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Jonathan Rosenbaum’s visit to St. Andrews, Fall 2009

November 29, 2009 at 3:45 am

I am really happy that this project finally materialised: Jonathan Rosenbaum, the critic whom Godard compared to Bazin, spent a period working and teaching at our programme here in St. Andrews.

I have been a fan of Jonathan’s since 1996 when I lived in Chicago and first came across his writing in the free local weekly, The Chicago Reader. I since became an admirer, mostly in response to his insightful Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Movies We Can See, a real eye opener which exposes the deeply problematic status quo in global film distribution (even if his focus is mostly on American film, which is not one that I am interested in, really). Jonathan’s writing spans a range of topics in film, yet to me his contributions on matters related to festivals as well as his observations on the clandestine distribution matters are of most interest. Most of his oeuvre is featured at the eponymous blog.

So, when I was teaching at the University of Chicago last fall (October 2008, in the context of the Chicago euphoria preceding the US presidential election), I finally managed to get in touch with Jonathan. During lunch at the famous Medici on 57th in Hyde Park (where at the time waiters were wearing T-Shirts with a sign ‘Obama Eats Here’), I extended an invitation for him to come to St. Andrews as our visiting professor in the Fall of 2009. He since joined the international advisory board for our Dynamics of World Cinema project. Now, more than a year later, I am so happy to report that it all worked, in spite his busy schedule and writing commitments. I believe we all, faculty and postgraduate students, benefited from his presence. His lecture on Iranian cinema to undergraduate students seems to have triggered serious interest among second year students in this film tradition, as I understand they have produced numerous essays on the subject. PhD students have enter dialogue with him on a variety of matters, as one can see, for example, in this entry on Matthew Holtmeier’s blog Cinema Without Organs. Jonathan helped us with a review of the manuscript of our forthcoming Film Festival Yearbook 2: Film Festivals and Imagined Communities; he also praised William Brown’s film, En Attendant Godard, which premiered here during his visit.

Rosenbaum keeps saying he is now retired. What does this mean, however? When I introduced him for the talk he gave here on 27 October 2009, Goodbye Cinema, Hallo Cinephilia!, I could not help noticing his writing was everywhere: I had just read Richard Porton’s collection Decalog 3: On Film Festivals, where Jonathan has got a contribution; I had just browsed through recent issues of Film Quarterly, and in each one there was a contribution by Rosenbaum. And, just the previous day, I had just received a gift from him and Claudia Siefen, The Unquiet American; Transgressive Comedies from the U.S., the fabulous illustrated book published by the Austrian Film Museum in conjunction with the programme at Viennale.

I hope we are all as prolific in retirement as he is!

© Dina Iordanova
29 November 2009

Screen International: Explanation on Box Office Tables

November 25, 2009 at 12:59 am

I have received two extremely useful reactions from people at Screen International in regard to the posting dated 17 November 2009, related to the tables listing international and global box office figures. As they explain, these are two completely different things and the direct comparison is not adequate.

Jack Warner has explained:

I wish to inform you that your piece contains a fundamental error. It assumes two commonly used film industry terms are one and the same, where in fact one encompasses the other.

In the film industry, the term ‘international’ is used to describes all overseas territories, everything outside North America (’domestic’). In contrast the term ‘global’ is used to signify worldwide, meaning ‘international’ and ‘domestic’ combined.

It should now become clear to you that Screen’s Global Top Ten, as indicated on the chart itself, is a tally compiled from the North America box office chart and the Top 40 International Chart, with which you have been comparing it directly.

Conor Dignam writes:

the two tables you refer to on ScreenDaily and in Screen International are completely different. The international table means films that exclude the US box office – while the global films include US box office. The aim is to give a picture of the box office outside of North America, where the scale of the US skews the figures.

Both comments are made on the blog, and in both cases I am asked to remove the posting and to check with Screen International first before making comments on the information they feature. As the information is clearly erroneous, I would be happy to consider removing it. It seems more adequate to me, however, to leave it with this explanation attached, as others like myself would be misled the same way, provided that the explanation is not readily available.

