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

Methodologies for Screen Industries Research

Dan recently attended the Methodologies for Screen Industries Research symposium hosted by UWE Bristol at the Watershed. The event involved a keynote talk and book launch by Professor Annette Hill. There were also presentations on media industries career narratives, auto-ethnographic research into YouTube, and embedded methodologies for researching screen ecologies.

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.

George 1.jpg

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.

The Creative Calling: Vocation, Career, and Enterprise

Transforming Creativity Research Group and MA Global Media Management present:

“The Creative Calling: Vocation, Career, and Enterprise”
Dr George Morgan (Western Sydney University)

Wednesday 30th October 4-5.30pm in Lecture Theatre A, Winchester School of Art

Creativity Hoax cover

Creativity has now become a buzzword for western economic renewal. In our book The Creativity Hoax, (Anthem, 2018) Pariece Nelligan and I argue that the idea of the creative or cultural economy contains an implicit promise that work will become more fulfilling and that the worker can realistically aspire to make a living and a career from their artistic calling. This seminar will explore some of the contemporary myths of new capitalism and the way they provide symbolic bridges between the youthful non-conformist origins of creativity and the highly neo-liberal circumstances of the market for creative skills.

George Morgan is Associate Professor at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University. His recent research deals with creative skills and in particular the obstacles encountered by young people from disadvantaged/ minority backgrounds in building creative careers. His book The Creativity Hoax: Precarious Work and the New Economy (Anthem Press), co-authored with Pariece Nelligan was published in 2018.



Creative Calling (full abstract)

Remembering the creative city

Dan presented at the second Creativity, Knowledge, Cities conference hosted at the Watershed in Bristol. The programme is here. Dan’s talk was exploring the UK City of Culture competition. This talk builds on the roundtable at last year’s conference and a number of collaborative activities.

Here is some of the Twitter coverage:

Dan also chaired a panel on Creative Governance:

Refuturing creative work and remixing creative education

In early September, Dan attended the 3rd CAMEo conference in Leicester. Dan was part of a panel on “Re-Futuring Creative Work” with Professor Susan Luckman, Professor Stephanie Taylor, and Associate Professor George Morgan. Dan’s talk was linked to the “Unexpected Enterprises” project (details of past workshops are here). A chapter (co-authored with Emma Agusita) linked to this project and talk will be published within an edited collection that is part of Palgrave’s new series, “Creative Working Lives”.

Some of the Twitter posts on this:

creatures in Cologne

Seth Giddings was invited to give a talk at Beyond Humanism: cyborgs – animals – data swarms, the Cologne Summer School in Interdisciplinary Anthropology, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School of the Humanities, University of Cologne September 23rd-27th 2019.

Entitled ‘AI and other animals: ontologies and ethologies of the cyborgian everyday’, the talk addressed artificial intelligence and artificial life in videogame play; forms of nonhuman agency that have transformed everyday media culture and could be regarded as harbingers of an emergent posthuman world. It took play with synthetic animals – zoomorphic videogame characters and robot toys – as an extended case study, bringing together two broad streams of critical posthumanism: technoculture and inter-species relationality. It argued that studying playful artificial animals offers insights into established and emergent cyborgian relationships between the nonhuman and human: relationships of play and being played with, of training and being trained, nurturing and being nurtured. And that the animality of AI and A-Life entities is real and not metaphorical, opening up ontological questions of AI: what kind of speciation gives rise to particular agents, what habitats and what kinds of behaviour characterise their existence? What anthropological or ethological methods might we employ to study these behaviours? And how is the status of both ‘animality’ and ‘intelligence’ achieved from the cyborg assemblages of code, digital hardware, animated imagery, bodies and minds in play?