The Media and Environment Scholarly Interest Group just won the prize for best attended business meeting at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. Or so we were informed by the SCMS interest group liaison present at the meeting.
This year’s SCMS featured what to my mind was by far the largest assemblage of panels and papers on all manner of environmental/ecological themes: analyses of filmic representations of nature, disasters and catastrophes, animals and nonhumans; theoretical excursions in ecocinema, eco-aesthetics, toxic and “energetic” media, frontier and extraction imaginaries, and more; and eco-materialist analyses of production processes, data backup systems, and other things. Some of these were sponsored by the M & E interest group; many were not.
Readers of this blog know that my recent book presents what’s essentially a Whiteheadian (and Peircian) theory of cinema. (A theory, not the theory. And when compared to something as deeply Whiteheadian in its details as, say, Donald Sherburne’s A Whiteheadian Aesthetic, mine is, at best, “inspired by Whitehead.”)
A. O. Scott’s article on the Abraham Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination captures something of the 50-year transition from the first cinéma vérité president (Kennedy) to a world in which everyone is their own cinéma vérité celebrity — stars and legends in our own minds.
The Zapruder film in a sense predates all that — it comes just before the era of seamless televisual (ir)reality (which Scott describes well) and puts a boundary around it. Somewhere buried in it is the firstness of that primal trauma: the shot (and the secondness of Kennedy’s death).
Yet its many afterlives become part of that (ir)reality, in which proliferating meanings are woven into the phantasmagoric televisual texture of we-no-longer-know-what.
“The Zapruder film remains powerful partly because it seems to dwell in a zone of ambiguity that has become, over the years, a more and more familiar place. We accept it as true, without knowing what it means.”
I did a double-take when a producer from BYU Radio — Brigham Young University’s faith-and-values based talk radio station, which broadcasts to millions around the world through Sirius XM satellite radio — approached me for an interview about Ecologies of the Moving Image. I presume the majority of listeners are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, i.e., Mormons, as is a good portion of the content. (Which got me interested in LDS cinema. Go figure.)
The interview was live-broadcast on the station’s morning show last week. You can listen to it here, starting at about the 84-and-a-half minute mark and running for 20-odd minutes to the end of the show.
I found its morning show host Marcus Smith to be charming, intelligent, and very open-minded.
The following is reblogged, excerpted and modified, from e²mc.
How do films deal with historical atrocities? And how might they enable them in the first place?
The Act of Killing is Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary about the perpetrators of the mass murders committed by the Suharto regime’s paramilitary death squads in mid-1960s Indonesia. The filmmakers interview some of the worst of the perpetrators and — controversially — invite them to re-enact the killings for the camera, filming these scenes in the style of their favorite film genres. This interplay between mass murder and Hollywood movies — gangsters, westerns, and musicals — is a focus of the film.
I’ve begun teaching a course on film and ecology and using my book Ecologies of the Moving Image as the main text.
Since the topic is related to the theme of this blog, and since I’ll be creating reading guides and posting links to film clips and related materials for my students, I thought I might as well share those publicly here.
My proposed paper will be on applications of Peirce to film theory, and in particular the two neo- (quasi-?) Peircian approaches that I present in Ecologies of the Moving Image. The first of these builds on Sean Cubitt’s three-part typology of the image (pixel–cut–vector, which I rework as spectacle–sequentiality–semiosis); I’ve written about it before on this blog and elsewhere. The second develops Peirce’s three normative sciences (aesthetics, ethics, logic) into a logo-ethico-aesthetics of viewership.
A key question for a process-relational account of a film is the question of how that film shows objects and subjects in the process of being made — how it shows subjectivation and objectivation arising together. Much of Ecologies of the Moving Image is about this, but what remains more implicit throughout the book is the way in which film itself expresses subjectivation.
I thought of this while re-watching Up the Yangtze, Yung Chang’s documentary about a “farewell cruise” on the Yangtze River before the completion of the final phase of the Three Gorges Dam.
Teaching my film course (especially in its current rendition as “Ecology Film Philosophy”) and the book that goes with it (Ecologies of the Moving Image, which will be publicly available in July) — and especially teaching the Andrei Tarkovsky film Stalker, which serves as a sort of template for the book — makes me feel like the Stalker in the film.