In fact, I have tried to query the methodology related to compiling the International Box Office figures on several occasions previously with the compiler, to never receive a response. It is a pity it takes a public posting on a blog in order to get a reaction. I hope now that the colleagues at Screen International will be more responsive to queries from academics like myself. I would be more than happy to checking before publishing, assuming that I would be getting a response now. It is something researchers really need and would appreciate.

© Dina Iordanova
25 November 2009

Screen International: International Blockbusters

November 23, 2009 at 1:51 am

I am wondering what the magazine is actually covering by way of reviewing international films. Indeed, there are a number of articles discussing the dynamics in international and particularly Asian film industry lately. When it comes to reviewing concrete films, however, there is a strange discrepancy to be observed. There are always reviews of the American films that are at the top of the international box office, as well as of some of those from Europe. However, almost none of the Asian films that appear in the top forty (or, for that matter, even in the top ten) listings, are being reviewed. Over the past several months, for example, Screen International offered a somewhat belated yet adequate coverage on the Nordic hit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Danish-Swedish co-production, but barely any coverage on the other top-40 European films, which in most cases originate from countries like Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Turkey and Russia. One of the few box office hits from Asia to see a more detailed review was Hachiko: A Dog’s Story, the tale of the fateful dog that waited on the city train station in Shibuya for his dead ‘salaryman’-owner every day for a number of years after his dead. It is a beloved Tokyo story; the statue of the dog can be seen at this most famous intersection in the city.

However, except the brief ‘capsula’ reviews of some of these titles, endurable 2009 box office hits from Asia, such as South Korean Haeundae and Take Off, Indian Kambakkh Ishq, Kaminey, Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani, or the Japanese 20th Century Boys and April Brides were not written about.

The most endurable Asian presence in the global top ten box office of this past summer (2009), the Japanese baseball drama Rookies, which made nearly a hundred million from its very limited territorial distribution, was not covered either. It is interesting to note that at the time of this writing it appears there is no entry for the film at the IMDb, either. It only lists the TV series on which the film is based.

In my view, the function of the magazine which bills itself as ‘trade’ would be to serve the trade by bringing information on what is hot and what sells. If I am a distributor, I may be particularly interested in knowing more about films that made tens of millions of dollars elsewhere, as they clearly have got commercial potential. Instead, the review section of Screen International offers reviews of small festival films that are regularly assessed as lacking adequate commercial potential. On the one hand, there is information on the performance of global blockbusters but no information on the actual style/content of those. On the other hand, there are reviews of artistically worthwhile (or sometimes disappointing) films that lack in commercial potential. Ultimately, the message as I receive it, is: Only commercial cinema from the US merits coverage and attention, this is the only sphere where money can be made; the only aspect of international cinema that deserves our consideration includes arthouse and indie films with no popular appeal.

© Dina Iordanova
23 November 2009

Screen International: International Box Office

November 17, 2009 at 12:46 am

This post has been removed on request from Screen International, as per the comments below. See also post dated 25 November.

© Dina Iordanova
17 November 2009

Gorbachev ad for Louis Vuitton, 2007/2008: Why am I Obsessed with this Photograph?

May 2, 2009 at 12:18 am

The first time I came across this advert about two years ago, it was displayed on a full page of broadsheet South China Morning Post (I was visiting Hong Kong*), but I have since seen it in Financial Times and in a variety of glossy lifestyle magazines like Monocle. Back then, I thought for a second, how interesting it is that now older men are being used for advertising. My second thought was that this man looks somewhat like Gorbachev. It was only in the third instance that I realized it not only looked like him, it WAS him! I must admit, it came as a shocking realisation to me. But why? Hasn’t Gorbachev become by now just another one in the line of celebrities like Sean Connery, Catherine Deneuve, Keith Richards, Steffi Graf, and Frances and Sophia Coppola, who posed to Annie Leibovitz for the other adverts in this successful promotional series?

The photo is clearly created for a certain context, but the act of someone like me seeing it opens up a host of other memory frameworks. Why am I still obsessed with this photograph? Maybe because it shows him in a car that is taking him somewhere, away from the Berlin wall seen in the background**. The man is checking out, he is leaving, and thus denying us his assured paternalistic presence. We, the losers, are left alone whatever follows.

