Reframing Film Festivals

Screen Shot 2020-02-20 at 11.28.02Every day there are several film festivals happening simultaneously in different parts of the world. They vary in size, format, theme, vision and programme. Equally different are the theories, methods and approaches to research, frame and “reframe” them. Yet, “what are we reframing?” “What is the research question when we study film festivals?” Is film festival studies a discipline, even, or are film festivals “heuristic devices” – borrowing Lindiwe Dovey’s words (2015) – through which we study film culture? These are some of the key question that launched the ‘Reframing Film Festivals’ at Università Ca’ Foscari in Venice last 11-12 February 2020, with the renowned film festival scholar Prof Dina Iordanova. The international conference, organised in partnership with the Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro, gathered over 70 researchers, practitioners and students working on the field, organised around 13 panels, two keynotes, and two talks and film screenings at Teatro Ca’ Foscari. A sister event, or second episode, as the co-organisers Marco Dalla Gassa (from Venice) and Federico Zecca (from Bari), put it, will be hosted from 25 to 26 March 2020. This is precisely what took Estrella Sendra there, who will be presenting the paper ‘Africa and/in Festivals: Decolonising Film Curation’ as part of the sixth panel ‘Constructing Local and National Identities’ in Bari next 25 March. The conference was an enriching space for the research-led teaching approach at Winchester School of Art, with panels that have inspired the teaching of the ‘Festivals and Events’ strand led by Estrella Sendra, as part of the team-taught module Global Media 2: Industries and Debates, led by Dr Megen de Bruin-Molé, in the MA Global Media Management.

Keynote_Dina Iordanova_Corrective

The conference opened with the keynote of an emblematic scholar on film studies, Dina Iordanova, Professor of Global Cinema and Creative Cultures at University of Saint Andrews, who emphasised the very essence of the existence of film festivals, with her presentation ‘The Corrective Role of Film Festivals.’ These, according to Iordanova, depart from the awareness of the fact that there is a body of films that are made but not seen. Their aim is then to showcase the unseen cinema. Therefore, when creating a film festival, we create a context for what is not seen. Festival are corrective in that their main function is to change power dynamics between stakeholders, since political and industry stakeholders are often at odds. The thought-provoking keynote included a reflection on how the Busan International Film Festival in South made the Parasitephenomenon possible. When film director Bong Joon-ho received the historic Oscar, he started making claims about the greatness of Korean Cinema. This, Prof Iordanova argued, evidenced a national industry ambition. That is, “even though Bunsan is international, it has foregrounded what is happening to Korea in the global state.” Prof Iordanova further shared her views on how the studies on film festivals should move forward, suggesting a historical approach to festivals, an analysis of how they come about, and of the politics of the industry.

Panel 3. Film Festivals_Theories and Methodologies

The various panels included one on World Cinema and Festival curatorship. Which included a presentation of East Asian Film Festivals in the European Film Festival Circuit, an analysis of the staging of Iranian cinema in Berlinale and another on particular interest of Estrella Sendra, by Farah Clémentine Dramani-Issifou, curator of BeninDocs and Belleville en Vue(s), in Benin and France, respectively, and currently a PhD candidate at CELSA and Gaston Berger Universities in Paris and Saint-Louis, respectively. Dramani-Issifou spoke about the two-fold artistic and political intention of the festival, in order to counter-balance false stereotypes about Africa in France, “a country where humanity has been rejected.” The researcher further stressed the difficulty of defining what is Africa, and how the films that are included in the programme are by filmmakers who identify themselves as African. A very strong panel was that on Theories and Methodologies, chaired also by Prof Dina Iordanova. Particularly enlightening was Dr Rachel Johnson’s presentation, from University of Leeds, who presented ‘Film Festivals and Ideology Critique: A Method.’ “Can we describe film festivals as ideological? And if so, how do we study such ideological dimension? What do we understand by ideology?” Dr Johnson then shared a three-tier method to research festivals, looking at the film festival apparatus, the paratext and the film texts. Further panels included archival methods, such as ‘Film Festivals: Origins and Histories’, ‘Amateur and Archive Film Festivals’, or how festivals shape film history in different contexts, with a strong focus on small festivals, such as presentations by Dr María Paz Peirano, from University of Chile, and Aida Vallejo, from the University of the Basque Country. The conference papers were complemented by evening talks and screenings, in conversation with key figures in film festivals, such as Alberto Barbera, director of the Venice International Film Festival. Full details of the programme can be found here.

