News

The Week’s Links

Film Studies For Free was all too easily distracted/mesmerised this week by momentous events, but came across, nonetheless, the following, freely-accessible, online items of note, and offers them up for your delectation, delight, and varied film/moving image education:

Please go in two by two! Sally Potter’s Fabulous Ark

Film Studies For Free has recently set up a small, but growing, new links list to ‘Filmmakers’ Websites Of Note’ (just scroll down on the right-hand side of the site). The list currently contains links to the following sites: Alejandro Jodorowsky; Fernando Trueba; Gonzalo Suárez; Carlos Saura; Manuel Gutiérrez Aragón; Tomás Gutiérrez Alea; Isabel Coixet; Bigas Luna; Alejandro Amenábar; Pedro Almodóvar’s blog; Aardman Animations; Álex de la Iglesia; Atom Egoyan; Bill Melendez; The Coppola Family; The Makhmalbaf Filmhouse; and Werner Herzog (please ‘excuse’ the abundance of Spanish and Latin filmmakers, but that was the cohort within which FSFF began its search). Any suggestions for additions to the listing are very gratefully received indeed. And, if auteur(ist)-resources are your bag, please keep an eye on it as FSFF is sure it will rapidly expand.

A new link to by far the most innovative and promising of any filmmakers’ websites ever surfed by this blogger has just been added to the list: Sally Potter‘s Archive SP-ARK! (Potter also has an occasional blog; and a more conventional company website, too). Potter is, as FSFF readers will know, director of radically innovative films such as Thriller, The Gold Diggers, Orlando (the principal ‘object’ of the SP-ARK archive), The Man Who Cried, The Tango Lesson, and more recently, Yes.

SP-ARK is currently in prototype (beta-test) form; it describes its amazing project as follows:

SP-ARK is a web-based open source educational project based on the multi-media archive of film-maker Sally Potter. SP-ARK is designed as a unique educational resource, tailored to the radically new learning preferences of students everywhere, which can be used as a model for innovative teaching and research in all disciplines and at every level. At this stage only a tiny fraction of the materials available in the Sally Potter archive has been uploaded to the site’s database. During the next phase the complete ORLANDO archive will be made available, followed by materials relating to all of Potter’s films and her work in dance, music and theatre. You are welcome to browse through the sample materials already available on the site, currently over 600 items. If you would like to access SP-ARK ‘s unique interactive features and become a trial user participating in the testing and future development of this prototype then please email us at beta [at] sp-ark.org with some information about yourself and your interest in SP-ARK. We will send you a username and password.

(Please note that you don’t have to email or register in order to browse – just visit!)

Film Studies For Free l o v e s the ethos of SP-ARK, and greatly appreciates what’s up and running on the site already; it very much looks forward to following its development. It also hopes that other living filmmakers (or the heirs of filmmakers from earlier generations) are inspired to build on Sally Potter’s generous example.

As for the educational implications of projects like these, the ‘Cloud‘s’ the limit, if you know what FSFF means. As Chris Berry, Professor of Film and Television Studies at London’s Goldsmiths College, brilliantly puts it in his endorsement of this archive:

The SP-ARK vision of social learning gives us a glimmer of the future today. Instead of locking archive materials away and restricting availability, it promises ready access to SP-ARK to anybody anywhere with a computer and the internet. Furthermore, the solitary archive user is transformed into a producer and a member of a community by the ability to build pathways of connections and commentary through the material. In the process, the cinema is extended from a fixed object to be viewed into a dynamic, interactive, and growing network of digital debate and active learning.

Some other, good, Sally Potter, online links follow:

Artists and Filmmakers’ Favourite Films: frieze magazine

Screenshots from films by Clio Barnard

GreenCine Daily, Film Studies For Free‘s favourite site for ‘Film on the Web’ news, today brings word of an article (link to it HERE), in the latest, online issue of art magazine frieze, by filmmaker Clio Barnard (a former colleague of this blogger at the University of Kent). The article is part of an ongoing series in which frieze asks artists and filmmakers to list the movies that have influenced their practice.

Barnard is an artist/filmmaker, whose work has shown in cinemas, international film festivals and galleries, including Tate Modern and Tate Britain. She was one of the winners of the 2005 Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists and in 2007 was awarded a major commission from the Art Angel, which will involve an ambitious live performance and feature-length film.