Gorbachev announced the end of the Soviet Union and checked out. Communism collapsed. Many people across the Eastern Bloc were ill prepared for the knock-off effect on work and domestic routines that followed. Those who had nurtured an idealized image of western prosperity were startled by the increasing economic disparities within their once egalitarian universes. Confronted with the collapse of ideology and memory frameworks, many were plunged into an identity crisis.

I am clearly not the only one who is obsessed with this photograph. I discover a similarly-titled blog entry, Pourquoi suis-je obsédé par cette photo ?, on the site of a Canadian Francophone writer called Patric Lagace, who evidently saw the photo on the back of his copy of The New Yorker. Remarking that he can barely imagine a more bourgeouis-looking image than the one of the former communist leader turned luxtury promoter, Lagace writes:

Or, voilà, je suis obsédé par cette photo du nouveau « visage » de LV, j’ai nommé l’ancien (le dernier, en fait) secrétaire général du Parti communiste soviétique, Mikhaël Gorbatchev. Je veux bien que Gorby fut l’homme de la perestroïka, l’homme qui a amorcé un virage, mais ça reste l’homme qui représenta, jadis, le monde communiste. Bref, je n’ai de cesse d’étudier cette photo, qui est à l’arrière de mon magazine New Yorker de la semaine. Donc, il y a ça. L’association Gorby-luxe. Mais il y a que la photo est prise devant le Mur de Berlin. Il y a un je-ne-sais-quoi de troublant. C’est peut-être le sac plein. C’est peut-être la légende sous la photo, vaporeuse comme toutes les phrases de campagne de marque. C’est peut-être que ça symbolise une époque formidable de la grande aventure humaine, cette époque dans laquelle on vit. Je veux dire, un ancien chef communiste qui nous vend de la gogosse de luxe, moins de 20 ans après la chute de l’URSS. Vous m’auriez dit ça en 1986, j’aurais ri de vous (enfin, pas moi, j’avais 14 ans, mais vous comprenez ce que je veux dire). Bref, un ex-kamarade qui devient on ne peut plus bourgeois. Je ne serais pas surpris que, de mon vivant, un pape lâche le Vatican pour devenir producteur de télé-réalité…

Lagace’s post has generated eighty three reactions in the comments***. I admit I had no idea that, as one of the commentators remarked, this was not the first array of Gorbachev into advertising. In fact, it transpired, the man had already done a Pizza Hut ad in Moscow, featuring a group of Russians who ave gathered for lunch at the Pizza Hut restaurant near the Red Square and concede that Gorbachev is the man who brought them freedom, so that they can eat this pizza to the end, and shout ‘Long Live Gorbachev!”. Here it is:

The Gorbachev ad run in a number of male luxury lifestyle magazines. My copy of the Monocle from February 2008 displays it with an inscription below the picture, which reads: ‘A journey brings us face to face with ourselves. Berlin Wall. Returning from a conference’. Futher below it says: Mikhail Gorbachev and Louis Vuitton are proud to support Green Cross International (an environmental charity started by Gorbachev). It is a fine, understated advert, which has probably brought some proceeds to the Green Cross, and which is no flashier than the set of Marc Jacobs-designed set of Louis Vuitton trunks (pictured) that were dragged across India by Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody and Luke Wilson in Wes Anderson’s recent Darjeeling Limited.

© Dina Iordanova
2 May 2009

*It happened in October 2007, in Hong Kong, in the afternoon. I was at the at Holliday Inn on Nathan Road, in the very center of materialism, a place surrounded by innumerable shops selling everything imaginable, from Tahitian pearls to h-tech electronics. The buffet at the Viennese Cafe is one of the best deals in town, with mountains of raw oysters, a delicacy of an acquired taste for the local Chinese who mount piles of them on their plates and keep coming for more as soon as more emerge from the kitchen.

** Media reactions to the ad mostly focused on the fact that the magazine that shows from the half-opened bag, alongside the pale-salmon shade of FT, features an article on Litvinenko’s murder. NYT called it a ‘visual joke’.

