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Session 12: Approaches: Exploring Cinemagoing Experiences

Paper 1 - Talitha Ferraz, PPGCine-UFF & ESPM-Rio, “At every station, there was a cinema”: railway, moviegoing and working class in the Leopoldina Zone, suburb of Rio de Janeiro.

In the middle of the 20th century, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, some movie palaces were inaugurated in front of the train stations of each neighbourhood of the Leopoldina Zone, a suburban area that holds until today the first name of the railway line, Leopoldina Railway, that intersects its territories. The city (at that time, capital of the country) was in a process of intensive industrial expansion and the formation of a mass culture. Since then, the concept of suburb in the history of Rio de Janeiro is associated with the image of an area destined for industry and working-class housing, a fact that does not mask material and symbolic processes of socioeconomic segregation. In this context, a dense and peculiar relationship between the suburbs, train stations and cinemas began to be designed in this region. In that regard, I investigate the role of the “station cinemas” in a process of urban modernisation that has given the Leopoldina area (and its inhabitants) some symbolic and spatial functions in relation to other parts of the city. Following the theoretical-methodological approaches of the New Cinema History and the “Histórias de Cinemas” (as in Brazil we call the historiographic studies of cinemas and audiences’ experiences), I examine the former local models of film exhibition and audience practices, considering them in the field of proletarian leisure and production of a “screen culture” in the Leopoldina Zone, which included the presence of station cinemas, all nowadays already extinct. The study is based on an analysis of the programming and commercial management of a cut of 10 cinemas (mainly from the 1940s to the 1980s), and testimonials of former cinemagoers obtained in interviews conducted in two moments: between 2010 and 2013 (during the development of my doctoral dissertation); between 2019 and 2020 (in the phase of data updating for the publication of the book “Cinemas de Estação”, expected by the end of 2021).

Ferraz T (2014). Espectação cinematográfica no subúrbio carioca da Leopoldina: dos ‘cinemas de estação’ às experiências contemporâneas de exibição. (Print version of doctoral dissertation). Escola de Comunicação da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro.

Gonzaga A (1996). Palácios e Poeiras: 100 anos de cinema no Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Ministério da Cultura, Funarte, Record. Maltby R; Biltereyst D; Meers P, edition (2011). Explorations in New Cinema History: approaches and case studies. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Oliveira M; Fernandes N, edition (2010). 150 anos de subúrbio carioca. Rio de Janeiro: Lamparina; Faperj, EdUFF.

Assistant Professor in Cinema and Media Studies at the ESPM-Rio and Associate Professor at the PPGCine-UFF, Brazil. MSc and PhD in Communication and Culture from the ECO-UFRJ. Post-doc at the CIMS-UGent, Belgium. Head of the Modos de Ver Research Group and member of the International Media and Nostalgia Network (IMNN).

Paper 2 - Stephen McBurney, University of Glasgow, New Cinema History and Technology: Film on the Silver Screen, Edinburgh circa 1890s.

Technology has been central to the growth of Film Studies as a discipline, helping to shape historical writings and film analyses. However, traditional technological histories are apt to hermetically focus on the technical aspects of the cinematic apparatus, and are structured to fit an evolutionary and teleological narrative. This paper adopts the principles of New Cinema History to eschew these failings, detailing technical processes whilst placing them in a localised context. A stereoscopic technology called the Analyticon shaped the experience of early cinema in Edinburgh, giving it an aesthetic and ideological character distinct from the rest of Scotland.

The Modern Marvel Company was incorporated in Edinburgh in 1897. In its memorandum, the company stated that its principle purpose was to exploit scientific instruments for the purposes of popular entertainment or technical education. Such companies were not uncommon in the 1890s, with demonstrations of X-Rays and the cinematograph often forming a staple of popular programmes. However, Modern Marvel differs in that it focused on technology developed in Edinburgh, in a bid to ingratiate itself with Edinburgh’s myriad learned societies and appeal to local audiences. In addition to the cinematograph, the company regularly exhibited the Analyticon, which was a stereoscopic technology built upon the principle of polarised light. The Analyticon depended upon a silver screen, otherwise the light would become de-polarised once reflected. This shaped the aesthetic experience of early film exhibitions for Edinburgh audiences, as the two technologies were often part of the same exhibition and shared the same silver screen. This paper adopts tropes of traditional technological history by detailing the Analyticon’s technical workings, but it also adopts the principles of New Cinema History by situating this technology within a localised context that foregrounds the character of early cinema in Edinburgh.

Moral and Aesthetic Objections to Early Hand-Painted Films in the Scottish Highlands. Early Popular Visual Culture (2020 – forthcoming)

The Colour Fantastic: Chromatic Worlds of Silent Cinema [Book review]. Early Popular Visual Culture (2019) DOI: 10.1080/17460654.2019.1605715.

The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall and Cosmopolitan Entertainment Culture [Book review]. Early Popular Visual Culture, (2018) DOI: 10.1080/17460654.2018.1533722.