FSFF already links to an online film by Barnard – the wonderful Dark Glass (1 min. 16 seconds, 2006; direct link to MP4 HERE; and to QuickTime HERE), part of the SingleShot series of ‘newly commissioned film and video works — shot in one single take — by artists and new talent’.

As the Tate Modern website describes it,

Shot on a mobile phone, Clio Barnard’s Dark Glass is a taut micro-drama that visually recreates a spoken description of family photographs recalled under hypnosis. Although the recollection appears incredibly compelling, it also possesses an inherent instability, so that we are never quite sure what we’re hearing or seeing, something further emphasised by the unsteady nature of the image itself, which lends an apparitional quality to this apparent act of truth-telling.

HERE‘s a link to a good article about the SingleShot films by Aaron Callow for aestheticamagazine, with a few paragraphs dedicated to Dark Glass.

Below are direct links to the other frieze articles about films that have influenced particular artists and filmmakers’ work; most are illustrated with video clips from the films:

Issue 101 September 2006:The Otolith Group
Issue 102 October 2006:David Noonan
Issue 103 November-December 2006: Rebecca Warren
Issue 105 March 2007: Runa Islam
Issue 106 April 2007: Jia Zhangke
Issue 107 May 2007: Luke Fowler
Issue 108 Jun-Aug 2007: Hamish Fulton
Issue 109 September 2007: Steve McQueen
Issue 110 October 2007: Rosemarie Trockel
Issue 111 Nov-Dec 2007: James Benning
Issue 113 March 2008: Peter Doig
Issue 114 April 2008: Hito Steyerl
Issue 115 May 2008: Mark Leckey
Issue 116 June – Aug 2008: Raqs Media Collective
Issue 117 September 2008: Babette Mangolte
Issue 118 October 2008: Duncan Campbell
Issue 119 Nov-Dec 2008: Clio Barnard

One final frieze-related Film Studies For Free tip: check out the frieze podcasts. There are interesting ones on: The Expanded Gallery: Mass Forms for Private Consumption; The Expanded Gallery: I Am Not a Flopper Or… (Allan Smithee-related!); and Art, Politics and Popularity (with Jacques Rancière).

Two more E-Journals: Forum and Other Voices

Film Studies For Free brings you very glad tidings of two more graduate E-journals: Forum and Other Voices.

To take the former first, Forum is a peer-reviewed journal for postgraduate students working in culture and the arts. The journal is based at the University of Edinburgh.

Film and film-theory related articles worth checking out in Issue 1, Autumn 2005 – Origins and Originality are as follows:

Film articles of note in Issue 4, Camp! (Spring 2007):

Further film articles in the Current issue Issue 6, Desire (Spring 2008) –

And there’s a Back Special Issue: Evolutions Conference with a couple of film-related pieces as follows:

As for Other Voices, it is an ‘independent, award-winning, electronic journal of cultural criticism’ published at the University of Pennsylvania. Founded in March 1997, Other Voices regularly publishes ‘provocative essays, interviews, roundtable discussions, lecture transcriptions, audio lectures, multimedia projects, translations and reviews in the arts and humanities.’

The Other Voices Search Results page for ALL 57 articles referencing the keyword ‘film’ is HERE. Film Studies For Free (or its human avatar, at least) hasn’t yet personally checked out all 57 listed… but links to ones that it did take a look at and are very much worth listing are given below:

Enjoy, or as Lacan himself would probably put it (if he were as confused as FSFF about transitive and intransitive verbs), Jouissez!

James Bond Production Designer: Audio Slideshow

Sir Ken Adam at the Imperial War Museum‘s ongoing James Bond exhibition

Four minutes to spare? Then Film Studies For Free respectfully recommends that you spend them visiting the BBC site where they have a great little audio slideshow in which Sir Ken Adam, the production designer of James Bond films (and many other films besides), ‘shares his thoughts on two of his most celebrated [Bond] sets’. Check out the link HERE.

It’s been posted to the BBC pages in connection with the publication of Ken Adam Designs the Movies, James Bond and Beyond by Ken Adam and Christopher Frayling (by Thames and Hudson). See the Commander Bond fansite HERE for further info.

Eight more minutes to spare? See a great YouTube video about Adam’s work HERE.

A Simple Plan: Ben Goldsmith on the Windfall Fantasy Film

Film Studies For Free is preparing a long, long, long post on freely-accessible, online, film-studies writing of note by particular named authors (a snappier title will hopefully occur to this befuddled author soon). But, in the process of preparing it, I stumbled across one piece that merited a much more urgent flagging up, especially given FSFF and almost everyone else’s ‘sideline’ interest in the global financial crisis and the upcoming US elections.

