News

New post at Birkbeck!

I am thrilled to announce that, from September 1st, 2017,  I will take up the post of Professor of Digital Media and Screen Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. I will be based in the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies in the School of Arts, housed at the wonderful 43 Gordon Square building. I am thrilled to continue my association with Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (including being a member of the programming group for the annual Essay Film Festival). And I look forward very much to making new connections with research institutes and centres there, including the Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology and the Centre for Technology and Publishing.

Perfidious Albion, an Essay Film Festival programme curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood

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What does it say about British identity that from as early as the 13th century foreign states have shared a single Anglophone slur to describe British double-dealings overseas? Perfidious Albion: the name for Britain when its government operates dishonourably, is treacherous, or betrays a promise.

The promise of British identity has been much discussed in the last twelve months. Two versions are in competition. Britain in the world, outward looking and open. Britain as an island nation, insular, self-interested, maybe closed. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, as Britain floats off the coast of mainland Europe and dreams its future, this programme looks at how essay filmmakers have analysed the promise represented by modern Britain and estimated to what degree the country lives up to its perfidious reputation. Curated by Catherine Grant and Sarah Wood, it features two recent works by Wood, alongside works by Derek Jarman, Humphrey Jennings, Margaret Tait, Isaac Julien and the Sankofa Film and Video Collective, and Cordelia Swann.

For further info and booking details: http://www.essayfilmfestival.com/session-10-perfidious-albion-programme-curated-catherine-grant-sarah-wood/ 

My Year’s Work in Audiovisual Essays and Videographic Film Studies

Below is a list of the thirteen videos I have made and formally published in the last twelve months. There are a few unlisted ones that I made and haven’t yet published: these should see the light of online day in the next calendar year.

It’s actually been quite a slow year for me on the production front as I had a lot of teaching as well as editorial and curatorial work at [in]TransitionREFRAME, and elsewhere. In 2017 I hope to make more research-related videos, and also to work on some longer pieces, as I am fortunate to have a six-month long paid study leave (the second such period in my twenty-five years as an academic). #newyearsresolutions.

  • SPARKLE: A tiny video-remix comparison of some glimmering audio/visual moments from Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975), The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999) and The Falling (Carol Morley, 2014). https://vimeo.com/157653540
  • THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION: A video tribute to the work of film scholar Elizabeth Cowie, featuring Morocco, Now, Voyager and Let There Be Light, as well as the voices and choices of Andrew Klevan, Christine Evans, Coral Houtman and Sarah Wood https://vimeo.com/169120246
  • MATCHES – featuring Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray, 1954) Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios / Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodóvar, 1988) https://vimeo.com/178181337

 

 

The Day The Clangers’ Moon Stood Still: RIP Oliver Postgate 1925-2008

Clangers : The Intruder (season 1, Episode 5)

Back from its wee break, Film Studies For Free was saddened to hear of the passing of one of the DIY geniuses responsible for its author’s early fascination with the world of filmmaking: Oliver Postgate, co-creator (with Peter Firmin) of numerous magical Small Films shown on television (Bagpuss, Clangers, Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Pogles, Pingwings), died peacefully in Broadstairs on the Kent coast on 8 December 2008.

Here are some Postgate weblinks:

Online Film Audio-Commentaries and Video Essays Of Note

In Film Studies For Free‘s humble opinion, one of the most exciting online areas for potential Film Studies‘ development is rapidly emerging from the already hugely popular Web 2.0 practice of video-sharing. It has never been easier to publically display work in which moving (and still) image-tracks, created by others, can be ‘overlaid’ with one’s own recorded words/sounds/text, to create web ‘video-essays’ or online ‘audio-commentaries’.

The practical/technical side of this activity should provide few challenges for the YouTube generation: the main issue to consider in relation to the educational uses of such ‘user-generated’ resources is, as ever, that of the quality of content. But there are plenty of noteworthy models around, from which Film Studies teachers and students can gain insight and inspiration, such as Susana Medina‘s excellent video essay on fetishism in the work of Luis Buñuel, embedded above (and also available on MySpace and at the Internet Archive).

To celebrate these developments, and to support them in a small way, Film Studies For Free has created a new (right-hand margin) list of links to freely accessible online audio commentaries, video essays, and ‘alternative’ DVD commentaries. The list currently links to the following websites: Shooting Down Pictures; Susana Medina, ‘Buñuel’s Philosophical Toys’; Listology List of Best Fan Commentaries (until 2005); Sean Weitner and Andy Ross on Mulholland Drive; Whiggles.com on Suspiria and Profondo Rosso; and Renegade Commentaries. Suggestions of other websites or items of this kind are, as ever, warmly welcomed.

By far the richest website resource in this area, to date, is the one at the head of FSFF‘s current list: Kevin B. Lee‘s fabulous Shooting Down Pictures. As GreenCine Daily rightfully testified back in July 2008 (when Film Studies For Free was barely a twinkle in this neophyte blogger’s eye): ‘For some time now, Kevin B Lee‘s video essays have been among the most exciting developments in film blogging, suggesting not an alternative but supplemental form of film criticism accessible to anyone online.’

