, contemporary Chinese art and film have attracted a great deal of media and academic attention in the West, and scholars have adopted a variety of approaches in Chinese film and visual studies. The present volume focuses on the uses and status of theory originating in non-Chinese places in the creation, curating, narration, and criticism of contemporary Chinese visual culture (broadly defined to include traditional media in the visual arts as well as cinema, installation, video, etc.). Contributors reflect on the written and, even more interestingly, the unwritten assumptions on the part of artists, critics, historians, and curators in applying or resisting Western theories.
The essays in the present volume demonstrate clearly that Western theory can be useful in explicating Chinese text, as long as it is applied judiciously; the essays, taken as a whole, also suggest that cultural exchange is never a matter of one-way street. Historically, ideas from traditional Chinese aesthetics have also traveled to the West, and it is a challenge to examine what travels and what does not, as well as what makes such travel possible or impossible. The present volume thus provides us an opportunity to rethink travels of theories and texts across cultures, languages, disciplines, and media.
Dark Borders: Film Noir and American Citizenship (2011)
By Jonathan Auerbach
Dark Borders connects anxieties about citizenship and national belonging in midcentury America to the sense of alienation conveyed by American film noir. Jonathan Auerbach provides in-depth interpretations of more than a dozen of these dark crime thrillers, considering them in relation to U.S. national security measures enacted from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. The growth of a domestic intelligence-gathering apparatus before, during, and after the Second World War raised unsettling questions about who was American and who was not, and how to tell the difference.
Auerbach shows how politics and aesthetics merge in these noirs, whose oft-noted uncanniness betrays the fear that “un-American” foes lurk within the homeland. This tone of dispossession was reflected in well-known films, including Double Indemnity, Out of the Past, and Pickup on South Street, and less familiar noirs such as Stranger on the Third Floor, The Chase, and Ride the Pink Horse. Whether tracing the consequences of the Gestapo in America, or the uncertain borderlines that separate the United States from Cuba and Mexico, these movies blur boundaries; inside and outside become confused as (presumed) foreigners take over domestic space. To feel like a stranger in your own home: this is the peculiar affective condition of citizenship intensified by wartime and Cold War security measures, as well as a primary mood driving many midcentury noir films.
Screening Morocco: Contemporary Film in a Changing Society (2011)
By Valérie Orlando
Since 1999 and the death of King Hassan II, Morocco has experienced a dramatic social transformation. Encouraged by the more openly democratic climate fostered by young King Mohammed VI, filmmakers have begun to explore the sociocultural and political debates of their country while also seeking to document the untold stories of a dark past. Screening Morocco: Contemporary Film in a Changing Society focuses on Moroccan films produced and distributed from 1999 to the present.
Moroccan cinema serves as an all-inclusive medium that provides a sounding board for a society that is remaking itself. Male and female directors present the face of an engaged, multiethnic and multilingual society. Their cinematography promotes a country that is dynamic and connected to the global sociocultural economy of the twenty-first century. At the same time, they seek to represent the closed, obscure past of a nation’s history that has rarely been told, drawing on themes such as human rights abuse, the former incarceration of thousands during the Lead Years, women’s emancipation, poverty, and claims for social justice.
Screening Morocco will introduce American readers to the richness in theme and scope of the cinematic production of Morocco.
Dismantling the Dream Factory: Gender, German Cinema, and the Postwar Quest for a New Film Language (2009)
By Hester Baer
The history of postwar German cinema has most often been told as a story of failure, a failure paradoxically epitomized by the remarkable popularity of film throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. Through the analysis of 10 representative films, Hester Baer reassesses this period, looking in particular at how the attempt to ‘dismantle the dream factory’ of Nazi entertainment cinema resulted in a new cinematic language which developed as a result of the changing audience demographic. In an era when female viewers comprised 70 per cent of cinema audiences a ‘women’s cinema’ emerged, which sought to appeal to female spectators through its genres, star choices, stories and formal conventions. In addition to analyzing the formal language and narrative content of these films, Baer uses a wide array of other sources to reconstruct the original context of their reception, including promotional and publicity materials, film programs, censorship documents, reviews and spreads in fan magazines. This book presents a new take on an essential period, which saw the rebirth of German cinema after its thorough delegitimization under the Nazi regime.
Manufacturing Truth: The Documentary Moment in Early Soviet Culture (2008)
By Elizabeth Papazian
The Bolshevik Revolution uprooted not only the social and political systems of the Russian Empire, but existing artistic institutions and traditions as well. Following the revolution, Soviet artists working in all different media had to respond to the urgent problem of how to make art relevant, even essential, to the revolutionary project undertaken by the Bolshevik Party. Focusing on the years 1921–1934, Manufacturing Truth explores the great upsurge in documentary methods and approaches in the arts and reveals how the documentary impulse influenced the development of Stalinist culture. Documentary approaches in literature and film became a central means for redefining the role of the artist, of art itself, and of the institution of art in the new post-revolutionary Soviet society.