Ben Goldsmith, he of the wonderful weblog I Screen Studies, has recently posted a version of his published article ‘Something Rotten in the State of Minnesota, or The Morality of Backwoodsmen: A Simple Plan‘ on his site. Here’s how Goldsmith introduces his views now on Sam Raimi‘s 1998 film and his revisiting of the essay about it:

I remember I really didn’t like this film when I first saw it, but something kept drawing me back, and I went to see it three or four times at the movies (very unusual for me). I made copious notes, and delved into work on chance and fiction, and even came up with a sub-genre: the windfall fantasy, of which A Simple Plan is a variant: the windfall fantasy gone wrong. Reading this again almost a decade later, I remember how much the film affected me, stuck in my mind. It speaks to me now in a different way, as we experience what may well be the end of the Long Twentieth Century (Giovanni Arrighi). The film bespeaks the moral decay at the heart of America. [Hyperlinks added by FSFF]

As someone who had a very similar reaction, way back when (pre-9/11!), to A Simple Plan, I very much rate Goldsmith’s article on it. Much more good Film-Studies work, like this, is needed now on the economic aspects of the American (and Northern Hemispheric) Imaginary. And how much more wonderful it would be if that work, like this essay, were also freely accessible to all who might be interested in learning from it.

So, Hail to I Screen Studies and to its very generous Chief!

P.S. A propos of all this, please do check out Dina Iordanova‘s fab, recent, blog post ‘And End of an Era? Popular cinema, Gordon Gekko’s ‘Greed is Good!’ and the collapse of Wall Street. More about DinaView: Film Culture Technology Money anon.

Atom Egoyan (Adoration) and Directors’ Notes (Appreciation)

A quickie today. Film Studies For Free hopes you’ll check out the great, 10 minute long, podcast (and streaming audio) with Canadian-Armenian director Atom Egoyan, whose new film Adoration showed at last night’s London Film Festival. The podcast is brought to you by Directors’ Notes (see below for more info). As for Adoration, Sandra Hebron, artistic director of the LFF (see a video interview with her HERE), writes,

This twelfth feature from Atom Egoyan begins with a teacher setting an assignment to a class of high school students, and this seemingly everyday exercise is the catalyst for an exploration of the ways in which we make connections – with each other, with our families and our personal histories, with new technology and the modern world. When Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian) asks her class to translate a news story about a terrorist who plants a bomb in the airline luggage of his pregnant girlfriend, this has a profound effect on one of the students, Simon ([Devon Bostick]). Re-imagining this to be his own family’s story, he begins to perpetuate this fictitious history via internet chatrooms. […]

Ambitious in structure and scope, Adoration unfolds as a multi-layered mystery story in which chronology is fractured, and narrators sometimes unreliable. The rich visual texture of the film reflects this, combining sumptuous 35mm photography with images from the internet and mobile phones. Woven through with themes of terrorism, prejudice and fear, Adoration is unfailingly intelligent and unquestionably timely. [with hyperlinks added by FSFF]

There’s a good detailed review of the film by Cinematical. Other good links to Egoyan include: his company website; Girish Shambu‘s Senses of Cinema essay on the director (‘The Pleasure And Pain Of “Watching”: Atom Egoyan’s Exotica‘); a very good survey piece at the Canadian Film Encyclopedia/Film Reference Library; another one at MovieMaker.com; and another, really excellent, very detailed, and more ‘academic’ one at Bright Lights Film Journal, by David L. Pike. Some great YouTube videos related to Atom Egoyan are HERE. And a really interesting Cineaste interview with Egoyan online HERE at The Free Library.

Film Studies For Free urges you to explore what’s on offer more generally at Directors’ Notes; it’s a nicely organised site that brings weekly podcasts with indie directors and other film personnel, along with up-to-date and varied reviews, and other news and articles. RSS feed available HERE.

Assorted e-journal and website recommendations

As it is so nice and sunny today, and Film Studies For Free‘s author (not pictured above) likes the outdoors as much as, if not more than, the dark confines of the cinema, or the equally artificially-lit terrain of her happy, new-media, hunting grounds, she will strive to keep her extraneous comments to a bare minimum as she snappily shares with you the following nods to excellent online resources, before heading for the nearby hills…

New Links to Free Film Studies E-books

Thanks to some rifling around at the great UPenn.edu search tool The Online Books Page, the always bountiful Film Studies For Free can now proudly present you with some wonderful new links to the following, online and freely accessible, Film Studies E-books (most of these ‘scholarship editions’ were made available online by the mighty University of California Press – thank you UC!):

These join Film Studies For Free‘s existing links to the following great books:

Happy E-reading, folks!

