Professor John Orr’s death, September 2010

September 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm

John Orr, who had taken early retirement as Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, has died. Having taught in sociology for the most part of his career, he was, in fact, an early proponent of Film Studies. He had started publishing on film and culture related matters in the early 1990s and was working in a truly transnational fashion, with works dedicated to a variety of cinematic traditions, radically cutting across national borders. He was interested in Asian cinema, in the cinema of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, in British epic film, in European modernism, Wajda, Polanski, Hitchcock, in narrative strategies and cultural studies. It was just a few months ago that he sent me a copy of his most recent book, Romantics and Modernists in British Cinema. He was active until the last moment, with a host of other books and projects in the pipeline.

We sat together on the editorial board for the film studies series that he and Martine Beugnet pulled off for Edinburgh University Press. He was a frequent visitor to events at our Centre for Film Studies, often coming up from Edinburgh to attend a day conference or a talk. Besides presenting his book on Hitchcock back in 2006 in the context of a talk he gave at the Centre for Film Studies at St. Andrews, he regularly moderated panels for us and was always a lively discussant. He took part in our workshop on film festivals, in the postcommunist visual culture conference, and in events of the Scottish Consortium of Film and Visual Studies. His interest in new aspects of cinema was inexhaustible; in 2007 he wrote an essay about a Yugoslav film by director Goran Paskaljevic for a special issue of the Cineaste I was putting together.

Always responsive and always intellectually alert: this is the way I will remember John Orr.

I will miss his friendly and supportive presence. Rest in peace, John!

Dina Iordanova
18 September 2010

New Book: Cinema at the Periphery (2010)

April 24, 2010 at 12:47 am

A long time in the making, “Cinema at the Periphery is finally out, published by Wayne State University Press in Detroit as part of their series on Contemporary Approaches to Film and Television, under the general editorship of Barry Keith Grant.

Our idea for this project was to explore marginal cinemas from around the world by bringing them together in a comparative perspective. Because, as we see from Iceland to Iran and from Singapore to Scotland, a growing intellectual and cultural wave of production is taking cinema beyond the borders of its place of origin and ventures into exploring faraway places, interacting with barely known peoples, and making new localities imaginable. In an array of films that are made in the context of these traditions, previously entrenched spatial divisions no longer function as firmly fixed grid coordinates, the hierarchical position of place as “center” is subverted, and new forms of representation become possible. Thus, for the project Cinema at the Periphery (first a conference in 2006 and now finally a book), we assembled criticism that explored issues of the periphery, including questions of transnationality, place, space, passage, and migration. The brief to the contributors was to examine the periphery in terms of locations, practices, methods, and themes. The volume includes geographic case studies of small national cinemas located at the global margins, like New Zealand, Denmark or Scotland, but also of filmmaking that comes from peripheral cultures, like Palestinian “stateless” cinema, Celtic-language film, Australian Aboriginal films, and cinema from Quebec. Therefore, the volume is divided into two key areas: industries and markets on the one hand, and identities and histories on the other. Yet as a whole, the project is to illustrate that the concept of “periphery” is not fixed but is always changing according to patterns of industry, ideology, and taste. Most importantly, however, Cinema at the Periphery proposes a workable approach that allows us to link the inextricable interrelationship that exists between production modes and circulation channels and the emerging narratives of histories and identities they enable. It includes some really important writing by leading authors in the field of transnational film studies.

