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Session 11: Approaches: Memory and Movie Experiences

Paper 1 - Cecilia Gil Mariño, PBI, University of Cologne-AvH Fellow/UdeSA-CONICET, & Sonia Sasiai, Instituto de artes del Espectáculo, UBA, Movie experiences and memory: an approach to the oral history of Buenos Aires audiences during the classical period.

The “vernacular modernity” of classic cinema, as Hansen writes, allowed spectators from remote points of the planet to participate in a shared experience. Just by sitting in a cinema seat they could fly to exotic places or travel in time to the past and the future, no matter where they were. Within this universe, the film-going audience of Buenos Aires, with a notable cinephilia and a marked thirst for culture, experienced a cultural expansion inside picture palaces that allowed them to give meaning to the transformations they experienced in their everyday lives. In this sense, this paper collaborates with the exploration of the cinematographic experiences and the ways in which film was visualized and appropriated into the everyday life of the modern city.

This work focusses on the ways spatial and temporal perceptions appear in oral narratives of movie-going experiences in Buenos Aires during the 1930s and 1950s before the boom of the television and other different ways of film consumption. With the tools of the oral history and based on 30 qualitative interviews with older men and women who attended cinemas during that period, we explore how through their imaginaries they build a certain place in the past that shows sharp contrasts to the perceived present. In turn, this work with the memories of the space is put in dialogue with another survey carried out on the transformations of the maps of the movie theaters in the city in this period and the architectural features of the main halls and their functioning. We trace the ways in which memories are intertwined with the movie theatres and the way the cinematographic experience affected the audience’s mental cartography of the different environments of Buenos Aires.

Allen, R. (2006): “The Place of Space in Film Historiography”, TMG. Journal for Media History, 9(2), pp.15–27. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18146/tmg.548;

Cozarinsky, Edgardo (2006). Palacios plebeyos. Buenos Aires: Sudamericana;

Hansen, M. (1999): “The Mass Production of the Senses: Classical Cinema as Vernacular Modernism”, Modernism/Modernity, 6(2), 59-77;

Kuhn, Annette (2004). “Heterotopía, Heterocronía: lugar y tiempo en la memoria cinematográfica”. London, Screen 45; N° 2, Summer, pp. 106- 114. ISSN 1460-2474.

Paper 2 - David Morton, University of Central Florida, High Noon and the Holocaust: Exploring Holocaust Memory and Changing Representations of Genocide in the Revisionist American Western.

Several years ago I developed an interview project that collected the testimonials of Holocaust survivors and educators who lived in the suburb of Glen Cove, New York. One pattern I came across in many interviews and found incredibly interesting but was unable to explore further at the time, was how each of the survivors would share how their moviegoing experiences helped in teaching them ‘how to become an American,’ as well as providing a pensive point of reflection of where they had escaped from. One genre of American films the survivors I interviewed repeatedly cited as providing the strongest point of reflection was the Hollywood Western. One survivor expressed that the two greatest films about the Holocaust were Fred Zinnemann’s High Noon (1952) and John Ford’s The Searchers (1956).

Although an extensive amount has been written and researched both on the filmic representations of the Holocaust and an endless depth of literature revolves around the progressive shift in the western film genre, what has remained unexamined is an understanding of how the revelations of the Holocaust sparked the advent of the revisionist western in the 1940s and 1950s. In the case of Zinnemann and Ford, both men worked as documentarians during World War II and were personally impacted by their experiences. (Zinnemann’s parents were killed in the concentration camps.) Whether the it be the disillusionment of Gary Cooper’s Kane in High Noon or the genocidal psychopathy of Ethan Edwards in The Searchers, both films present a stark and transformative moment of reflection in the genre.

Initially the post-World War II western films simply questioned the ideals and style of the traditional western, by creating lines of moral ambiguity and favoring realism over romanticism. However starting in the 1960s and 1970s, depictions of groups that were previously subjugated by American government policy began to be portrayed in a more sympathetic light. This social turn parallels a renewed interest in Holocaust memory in Hollywood films such as Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) or The Pawnbroker (1965) and manifest themselves in various western films that showcase the Native American’s struggle against the infringement of the American military and industrial interests as seen in Little Big Man (1970) and Jeremiah Johnson (1972). The films listed are among a handful of examples of how the evolution of the ‘revisionist western’ can be seen as marker of introspection by the United States into its own sordid past as well as a point of growth that can be traced from the aftermath of the Holocaust.

This presentation will examine the progression of the revisionist western genre from the mid-1940s to the 1970s and incorporate both the audience memories from the survivor testimonies I recorded and the evolution of this genre over a thirty-year period. The purpose of such as study is to present a new method to explore questions of genocide and vigilante justice are addressed in a specific genre of American films can perhaps open a wider dialogue into the ways in which Holocaust memory can transcend its influence into a multitude of cultural forms.

David Morton is an film scholar and historian based in Orlando, Florida. He is an instructor in Cinema Studies, as well as U.S. and World History. He received his Ph.D. in Texts and Technology from the University of Central Florida in 2019 and his first monograph, ‘A Nice Place to Visit, But Don’t Come To Stay:’ A History of the Motion Picture Industry in the State of Florida, 1908-Present, is set for publication in 2020.