The documentary impulse offered theorists and practitioners from a wide variety of artistic factions an opportunity to make their art relevant to the revolutionary project. Participation in this trend was supported not only by the avant-garde, which initiated it, but by representatives of artistic movements across the political and stylistic spectrum, in a variety of media. In using documents and documentary methods, writers and filmmakers of the era imparted to their artistic work a kind of authenticity, conveying a sense that they were producing an objective record of a reality that was being rapidly and radically transformed. At the same time, through the act of recording the building of socialism they became participants in the process, thus responding to a perceived historical imperative.
As Soviet artists struggled toward the objectivity of historical processes, however, the tension between the two competing aspects of the documentary impulse—its evidentiary quality (“fact”) and its discursive quality (“artifact”)—grew into a contradiction. The anxiety of Soviet authors to be relevant to the revolution led them to the near effacement of authorship itself. Papazian analyzes the works of Sergei Tretiakov, Dziga Vertov, Maxim Gorky, and Mikhail Zoshchenko to reveal how the documentary impulse defined each author’s individual artistic trajectory and led him inexorably to the socialist realist aesthetic.
Body Shots: Early Cinema’s Incarnations (2007)
By Jonathan Auerbach
This original and compelling book places the body at the center of cinema's first decade of emergence and challenges the idea that for early audiences, the new medium's fascination rested on visual spectacle for its own sake. Instead, as Jonathan Auerbach argues, it was the human form in motion that most profoundly shaped early cinema. Situating his discussion in a political and historical context, Auerbach begins his analysis with films that reveal striking anxieties and preoccupations about persons on public display―both exceptional figures, such as 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley, and ordinary people caught by the movie camera in their daily routines. The result is a sharp, unique, and groundbreaking way to consider the turn-of-the-twentieth-century American incarnation of cinema itself.
To Build and Be Built: Landscape, Literature, and the Construction of Zionist Identity (2006)
By Eric Zakim
Eric Zakim follows the literary and intellectual career of the powerful Zionist slogan "to build and be built" from its conceptual origin in reaction to the Kishinev pogroms of 1903, when it first served as an expression of settlement aspiration, until the end of pre-state national expansion in Palestine in 1938. "Draining the swamps" and "making the desert bloom," the Jewish settlers imagined themselves as performing "miracles" on the land. By these acts, they were also meant to reinvent the very notion of what it was to be a Jew in the modern world. As Jewish settlers reshaped nature in the Holy Land by turning it from one thing into another, they too were newly constructed. Zakim argues that in the period leading up to the establishment of the state of Israel, the action of working the land and building its cities in order to transform both into something essentially Jewish increasingly came to mark a turn inward toward the reclamation of a Jewish subject tied to the very soil of Palestine.
To Build and Be Built radically recontextualizes modernist Hebrew literature to demonstrate how literary aesthetics of nature formed the very political discourse they nominally reflected. Zakim's work sees no division between politics and representation. Instead, the depiction of nature in literature, art, and architecture became constitutive of a political and social understanding of the Jew's place in the Middle East. By refusing to acknowledge the disciplinary boundaries of standard works on literature, history, and political thought, To Build and Be Built challenges the methodological certainties that have guided popular and academic understandings of the development of Zionist involvement in the land of Israel. For this reason, To Build and Be Built will be of interest to people beyond literature, in particular those working in history and those outside of Israel studies who have an interest in modernism and the representation of nature in the history of culture.
Hollywood Modernism: Film and Politics in the Age of the New Deal (2001)
By Saverio Giovacchini
Hollywood culture has been dismissed as insignificant for so long that film buffs and critics might be forgiven for forgetting that for two decades an unprecedented interaction of social and cultural forces shaped American film. In this probing account of how a generation of industry newcomers attempted to use the modernist art of the cinema to educate the public in anti-Fascist ideals, Saverio Giovacchini traces the profound transformation that took place in the film industry from the 1930s to the 1950s. Rejecting the notion that European emigres and New Yorkers sought a retreat from politics or simply gravitated toward easy money, he contends that Hollywood became their mecca precisely because they wanted a deeper engagement in the project of democratic modernism.
Seeing Hollywood as a forcefield, Giovacchini examines the social networks, working relationships, and political activities of artists, intellectuals, and film workers who flocked to Hollywood from Europe and the eastern United States before and during the second world war. He creates a complex and nuanced portrait of this milieu, adding breadth and depth to the conventional view of the era's film industry as little more than an empire for Jewish moguls or the major studios. In his rendering Hollywood's newcomers joined with its established elite to develop a modernist aesthetic for film that would bridge popular and avant-garde sensibilities; for them, realism was the most effective vehicle for conveying their message and involving a mass audience in the democratic struggle for progress.