Let me take the opportunity and make an important link here. Back in June 2006, at the inaugural conference that marked the beginning of this project, we recorded the presentations of many of our guests and made them available on-line. Some of these, like Faye Ginsburg (NYU), Mette Hjort (Lingnan), Patricial Pisters (Amsterdam), Sheldon Lu (Santa Barbara), Laura Marks (Simon Fraser), Bill Marshall (Stirling), and Duncan Petrie’s (York) talks became the basis of chapters in the current book. Others, like Dudley Andrew (Yale), John Caughie (Glasgow), Pam Cook (Southampton), Hamid Naficy (Northwestern), Rod Stoneman (Huston Film School), Kristian Feigelson (Paris), published their work elsewhere. While still others, like Lucia Nagib (Leeds), opted to participate in the book but by presenting us with texts on topics that differed from those that they presented. We also commissioned several essays that were added to the two parts of the volume (Industry and Ideology). These included contributions by all three of us — myself and David Martin-Jones (both still at the University of St. Andrews) and Belén Vidal (who since moved to take up a job at King’s College in London) — who acted as editors of the collection. We also included a specially commissioned piece by Kay Dickinson (Goldsmiths) (on Palestinian cinema in an international context). Back then, a number of reviews of the event appeared in the film press. Here is a link to the one published in Senses of Cinema.

Reviews of the book are still to materialise, and I would be most excited to see this volume reviewed internationally, at the periphery and in those locations whose cinematic cultures we aimed to discuss (e.g. Spain, Quebec, Denmark, Brazil, Morocco, New Zealand, Australia, China, Palestine, and others). If you are writing for the film journals in these (or other peripheral) countries, where there is likely to encounter particular interest to the writing included in the volume, for review copies, please be in touch with the Press’s coordinator Sarah Murphy at For the time being, we only have Ruby Rich’s lines that describe the book as a ‘collection of reflections that challenge conventional definitions of national film cultures’ that we can quote.

Film Festival Yearbook 2: Film Festivals and Imagined Communities

February 23, 2010 at 12:54 am

I am pleased to announce the publication of my new volume on film festivals, co-edited with Ruby Cheung, a research associate of the Dynamics of World Cinema project and an alumna of our PhD programme in Film Studies at the University of St. Andrews. The book is the second in the series; the first volume, the Film Festival Yearbook 1: The Festival Circuit, was published in 2009.


Edited by Dina Iordanova with Ruby Cheung
ISBN: 978-0-9563730-1-4 (paperback) £17.99; 304 pp. , 2010.

Film Festivals and Imagined Communities, the second volume in the Film Festival Yearbook series, brings together essays about festivals that use international cinema to mediate the creation of transnational ‘imagined communities’. There are texts about the cultural policies and funding models linked to these festivals, as well as analysis of programming practices linked to these often highly politicised events. The case studies discuss diaspora-linked festivals that take place in Vienna, San Francisco, San Sebastian, Havana, Bradford, Sahara, South Korea, and London and that feature cinema from places as diverse as Nepal and Kurdistan, Africa and Latin America. Authors include Lindiwe Dovey, Ruby Cheung, Michael Guillén, Jérôme Segal, Miriam Ross, Roy Stafford, Yun Mi Hwang, Isabel Santaolalla and Stefan Simanowitz, Mustafa Gündoğdu, and Dina Iordanova. The Resources section features an up-to-date bibliography on film festival scholarship (by Skadi Loist and Marijke de Valck) and an extensive thematically-organised listing of a variety of transnational festivals.


Introduction (Dina Iordanova and Ruby Cheung)

PART I: Contexts

Mediating Diaspora: Film Festivals and ‘Imagined Communities’ (Dina Iordanova)
Directors’ Cut: In Defence of African Film Festivals outside Africa (Lindiwe Dovey)
Funding Models of Themed Film Festivals (Ruby Cheung)

PART II: Case Studies
Bite the Mango: Bradford’s Unique Film Festival (Roy Stafford)
Under the Migrant Lens: Migrant Worker Film Festival in South Korea (Yun Mi Hwang)
A Cinematic Refuge in the Desert: The Sahara International Film Festival (Isabel Santaolalla and Stefan Simanowitz)
Diasporas by the Bay: Two Asian Film Festivals in San Francisco (Michael Guillén)
Film Festivals and the Ibero-American Sphere (Miriam Ross)
Film Festivals in the Diaspora: Impetus to the Development of Kurdish Cinema? (Mustafa Gündoğdu)
Identities and Politics at the Vienna Jewish Film Festival (Jérôme Segal)