Paper 3 - Hanna Klien-Thomas, Oxford Brookes University, Remembering Bollywood – Trinidadian audiences and the reconfiguration of cinema-going memories.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Hindi film production was dominated by the romantic family film, which has become a marker of what is widely considered as Bollywood screen culture today. Indian film theorists have argued that changes in production and distribution were related to the targeting of overseas audiences (Rajadhyaksha 2003). Transnational reception studies have shown that the texts themselves were highly significant in this process as the themes of tradition and modernity embedded in family issues appealed to audiences worldwide – not only diasporic communities but also viewers in Nigeria, Peru or Germany (Dudrah 2006; Mader et al. 2015; Larkin 2003).

This paper focuses on this recent period in Indian film history and related memories of cinema-going in Trinidad. It seeks to give insights into the relationship between romantic family films, socio-cultural practices in the Caribbean reception context and the role of memories in (re)configuring the meaning of cinema-going as a media practice. Based on a practice theoretical approach, cinema-going is considered in terms of its accumulated history. In the multi-ethnic society of Trinidad, Hindi films hold a firm position due to the large Indian diasporic community originating in the colonial labour regime of indentureship. They have served as a symbolic repertoire for ethnic identity formations and have been incorporated into the transcultural dynamics of creole modernity. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with members of contemporary Bollywood audiences, the paper reconstructs how memories are inscribed, transmitted and renegotiated in cinema-going. Furthermore, it presents analytical strategies for constant comparison of data sets including interviews, participant observation and textual analysis during field work. The researcher and her own viewing practices become part of a reflexive analytical process and are understood as a node of translation between different disciplines, fields and positionalities.

Dudrah, R. K. (2006) Bollywood: Sociology goes to the movies. Sage, New Delhi.

Larkin, B. (2003) ‘Itineraries of Indian cinema: African Videos, Bollywood, and Global Media’. In: Shohat, E. & Stam, R. (eds.) Multiculturalism, postcoloniality, and transnational media. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, London, pp. 170–192.

Mader, E., R. K. Dudrah & B. Fuchs (eds.) (2015) SRK and global Bollywood. Oxford University Press, New Delhi India.

Rajadhyaksha, A. (2003) The ‘Bollywoodization’ of the Indian cinema: cultural nationalism in a global arena, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 4:1, 25-39.

Dr. Hanna Klien-Thomas is a media anthropologist focusing on transcultural media practices, visual and digital cultures in the Caribbean. Her PhD project on Indian popular culture in Trinidad was funded by the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Previous publications include monographs on the gaze in contemporary Bollywood and the Cuban Hip Hop movement. She enjoys teaching and worked as a lecturer at Oxford Brookes, Alpen Adria Klagenfurt and Vienna University.

Paper 4 - Monique Toppin, University of Stirling & University of The Bahama, Remembering Films of the 1950s in Little Nassau.

Films like most texts created for entertainment purposes by their very nature engage the emotions of the viewer and tend to leave a distinct impression on their minds and behaviour. (Valenti, 2000, p. 11) The large screen and the engulfing sound of the projected visual engage the audience collectively.(Tudor, 1974, p. 76) My research centers on the leisure pursuits of Bahamian teenagers and young adults in the 1950s, targeting essentially the activity of cinemagoing and the way in which it fit into the routine of their daily lives. The project’s research methodology utilizes oral history interviews with narrators who share their memories of the social and cultural experience of cinemagoing during the 1950s, as well as their memories of specific films and the value of those films to them. The films viewed and remembered by the narrators from the 1950s also represented for them important exemplifications of the popular culture that they were prepared to pay money to experience, because, as Nick Lacey articulates “media texts are not simply commodities, they are also cultural artefacts. (Lacey, 2002, p. 65) My presentation will focus on what the narrator’s ‘remembered film’ impressed upon them at the time it was first experienced during the 1950s, and exploring the reasons why remembering a film was personal and relevant to them, during that time in their life. The memories that the narrators retain of the films viewed are evidenced of the notion that the very process of remembering argues well with filmic expression. (Kuhn, 2007, p. 302/3). Narrators shared reasons for remembering the films and provided memory cues or triggers generated from the social, cultural and textual conditions of the film viewing experience. Thereby, the narrator’s memories of selected films shed light on how and why they remembered these films after first viewing them some fifty years prior.

Kuhn, A. (2007). An Everyday Magic:.

Lacey, N. (2002). Media Institutions and Audiences: Key Concepts in Media Studies. Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Tudor, A. a. (1974). Image and Influence: Studies in the Sociology of Film. London: Unwin Ltd.

Valenti, F. M. (2000). More than a Movie: Ethics in Entertainment. Boulder: Westview Press.

I am a part-time doctoral research student at the University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland. My research topic is Cinema and Cultural Memory in Nassau, Bahamas during the 1950s. Currently, I am HOD in the Journalism and Communication Department at The University of The Bahamas, Nassau, Bahamas. My research interests are new cinema history and culture of the media, primarily the film medium, specific to the Bahamas; memory studies; audience studies, and media research.