*** Some of the commentators refer to other situations, like an imaginary Jello ad which plays on the images of an exchange between Dalai Lama and the Pope and somebody else wonders what are Gorbachev’s real motives to do such a shoot, probably not money — precisely like one wondered back then what were his real motives undermining the communist system. Like it is typical for comment press, all sorts of comments and agendas come to the surface here — touching on issues of spirituality, capitalism, aesthetic, commercialism and so on, but there is no unique voice to dominate the discourse. Someone remarks that the ‘sfumato’ quality of the image is the reason for triggering a specific unacknowledged nostalgia. Someone who has even copyrighted his comment speaks of Mephistophelian quality of the photo? The post is made on Le Vendredi 21 Septembre 2007, 7h44 in reference to the NYT article Gorbachev Made Me Buy it. on July 26, 2007, pre-announcing it.

Talk at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio

April 28, 2009 at 12:34 am

As a lover of modern architecture, the dosage of exposure to wonderfully landscaped and designed modern spaces was a feature that defined my recent visit to Columbus, Ohio, as a really enjoyable trip. Led by a stereotypically dismissive pre-set attitude to the Midwest, I had not set my expectations very high, so I was in for a nice surprise. The hotel on the edge of campus, Blackwell Inn, was completely emancipated from the American kitsch that you would normally see at any other hotel in mid-America. The geometry of the pathways and landscaped grass rectangles that I was seeing through my room window was incredibly stylish, and so were the shapes of the new dark brick buildings that framed it. Most of all, I was truly thrilled to realise that the talk which I had come to give, was to take place in the main auditorium of the Wexner Centre for the Arts (pictured), an award-winning modern design achievement by architect and philosopher Peter Eisenman, the man who created the unevenly-leveled blocks of the Holocaust memorial in Berlin. It was a great experience in architectural discovery, as I did not know what to expect, so I was truly pleasantly surprised. It reminded me to an experience more than a decade ago when a visit for a talk to Minneapolis took me to the modern art museum there, on the Mississippi river, and provided my first encounter with the architectural style of Frank Gehry. This was at a time when Gehry was not as widely known as he is today, even before the unveiling of his museum in Bilbao (and many other structures that he did later on). It was some sort of design revelation for me. Same with the Wexner.

I had spent the previous day at the Easton open air mall, engaged in the ultimate American experience — shopping. At the large Barnes and Noble store here, I came across a nicely priced and richly illustrated book entitled Masterpieces of Modern Architecture (Wonders of the World). It would have made for a good gift for my son, who is quite interested in these matters (and who has been to many of the places pictured in the book). Still, I was wondering if I could carry such a bulky and heavy item across continents. While pondering over this, I kept browsing through the pictures in the book, mostly showing buildings in Asia, the Arab world, and Europe. America did not seem to feature very prominently. Yet, as I flipped through the pages toward the end, the book opened somehow ‘spontaneously’ on a spread that revealed a panoramic picture of — guess what — the Wexner Center! Looking at the table of contents, I realized that this photograph of the Wexner was one of a total of only five examples that the authors of the book had considered worthy of inclusion here from across North America. Quite a prominent sign! And I was looking at this photograph while standing here, on the ground in Columbus. Of course, it was a clear sight what I should do. I bought the volume; it is now in my home in Scotland, prominently placed alongside the other nicely illustrated albums in George’s collection.

This second photograph shows the interior of the museum, where the reception after the talk took place. To the left is the entrance to the large room which is used for talks and screenings (that night they also screened Andrzej Wajda’s deeply personal Katyn). My talk was entitled ‘History for Losers: Cultural Historiography and Popular Culture in the ‘New’ Europe’. It was given as an opening keynote for the Slavic conference that the Centre for Slavic and East European Studies here organised. Unfortunately, I could not stay on for the conference that was to follow, as I was headed back already the next sunny morning, after a nice walk around the campus. The flight to Newark was great, as the cloudless sky allowed for incredibly clear views over the Great Lakes and then, descending into New Jersey, toward the Manhattan skyline as well as the Statue of Liberty (which one cannot see as easily, normally). In spite the suppressed irritation I was harboring on entry to the US, after having had to fill out scores of forms that no one seemed to have checked as they were asking me all over again for the same details, in addition to taking my fingerprints, I was leaving in a good mood. And yes, to be honest, passing the US immigration took less than ten minutes now (in comparison, two-three years ago it was more like an hour).