[Addendum – at 16.43: An old friend from my early Kent days, Dr David Sorfa [now Managing Editor of the peerless (…but peer-reviewed!) Open-Access journal Film-Philosophy, and Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Liverpool John Moores University], got in touch with two further and very welcome additions to the E-books list. Both these classics are offered up courtesy of the Centre for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan:

Díky moc / Arigatou gozaimasu / Thank you very much!]

‘If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead’: Michael Moore, Henry Jenkins, and Sheila Seles

As many of you will already know (Film Studies For Free hopes), the best English-language Media Studies blog in the whole World Wide Web is Henry JenkinsConfessions of an Aca-Fan. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Two of the Aca-Fan‘s most recent posts (‘Why Universities Shouldn’t Create “Something like YouTube” (Part One)‘ and ‘Why Universities Shouldn’t Create “Something like YouTube” (Part Two)‘) are such important contributions to debates about the future role of the internet in university-level education (and beyond) that I feel they should be required reading for anyone at any level in the academy responsible for determining future policies about ‘user-generated content‘ and other related matters.

Film Studies For Free will leave that resounding recommendation with you for now. Today’s blog post is concerned more with a slightly different intervention from Jenkins and the MIT Comparative Media Studies lab, on ‘spreadable media’.

In the Aca-Fan‘s post on April 24, 2007, ‘Slash Me, Mash Me, Spread Me…‘, Jenkins wrote the following about ‘the sensibilities of a generation of popular artists who have grown up in an era of cult media’ and participatory culture.

They know what fan creativity can accomplish and they want to be part of the game rather than sitting on the sidelines.

At the same time, we can see this as reflecting the growing appreciation within the media industry of what often gets called “viral marketing“: that is, they recognize the buzz that comes when grassroots intermediaries embrace a property and pass it along to their friends. C3 research associate Joshua Green and I have begun exploring what we call “spreadable media.” Our core argument is that we are moving from an era when stickiness was the highest virtue because the goal of pull media was to attract consumers to your site and hold them there as long as possible, not unlike, say, a roach hotel. Instead, we argue that in the era of convergence culture, what media producers need to develop [is] spreadable media. Spreadable content is designed to be circulated by grassroots intermediaries who pass it along to their friends or circulate it through larger communities (whether a fandom or a brand tribe). It is through this process of spreading that the content gains greater resonance in the culture, taking on new meanings, finding new audiences, attracting new markets, and generating new values. In a world of spreadable media, we are going to see more and more media producers openly embrace fan practices, encouraging us to take media in our own hands, and do our part to insure the long term viability of media we like. [All hyper-links added by Film Studies For Free]

In her most recent posting (October 17, 2008) on the group blog Convergence Culture Consortium — ‘Looking a Gift Economy in the Mouth: Michael Moore’s SLACKER UPRISING’ — Sheila Seles very valuably takes up this matter of ‘spreadable content’ in relation to the kind of online, free, film content with which Film Studies For Free, not idly named, is hugely concerned: specifically, in Seles’ post, the free online distribution by documentarian Michael Moore of his latest film Slacker Uprising (get it HERE only if you reside in the USA or Canada).

I haven’t seen this film yet, but Seles asks some very important questions about Moore’s distribution tactic, and she compares the case of Slacker Uprising with that of other films distributed in this and similar ways, such as Robert Greenwald‘s Iraq for Sale, which used to be (putatively) legally available completely for free via Google Video (the much linked-to page suggests it’s now been removed).

Film Studies For Free urges you to read Seles’ fascinating post, and asks its readers earnestly for any opinions about her concluding argument in it, in the context of wider debates about spreadable culture: will ‘Slacker Uprising […] provide an interesting example of the impact of quality and branding as we try to articulate tangible distinctions between “free” content and content that will spread’?

We might wonder also if, to borrow Seles’ post’s titular metaphor (and ‘mashup’ along the way two old proverbs and a cliché), are these ‘gift horsesfor courses, or is there no such thing — in indie-film download-land, at least — as a truly free thoroughbred?

Answers, please, in an email or on a comments page.