Carte Blanche for Alberto Barbera_VFF

Universita Ca Foscari  Estrella in Ca Foscari

Guest speaker: Intermediaries in the UK influencer ecology

The Transforming Creativity Research Group and MA Global Media Management are pleased to welcome Dr Sophie Bishop (King’s College, London) to WSA on Thursday 27th February 2-3pm in Harvard Lecture Theatre

Sophie’s talk is titled Intermediaries in the UK influencer ecology – algorithmic experts and influencer management software. Please see below for overview and biography: 

Although influencer content can be presented as independent, ‘DIY’ or ‘amateur’, influencer markets and ecologies are shaped or co-produced by a growing number of intermediary actors and organisations. Examples  include talent agencies, multi-channel networks, brand consultants and many other hopeful stakeholders who hope to take advantage of a professionalising ‘Wild West’. This talk will consider two intermediaries in the UK influencer marketplace – firstly, I look to algorithmic experts, who claim an understanding of YouTube’s algorithms that can be taught to aspiring creators, to ensure visibility and attention on the platform. Secondly, I look at algorithmic tools used to rank influencer ‘employability’ and predict risk of influencer scandal or cancellation. Critically examining both of these cases shows the number of ‘hidden’ stakeholders who co-produce influencer content, and demonstrates how such actors can influence participation, representation and sustain inequalities within influencer ecologies. 

Sophie Bishop works as a Lecturer in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London where she researches and teaches on cultures of content creation, digital marketing industries, and intersectional inequalities and experiences therein.

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Centre for Cultural Value

As part of the consultation for the Centre for Cultural Value (hosted at Leeds University and launching June 2020), Dan attended a workshop day in Cardiff:

The Centre is proposing a number of activities and outputs, including developing an independent evidence base, co-creating evaluation principles, seed funding action-research projects, and a working group to explore how to develop impact narratives.

Dan participated in group convserations in relation to the proposed themes: cultural participation; community, place, identity; culture, health and wellbeing.

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The first event will be in February in Leeds. Details here.




Seth has provided the preface for the recently published book LEGOfied: building blocks as media (New York: Bloomsbury 2020), edited by Nicholas Taylor and Chris Ingraham.

A draft of the preface, ‘An imaginary system,’ is here.

The book “offers a multi-faceted exploration of LEGO fandom [and] the role of hobbyist enthusiasts and content producers in LEGO’s emergence as a ubiquitous transmedia franchise […]

The major aim of this edited volume, and what makes it a compelling project for media scholars, is its rigorous, mutli-dimensional articulation of how LEGO functions not just as toy, as cultural icon, or as transmedia franchise, but as a media platform. LEGOfied is centered around their shared experiences, qualitative observations, and semi-structured interviews at a number of LEGO hobbyist conventions. Working outwards from these conventions, each chapter of the book engages additional modes of inquiry — media archaeology, aesthetics, posthumanist philosophy, feminist media studies, and science and technology studies — to explore the origins, permutations and implications of different aspects of the contemporary LEGO fandom scene.”

George Morgan talk: Creative Calling

Transforming Creativity and MA Global Media Management were pleased to co-host George Morgan from Western Sydney University for the talk – The Creative Calling: Vocation, Career, and Enterprise.

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George explored creative work and the ‘new spirit of capitalism’, creative education and labour markets, and class as an obstacle to creative careers. George provide narrative stories from research participants and closed in exploring precarious work and frustrated ambitions. The talk was followed with a lively discussion with staff and students from WSA.