Lee is a filmmaker and multimedia producer based in New York City. Shooting Down Pictures primarily serves as a repository for a wide variety of materials connected with his project of viewing every film on the list of 1000 greatest films of all time, as compiled by They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? Rather than simply writing about, or gathering pre-existing resources together for these films — both of which Lee does brilliantly, it must be said — he also makes video essays about them and commissions others to provide their own audio commentaries, including ones by such luminaries as Nicole Brenez, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Paolo Cherchi Usai, Richard Brody, Karina Longworth, Andy Horbal, Mike D’Angelo, Matt Zoller Seitz, Preston Miller, Vadim Rizov, and Girish Shambu.
The current full list of video essays by Shooting Down Pictures is given below, but also check out the video index Lee maintains at YouTube where these and many other videos by him, or fabulously ‘mashed up’ by him, are hosted.

After a recent flurry of literally feverish activity, Film Studies For Free is going to take a richly-deserved, two-week break so that its cold-ridden author can become fully healthy once more, and go off to deliver a talk on her own work (which is not totally unconnected to the focus of today’s blog post, as it happens). In the meantime, FSFF leaves you with a little video essay by Lee and Dan Sallitt on another of this blog’s favourite filmmakers (alongside Buñuel), Claude Chabrol. Adieu, pour le moment…

Ahoy, Me Hearties! Pirate Philosophy by Gary Hall

Open Access publishing is not all that scary

Yesterday, Film Studies For Free‘s author attended a very stimulating talk on a subject dear to this blog’s heart: Open Access publishing in the Humanities.

Tireless proponent and exponent of radical Open Access Professor Gary Hall gave his lecture — ‘Pirate Philosophy’ — as part of the Research in Progress Seminar Series at the School of Media and Film at the University of Sussex, a talk he had also delivered at his own institution, Coventry University. The Sussex event was chaired by Caroline Bassett, whose own writing on digital media is well worth checking out: click HERE for an online Open Access article by her on Web 2.0 and read about her new book, The Arc and the Machine: Narrative and New Media (complete with its discussion of Gus Van Sant’s film Elephant) HERE.

A description of the earlier version of Gary Hall’s talk, available online, reads as follows (with the odd hyperlink added, as usual, by FSFF):

This Lecture presented a series of performative media projects or ‘media gifts’. Operating at the intersection of art, media and philosophy, these projects – which include an open access archive and a ‘liquid book’ – are gifts in that they are part of the ‘academic gift economy’ which circulates research for free rather than as market commodities. They are performative in that they are instances of media that produce the things of which they speak and are engaged primarily through their performance.

The media gift that this Lecture focussed on was ‘Pirate Philosophy’. This project investigated some of the implications of internet pirate philosophy for the arts and humanities, particularly the latter’s ideas of authorship, the book, the academic journal, scholarly publishing, intellectual property, copyright law, content creation and cultural production. ‘Pirate Philosophy’ explores such ideas both philosophically and legally through the creation of an actual ‘pirate’ text.

Hall’s lecture richly explored all sorts of different models for Open Access as well as, very engagingly, the current relevance to these matters of the work of a variety of cultural theorists (most prominently Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Zygmunt Bauman, and the gift-economics of Marcel Mauss — ‘gifts are never free’, but instead often give rise to reciprocal exchange).

The question session at the end of the seminar showed that many of those attending were, in part, inspired by Hall’s call to piracy/self-piracy, but were residually anxious in the ways that academics employed (or working towards being employed) by the current system so often are about the challenges to conventional systems of academic, and other, authorship that Web 2.0 has raised, and that Web 3.0 will take even further. Hall’s tactical refusal to assuage those anxieties was well met by this attendee, though. A little pirate heartiness will indeed be necessary if the lockdown culture of Western Academia is truly to change. (But that’s easy for this blogger to say…)

All these debates are closely connected to ones about the spreadability of digital moving image materials as well as text-based ones. Interested FSFF readers should also check out Gary Hall’s website together with Culture Machine, the online journal he co-founded and edits, which will have an upcoming issue on Pirate Philosophy. You should also visit and support CSeARCH, the pioneering Humanities online-archive he co-founded in 1999. Hall’s latest book Digitize This Book! The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now is a highly compelling read, but you can get some sense of his detailed arguments from the following online conference proceedings piece: ‘The Politics and Ethics of Electronic Archiving’; and from the following interview: ‘OA in the Humanities Badlands’.

If you’ve got as far as this point in this post, ye verily deserve today’s final, ‘piratical’ gift: a video of Hall’s lecture as given at Coventry University on September 29, 2008:


Film Studies For Free‘s author promises to return to the fascinating questions about authorship, online and otherwise, raised by Hall’s work in a future post for her research blog Directing Cinema.