Dina Iordanova
28 April 2009

International Film Festivals Workshop, Part II: The Event

April 24, 2009 at 12:28 am

So here we are, having finally convened for what proved to be a really interesting day of discussions on matters of film festivals. This is the ‘scene’ of the event, at the Lawrence Levy studio on the top floor of the Byre theatre in St. Andrews. Seated in the picture are, from left to right: Lucy Mazdon, David Slocum, Janet Harbord, Skadi Loist, Marijke de Valck, Richard Porton, Dina Iordanova, Nick Roddick, Ruby Cheung, Michael Gubbins, Irene Bignardi, Lindiwe Dovey and Nuria Triana-Toribio. Stuart Cunningham, who had initially sat on this side of the table, had moved to the audience side as he found the lights too bright (same for me, I wore Nick Roddick’s sunglasses while moderating the first session). The man whose back faces the camera, is John Orr who had come for the day from Edinburgh. Another twenty or so people attended, such as David Archibald, Emily Munroe, Matthew Lloyd, Melanie Phillips, Apple Zhang, Dorota Ostrowska, Victoria Thomas, as well as our colleagues Leshu Torchin, Will Brown, Saer Ba, and the PhD students Yun-hua Chen, Serazer Pekerman (who took all these potos), Yun Mi Hwang and Spela Zajec. Thomas Gerstenmeyer ensured that it all run smoothly. The image on the background, which also carried information on the event’s sponsors, featured a scene from the open air screenings at Piazza Grande during the Locarno Film Festival (one of the most logistically challenges for the festival organisers, as Irene Bignardi, former director of the festival, shared — as it rains almost every night).*

As I have been quite busy with other things, it has taken me quite a long time to come round to do this second post on the Workshop. We have now moved on. The Film Festivals Yearbook I: The Festival Circuit will be out in May 2009, bringing many of the ideas discussed here into the public space and containing a detailed report by William Brown that focuses on the workshop specifically. There are also reports on the workshop forthcoming in Film International, Senses of Cinema, Scope and probably Screen, so it will be covered extensively for those who are interested to read more of the ideas that were discussed during the day (the photo here shows, left to right, Marijke de Valck, Richard Porton and myself, during the workshop). So I have decided not to write a report on the event, especially as I was so involved in it that it would take me quite a long time to cover all aspects. Having read some of the forthcoming reports, however, I thought there is one aspect that needs mentioning here. Namely, the issue that was brought up by Lucy Mazdon and David Slocum on the matter of defining what IS the film festival, or probably coming up with some taxonomy of film festivals, as this would naturally be a good starting point for building the field.

Here are some thoughts on the taxonomy of festivals, mostly triggered by matters related to the incessant proliferation of film festivals nowadays. I thought this could be linked with my view of the festival circuit as consisting of a number of parallel smaller circuits that function independently from each other (they also can be taken as the basis of a possible taxonomy of festivals). We wondered what would it be if festivals were to suddenly stop taking place. What would such collapse mean?

If some key festivals were to fail entirely or in part, such collapse may indeed have dismal consequences for the industry itself, including people and businesses, but it would not really affect much the other festivals, because their modus operandi is not part of a structured network. Similarly, the current proliferation of festivals does not seem to crowd the festival calendar in any troublesome way. It is more about escalation in festivals of parallel type, mostly taking place outside the group of large competitive festivals, not within it. The events that constitute these parallel circuits form pronounced networks between themselves. Thus, while highly ‘porous and perforated’ (Elsaesser), we are also looking at a structure where some parts can easily exist without the others. There is a clear division between the different circuits, and they follow parallel and overlapping cycles over the globe and around the year.