PART III: Resources
Thematic Bibliography on Film Festival Research – Update: 2009 (Skadi Loist and Marijke de Valck)
The Listings: Transnational Film Festivals (Dina Iordanova)
1. African Film Festivals (Lindiwe Dovey)
2. Latin American and Ibero-American Film Festivals (Miriam Ross)
3. Asian Film Festivals (Andrew Dorman)
4. Jewish Film Festivals (Jérôme Segal)
5. Palestinian Film Festivals (Serazer Pekerman)
6. Turkish Film Festivals (Serazer Pekerman)
7. French Film Festivals (Ruby Cheung)
8. German Film Festivals (Ruby Cheung)
9. Greek Film Festivals (Serazer Pekerman)
10. Taiwanese Film Festivals (Yun-hua Chen)
11. Overseas Film Festivals in London (UK) (Andrew Dorman)
12. Overseas Film Festivals in Los Angeles (U.S.) (Andrew Dorman)
13. Overseas Film Festivals in San Francisco (U.S.) (Andrew Dorman)

Buy from St. Andrews Film Bookshop by clicking through here.

Buy on Amazon by clicking on the image below

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


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

Dina Iordanova, New Bulgarian Cinema, 2008

September 22, 2008 at 12:38 am

My monograph New Bulgarian Cinema (College Gate, 2008) is now available to purchase either by clicking on the link below (to the web-site of Blurb, the excellent PoD service which produced it), or by clicking the PayPal buttons below, directly ordering to the publishers. NB Blurb site requires registration; when you visit you will be able to view a preview of the first fifteen pages of the book.

Described by Ron Holloway as a ‘poetic cinema,’ since 1989 Bulgaria’s film industry underwent testing times. Dina Iordanova’s comprehensive study discusses the ups and downs of the national film tradition in the post-communist period.

Table of Contents:

Ch. 1 Testing Times:
1.1. Managing Change; 1.2. Generations

Ch. 2 Where Are We Coming From?
2.1. Tackling the Ottoman Legacy; 2.2. Multi-ethnic Conviviality? 2.3. Tackling the Communist Period.

Ch. 3 Where Are We Headed To?
3.1. Drabness; 3.2. Existential Concerns; 3.3. The Road to Europe; 3.4. The Road to the Village.

Ch. 4 Embracing the Balkan
Notes, Bibliography, Web-sites, Filmography

Available in soft cover (£14.95; 978-1-906678-02-9) and hard cover (£29.95; ISBN 978-1-906678-01-2). Square 7×7 inches (18×18 cm) 120 pages.

To purchase the paperback edition

To purchase the hard cover edition

Hard cover

Baltic Cinema Conference: Riga, September 2008

September 17, 2008 at 12:51 am

The conference, organized by Prof. Irina Novikova of Latvia’s National University with the participation of several Latvian organizations, took place at the intimate premises of Riga’s Film Museum, tucked away at the end of winding cobblestoned pedestrian alleys, among the lovely buildings of Riga’s Old Town. The conference coincided with the museum’s exhibition on Riga’s famous son, director Sergei Eisenstein, who spent here the first seventeen years of his life (one-third of the directors’ short life). This imaginatively organized exhibit was impressively curated by the Museum’s Elina Reitere; it came along with the publication of the booklet Riga’s Boy (pictured).