The Shape of Spectatorship: Art, Science, and Early Cinema in Germany [Book review]. Early Popular Visual Culture, 15:1 (2017), 108-110, DOI: 10.1080/17460654.2016.1270460.

Stephen McBurney is a recent PhD Graduate from the University of Glasgow. His thesis, “Colour Cinema in Scotland, 1896-1906”, uses specific locales as microcosms to explore wider issues, including modernity, education and local identity. His work offers an original contribution to the historical record that resonates beyond the confines of Scotland.

Paper 3 - Lotte Hoek, University of Edinburgh, Animating the Image: Film Appreciation and the Work of Spectatorship in Bangladeshi Film Societies.

This paper explores the work of film appreciation at the intersection of media anthropology and film studies. During long-term ethnographic fieldwork in Bangladeshi film societies, I studied the work that is involved in watching and appreciating ‘difficult’ films. Film appreciation is a distinct way of engaging with the cinema that is deeply ingrained into both institutional and informal pedagogies of film viewing in South Asia. Throughout my fieldwork, I tracked the ways in which empirical audiences in film societies were attentive to the particularities of individual film texts from a delimited canon during film appreciation courses, workshops and film festivals. In my engagements with film society members, I was directed to pay attention to film appreciation as a distinct, and highly self-conscious, aesthetic practice that is generally thought to have distinct social and political effects. I came to ask how this film practice cultivates particular sensory and intellectual dispositions that lead to social outcomes. In my project, I mapped empirically how self-styled film activists understood the exposure to certain films to have distinct effects on their sensory capacities as well as on their social and political orientations. At this ethnographic intersection between screen, subject and society, I connect methodological approaches from the interpretative social sciences and film studies. Acknowledging the long-standing contribution from anthropologists to scholarship and debates in South Asian media and film studies (Dickey 1993; Kirk 2016) and new cinema history (Hughes 2011), I take this ethnographic case to evaluate and contrast the ways in which anthropology and film studies approach acts of viewing methodologically and theoretically.

Dickey, Sara. 1993. Cinema and the Urban Poor in South India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hughes, Stephen. 2011. Film genre, exhibition and audiences in colonial south India. In Maltby, Richard and Biltereyst, Daniel and Meers, Philippe, (eds.), Explorations in New Cinema History: Approaches and Case Studies. London: Wiley-Blackwell. Pp. 295-309.

Kirk, Gwendolyn. 2016. ‘A camera from the time of the British’: film technologies and aesthetic exclusion in Pakistani cinema. Screen 57(4): 496–502.

Lotte Hoek is a media anthropologist whose research explores the moving image in South Asia. She is the author of Cut-Pieces: Celluloid Obscenity and Popular Cinema in Bangladesh (Columbia University Press) and co-editor of BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies. She is Head of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh.

Paper 4 - Elizaveta Zhdankova, European University at St. Petersburg, Understanding leisure in the Soviet way: cinemas as kind of leisure in the 1920s

Understanding leisure in the Soviet way: cinemas as kind of leisure in the 1920s This paper is devoted to the cinema as a kind of leisure in the USSR in the 1920s, in particular, transformation of discourse about cinema going for ideological and economic reasons. I consider the formation of an idea of recreation as entertainment to occur by the end of 1920s – as opposed to the idea of recreation as education or recovery before a new working day, which prevailed in the early 1920s in the discourse of power.The year of Revolution 1917 in Russia changed common attitudes in many aspects, and recreation and leisure were among them. In this context, the idea of leisure can be reviewed from ideological, political, economic, and social points of view. Cinema became strategically important tool of campaigning and propaganda for the authorities, remained to be a source of income for entrepreneurs, and finally, it was a way of leisure – for visitors. So, the place of leisure, i.e. the cinema theater, transformed into a kind of contested cultural place for several actors, which understood it in different ways by the postrevolutionary conditions. Through analyzing the discourse of these actors about the leisure, we can identify the way in which it was changing over time. How did the concept of leisure change under the influence of class ideology? What did cinema going mean for the workers and rich people, educators and ideologists in the first post-revolutionary decade? What is the conflict of these interpretations? I use the idea of contestation of cultural urban space of cinema theaters as a key to the interpretation of the process of social and economic society’s adaptation to the new realities.

Fokht-Babushkin Yu. U. (edited by), Publica kino v Rosii, 1910-1930, Canon, Moscow 2013. Maltby R. New Cinema Histories

Maltby, Richard, Daniël Biltereyst, and Philippe Meers. Explorations in new cinema history : approaches and case studies. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011. Flickinger B. Cinemas in the City: Berlin’s Public Space in the 1910s and 1920s

Film Studies 10. 2007. Kucher K. Park Gor`kogo: kul`tura dosuga v stalinskuyu e`poxu, 1928-1941. Moscow, 2012. Lovell S. Leisure in Russia: ‘Free’ Time and Its Uses

 Forum for Anthropology and Culture. 2005. №2.

PhD student working on thesis: New culture of leisure: cinema theaters in the Soviet Russia in the 1920s;