These parallel circuits are so many that it is difficult to even begin listing them. For example, the global circuit of festivals of the Soviet sphere during the Cold War (Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Tashkent, Havana, etc.) existed for decades without much interface or interference with the system of festivals in the West. A list of various parallel circuits could include networks of type (short film, ethnographic film, animation, documentary), genre (comedy, mountain films), target audience (children, seniors), or social concern film festivals (human rights, women’s, gay and lesbian). Then there are festivals of local survey (Brazilian film in Paris), regional survey (East Asian, Eastern European, Mediterranean), diasporic festivals (Bosnian film in Chicago, the network of Jewish Film Festivals around the world), or even events following their own idiosyncratic agenda, like my favourite one in the tiny sardine-factory town of Douarnenez in Brittany, France, which has persisted over more than three decades with its interest in minority cultures from around the world. There are festivals with significant commercial activity (Cannes, Berlinale, Sundance), festivals of festivals (Toronto, London), commercial showcase festivals (Deauville’s American Film Festival), thematic festivals (slow food, fashion), tourism-enhancing festivals (Bahamas, St. Barth, Marrakech), festivals promoting cinephilia (Pordenone, Telluride), festivals promoting film professionalism (cinematography in Bitolja, Macedonia; screenwriting in Cheltenham, England). Wherever there are networks, they are formed around specific agendas that revolve around fostering and showcasing (and not distributing) a certain type of cinematic product.

© Dina Iordanova
25 April 2009

* Another interesting note regarding the open air screenings at Locarno was that they usually attract not the well-to-do high class tourists who frequent the Ticino area of the festival (near Lago Magiorre in Switzerland) but the poorest backpackers. Thus, the claim that film festivals give a boost to local tourism as they bring significant revenues from visitors was put to the test: Bignardi was far from sure that the potential revenues from backpackers would offset the cost of setting up the free screenings on the Piazza.

The Field of Film Festival Studies and thoughts on ‘the field’ of Media Industries in general

April 8, 2009 at 12:29 am

In the aftermath of the Film Festivals workshop which we held here in St. Andrews on 4 April 2009, my colleague Leshu Torchin sent me a link to an interesting interview which Henry Jenkins had posted on his blog just days earlier. It is called Studying Media Industries: An Interview with Jennifer Holt and Alisa Perren, a posting in two parts, which can be accessed by clicking through to Part I and Part II. This is also the place to note that Jennifer Holt and Alisa Perren are the editors of the new edited collection on Media Industries (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) shown below.

Even though I believe that the field of Film Festival Studies that we were trying to outline during the workshop is different than Media Industries as it is marked by a range of specific features, I could not help finding the discussion of items in this interview particularly pertinent, maybe because it relates to methodological issues on matters of defining the field. Many of the same and related questions were in the centre of our attention last week as well: What is the role of historical investigation? How can one bring different approaches in dialogue with each other? What is the current state of research in this emerging field? How do the dramatic technological developments affect production, distribution, administration, policy and audiences? Can we study festival production meaningfully without constantly referencing the work on festival audiences? How about integrating the work done on these matters in the field of management studies? How can increase the visibility of important work already being done by our contributors?

And last but absolutely not least: How to highlight the fact that significant work being done outside of the academy by journalists and activists is of particular importance and influence, especially, as Jennifer Holt puts it: ‘some of the most insightful and informative analysis of media industries can be found in the popular press, the blogosphere and trade publishing, where journalists and critics have generated a tremendous amount of momentum’. Didn’t this become most obvious by the great interventions that people like Nick Roddick and Michael Gubbins made in the course of the Festivals Workshop last week?

In short, I found all issues that were brought up in the context of this interview of direct relevance to our concerns in relation to the field of Film Festival studies. Read the interview! I am planning to read the book next.

© Dina Iordanova
8 April 2009

International Film Festivals Workshop, Part I: The Press Release

April 5, 2009 at 10:58 pm

…PRESS RELEASE… PRESS RELEASE… PRESS RELEASE…

AROUND THE WORLD IN 2,000 FILM FESTIVALS
Film festivals under the microscope at the University of St Andrews

The global boom in the film industry has resulted in almost 2,000 film festivals taking place all around the world, according to a leading expert in film studies.