The conference brought together scholars involved in the study of film from the three Baltic republics and the United States. There were sociologists, as well as film, cultural, and media studies people, who gave presentations highlighting different aspects of cinema in the region. Some looked into the work of the Baltic documentary school, analyzing the work of such important directors like Juris Podnieks (Maruta Vitols) as well as various films related to memory representations (Violeta Davoliute, Olga Proskurova, Aune Unt). Others explored the cinema of the 1960s and 1970s, looking at issues of memory, nationalism, narrative and space in these cinemas (Aija Rozensteine, Eva Naripea, Irina Novikova). Pritt Parn, the highly esteemed Estonian animator, was the subject of Mari Laaniste’s wonderful presentation on his masterpiece, Eine murul/Luncheon on the Grass (1987). Some of the talks were dedicated to the most recent cinema from the region — e.g. Viktors Freibergs’ talk on the Latvian Vogelfrei (2007), a project by four directors, or Arturas Tereshkinas’ on Lithuanian commercial hit Zero. Lilak Lithuania (2006). Documentary filmmaker Jonas Ohman, a Swede who works in Lithuania, showed an excerpt of his new film The Hitmen (2008), featuring interviews with Soviet collaborators from the late 1940s. Critic Dita Rietuma presented a detailed talk on the work of Laila Pakalnina. Alina Zvinkliene (Vilnius) explored the matters of stereotyping and cross cultural representations. Industry and audience conscious scholars like myself and American Bjorn Ingvoldstadt kept bringing the discussion back to issues of audience research, relevance, and distribution.

In the post-Soviet period the film production in the region initially dwindled but then previous output levels were restored. Nowadays each one of the three republics releases several features every year, as well as animations and documentaries (and, of course, the national film centers are working hard to attract international runaway productions). We had the chance to see two recent Latvian films. The first one was Monotony (2007) by Juris Poskus, a drama about young people from the Latvian periphery, who have difficulties communicating and who, as a result, end up making moves that they would probably not take if they were able to talk properly to each other; the film has won several awards at festivals in the former Soviet sphere, touching on issues of lack of direction in life, outmigration, and so on. The other one was a recent absurdist short by Latvia’s leading avant-garde filmmaker Laila Pakalnina, called Stones (still to be released), a film picturing the weird way in which a local oligarch is building his stone garden but in fact a treatise on human exploitation and inertia revealilng the director’s idiosyncratic sense of humor.

© Dina Iordanova
17 September 2008

From Bollywood to You Tube

August 1, 2008 at 12:54 am

Below is the text of the Press Release that the University’s Press office did on the occasion of the large Leverhulme award I recently received.

From Bollywood to YouTube, an academic at the University of St Andrews is to investigate the ways in which non-mainstream film reaches the masses.

Professor Dina Iordanova, St Andrews’ first Chair of Film Studies and a leading international authority in her field, will receive a prestigious grant from The Leverhulme Trust to carry out the study “Dynamics of World Cinema: Transnational Channels of Global Film Circulation”.

The innovative project will examine the circulation of global cinema by comparing the four main channels: the system of global Hollywood, the international film festival circuit, various alternative production centres like Bollywood as well as internet-enabled channels such as YouTube.

Professor Iordanova said, “We know a lot about Holywood’s global operation, and we have all sorts of box office data and charts on them. But we know next to nothing of the other side of the equation, of those films that are not in the blockbuster sphere, that are distributed via less visible channels but are still popular.

“In the course of our study, we will establish how much money non-Hollywood films actually make and are likely to reveal that they enjoy a growing domestic and international commercial success.

“The study will examine the phenomenal growth of film festivals around the world and will assess if they indeed have become an independent distribution circuit. We will also explore the film distribution for ethnic minorities (for example, Bollywood imports), and reveal that it is an operation of astonishing commercial success.

“Finally, we will also assess the impact that new internet-enabled channels such as YouTube, online forums and download sites, have on the changing dynamics in world cinema.”

The £240,000 grant will allow Professor Iordanova to undertake the pioneering two and a half year investigation into the ways film travels nowadays to reach a growing and increasingly diverse community of viewers that are interested in getting more specific content than the blockbuster playing at the cinema around the corner.

She explained, “What makes us distinct in relation to earlier studies is that we will correlate all those diverse strands of film circulation that are extremely active nowadays but somehow remain below the radar. By putting all information into comparative perspective and by revealing patterns of interaction, we will show the real dynamics of world cinema. We expect to bring to the attention traditionally ignored aspects that will undermine the view of Hollywood’s undisputed global dominance.”