Professor Dina Iordanova, Director of the Centre for Film Studies at the University of St Andrews believes that the next decade will see the study of film festivals become just as important as the study of film itself.

The researcher will be joined by film critics, festival practitioners and fellow academics to investigate the phenomenon at a special event in St Andrews this weekend (Saturday 4 April 2009).

The group of experts will gather for the one-day event to examine why a twenty year surge in the interest in films and film-making means that France alone has one festival for every day of the year. The event is part of a two-year project, Dynamics of World Cinema, sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust. The project, lead by Professor Iordanova, is currently looking into the distribution and exhibition of international film.

Professor Iordanova, who is convening the workshop, explained, “Over the past twenty years film festivals have proliferated all over the world. It is difficult to provide an exact figure for the number of festivals in operation, but it is well over 1,000 and more likely around 2,000.

“Just as the study of museums and galleries is central to our understanding of arts and heritage, the study of festivals is central to understanding the true scope of global cinema. It is logical, therefore, to expect that in the course of the next decade the study of festivals, a growing yet scattered field, will become central to film and cultural studies.

The workshop is hosted by the Centre for Film Studies at the University and takes place at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews this Saturday (4th April 2009). The discussion, moderated by leading critics (Richard Porton of the Cineaste, Nick Roddick of Sight and Sound, and Michael Gubbins, former editor of Screen International) and academics (Professor Iordanova, Professor Stuart Cunningham of the Australian Film Commission and Dr Ruby Cheung of the Dynamics of World Cinema project) will evolve around festival programming, distribution, funding, digitisation/new media, and cultural policy.

Other participants include: Irene Bignardi (Film Italia, former artistic director of Locarno International Film Festival), Lindiwe Dovey (SOAS, University of London), Janet Harbord (Goldsmiths College, University of London), Skadi Loist (University of Hamburg), Lucy Mazdon (University of Southampton), David Slocum (The Berlin School of Creative Leadership), Núria Triana Toribio (University of Manchester), and Marijke de Valck (University of Amsterdam).

Professor Dina Iordanova continued, “This workshop provides a rare opportunity for productive conversation about the state of the field and current research agendas. I am happy to see the enthusiastic support from so many renowned film scholars and critics. I hope that this event will inspire more and more related events and scholarly work in the field of film festival research.”

6 April 2009

Post-Communist Visual Culture and Cinema, PG conference at St. Andrews, March 2009

March 30, 2009 at 11:35 pm

When we begun planning for this AHRC-sponsored conference with the main organiser, Lars Kristensen, we never expected that the call for papers will meet with such a wide ranging response from among the postgraduate community. We had thought that there would be about twenty or so PhD students who would be interested in attending, but it was more like sixty who sent in abstracts; there were many more who got in touch via the Facebook group and who will now be members of the network that was launched as part of the event. Well done!

Academics involved in the event posed for this picture (except the keynote speaker, Prof. Andrew Wachtel of Northwestern University, who was present only for the opening night). From left to right here one can see John Cunningham (Sheffield Hallam), Ib Bondebjerg (Copenhagen), Ewa Mazierska (Central Lancashire), Brian McNair (Strathclyde), John Orr (Edinburgh), Dina Iordanova (St. Andrews), Fiona Bjorling (Lund), and Lars Kristensen (St. Andrews).

Students had traveled from as far as Latvia, Estonia, Albania, and the USA, as well as from many other countries, to present at the conference. At the end of the beautiful sunny spring day, which they all opted to voluntarily spend in seminar rooms listening to presentations rather than taking a walk on the breezy seaside, the participants posed for this picture. The programme of talks given during the day can be found at this link.

It was encouraging to realise that there is such a wide variety of people working on matters related to the cinema and the visual culture of post-communism. Presentation I attended covered themes from Baltic film industry to Croatian heraldry and Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals in former Yugoslavia, from cinematic representations of Russian migrant women in Turkish cinema to post-communist Czech comedies and Prague as a cinematic global city. Hopefully, we will see more published writing on these matters soon.

© Dina Iordanova
28 March 2009