Originally from Bulgaria, and having worked in Canada, the US, and England, Professor Iordanova’s background is in philosophy and aesthetics. Soon after acquiring her PhD in 1986, she realised she needed images to come along with the theoretical concepts. She made a profession out of her habit of seeing a movie a day, and switched to the new field of film studies in 1993. Today, she has numerous publications on in international cinema to her credit. She has recently edited a special issue of Film International dedicated to film festivals, and is now working on a book chapter about recent Asian epic cinema.

She continued, “This is a radically interdisciplinary project, which brings together transnational film and media studies, globalisation and diaspora studies, political economy and humanistic scholarship. Given the Trust’s interest in major issues of contemporary culture, The Leverhulme was the best organization to fund it. We are truly grateful for their recognition.”

Professor Stuart Cunningham from Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, a leading specialist in the area of creative industries, is co-investigator on this unique and innovative project. He will spend a month in St Andrews during the second phase of the research. Two post-doctoral fellows, one from Hong Kong and the other one from New York City, are joining the team set to start work in October.



Professor Iordanova is available for interview on or at 01334-467-474 (by appointment).
Her current work is showcased at



Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Fiona Armstrong, Press Officer on 01334 462530 / 462529, Mobile: 07730 415 015 or Email:
Ref: Leverhulme film 240708
View the latest University press releases at

Visual Representations of Iran, Conference at St. Andrews

June 17, 2008 at 12:43 am

Sponsored in part by the Iran Heritage foundation, the conference takes place June 12-16, 2008, and has a really rich programme and a parallel series of documentary film screenings. In addition, there is an impressive exhibition of photojournalist Kaveh Golestan. Iranian documentarians and many anthropology, media and film scholars working on Iran have congregated here for the occasion. It is recent developments in the academic context at St. Andrews that allow us to hold an event like this: the conference is co-organized between the visual anthropology strand within Social Anthropology, our own Centre for Film Studies, and the recently established Iranian Institute. Conference organiser Pedram Khosronejad has been with s for less than a year. Such an event would not have been possible juts a few years ago as none of these units was in existence.

Keynote speaker is our fellow-film scholar Hamid Naficy who is now a Professor of Film at Northwestern University in Chicago (pictured here in a photo taken by Parstimes). In his earlier reincarnation, Hamid worked at Rice University in Houston where he pioneered the studies of transnational, migrant and diasporic filmmaking with a conference which he organised in Houston in the mid-1990s, this was the period when the world was discovering the work of Frida Kahlo (who had her first large rtrospective in Houston at about the same time). Eventually, this strand of Hamid’s work resulted in acclaimed Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (2001), which is one of the key texts in transnational film studies today, as well as the edited collection Home, Exile, Homeland: Film, Media, and the Politics of Place. Over the past several years Hamid has been working on a history of Iranian cinema which, as he is telling me, he is about to complete. The work is about 3000 pages long at the moment and is forthcoming from Duke University, hopefully next year. He is also the author of an important work of media anthropology, exploring the work of Iranian Television in LA (1993), a study which set some of the basics of exilic media studies.

Jump Cut, Issue 50

May 30, 2008 at 1:12 am

Julia Lesage

An email sent from Oregon by Julia Lesage reminds me that the new issue of Jump Cut is now available online.

This time it includes sections on Arab representations in Hollywood, on classical and more recent Latin American cinema, a selection of writings on popular European film (including a text on my childhood idol, DEFA’s Gojko Mitic), on Chinese and Australian cinema, as well as on American indies.

In existence since 1974 and facing the difficulties of limited distribution, over the decades Jump Cut has maintained highest standards of scholarship and political committment. Featuring the work of contributors such as E. Ann Kaplan, Jane Gaines, Julianne Burton, and many other leading film scholars (not least the late Bill Van Wert, a man who introduced me to many great texts of world cinema), it has become a really great resource for radical thinking on cinema. All back issues are now archived and available on-line for free access. A great resource!