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New Cinema History proclaims as one of its novelties the shift from the study of the film text to the social and historical conditions of film circulation and consumption. However, what has not really changed in the last four decades, during the trajectory from Traditional Film History to New Film History and then to New Cinema History is its favored languages (English and French), the national origin of the core of its historians (US and Europe), and its principal object of study (North-American and European cinemas).
If New Cinema History claims to dialogue with other fields, why hasn’t it looked more often at frameworks draw from non-Anglophone authors, in a truly polycentric multiculturalism (Shohat, Stam)? As Lucia Nagib pointed out in her criticism of binarism in Eurocentric film studies, “with regard to the Anglophone world, there is not only a lack of translations of fundamental foreign works […] but also a need on the part of scholars and students to learn foreign languages”. What can NCH learn, for example, with the theories of the so-called Third World Cinema? If Glauber Rocha, in his fundamental Aesthetic of Hunger, already criticized the communication of Latin America tragic social situation only “in quantitative terms”, has this misunderstanding been conveyed anew in the seductive discourse of new digital methodologies based on big data? From a non-European point of view, how can a comparative approach be seen as a repositioning of a neo-colonial relationship, in which the former colonies – as Brazil, for example – import ‘manufactured methodology’ and export ‘raw data’ to enrich metropolitan scholars’ CVs?
This presentation is a reflection on the historiography of film exhibition from a Brazilian point of view, with the intention of politicizing New Cinema History through a self-reflexive approach.
Nagib, Lucia (2006). “Towards a positive definition of World Cinema”. In: Dennison, S. and Lim, S. H. (eds.) Remapping world cinema: identity, culture and politics in film. Wallflower Press, London, pp. 30-37.
Rocha, Glauber (1965). “The Aesthetics of Hunger”. In Chanan, M. (ed.) Twenty-Five Years of the New Latin American Cinema (London: BFI, 1983), 13-14. Trans. Burnes Hollyman and Randal Johnson.
Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam (1994). Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media. London: Routledge.
Adjunct Professor in the Film and Video Department and in the Film and Audiovisual Graduate Program at Federal Fluminense University, Niterói, Brazil. Has published widely on Audiovisual Preservation and Brazilian Film History. Authored the book “Cinematographo em Nictheroy” (2012) on the history of film exhibition in the city of Niterói.
‘We’re in a second industrial revolution, and I have no idea how the future is going to shape up in terms of visual storytelling to an audience, in a room, with people watching one screen. I know that it’s essential, and we have to fight to keep theatres open as much as possible because it’s a communal experience. I know the audience is there for something that could enrich your life forever, and the problem is we may not know what new developments there will be’. Martin Scorsese, 2018
The above quote by American film director Martin Scorsese pinpoints a strong argument with regards to the definition and future of cinemagoing: cinema as a theatrical experience, otherwise called ‘moviegoing’ or ‘cinema-going’ herein, is currently threatened by the rapidly rising dominance of movie watching at home and the abundance of streaming services. What started as a public, communal experience has now turned out to become more private and individual again, with the growing adaptation of digital, personal technologies, home entertainment and on-demand services. The new landscape of digital, personal technologies brings cinema-going into the construction of digital identities of cinemagoers.
This paper draws from the findings of the researcher’s PhD fieldwork which investigated the contemporary cinema-going experience -a Film Studies subject- drawing on methods from Human Computer Interaction (HCI) following a participatory design approach. Film studies have not been equipped to study this and HCI has neglected to consider the everyday experiences of cinema-going. How could the industry contribute to progressing and innovating in academic research and how does such a collaboration look like? This piece of research aspires to contribute to the field of New Cinema History by presenting how it conducted research alongside the researcher’s industrial partner, Broadway cinema based in Nottingham, UK.
Atkinson, S. (2014) Beyond the screen: Emerging cinema and engaging audiences. London: Continuum Publishing Co. Benford, S., Giannachi, G.,
Koleva, B. and Rodden, T. (2009) From Interaction to Trajectories: Designing Coherent Journeys Through User Experiences. Proceedings of the CHI 09 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems [online] pp.709-718. Available at: https://www.scopus.com/record/display.uri?eid=2-s2.0-84892468747&origin=inward&txGid=c2871dc9d3af9cb6d119886a9a51d933
Biltereyst, D. and Meers, P. (2018) Film, cinema and reception studies. Revisiting research on audience’s filmic and cinematic experiences in eds. Di Giovanni, E., and Gambier, Y. Reception Studies and Audiovisual Translation. Benjamins Publishing, USA.
Turkle, S. (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Tatiana Styliari is a user researcher working in the sector of digital transformation, having completed her multidisciplinary PhD (UoN), focusing on qualitative and design research. Being a fierce advocate of user-centred design, she investigated digital identity at the movies bringing together the fields of Human Computer Interaction and Film Studies.
Comparative research transcends national borders and brings, tentatively speaking, nations into a dialogue. If new cinema history starts to break up ‘geographical monocentrism’ (Biltereyst and Meers 2016) maybe the time has not only come to introduce the comparative method as a new approach but rather integrate it into a larger historical perspective such as transnational cinema history. Transnational film studies have recently been established as a productive subfield in film studies. However, the notion of the transnational has poorly been discussed concerning New Film History or New Cinema History. In their seminal article on transnational film studies, Will Higbee and Song Hwee Lim (2010) emphasize primarily the aesthetic analysis of a transnational approach and neglect the implications for film/cinema historical work. The paper discusses the expansion of the German Ufa, Universum Film A.G., in Latin America and the plan to install Ufa film theatres on the continent. It considers Nazi politics’ influence on Ufa’s commercial orientation as the inauguration of the first Brazilian Ufa Palácio in the city of São Paulo and Ufa’s projects in the country. Applying Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann’s histoire croisée approach (2006), the paper shows how a transnational perspective in cinema historical research offers a sounder understanding of cinema culture in Latin America, respectively in Brazil.
Daniel Biltereyst and Philippe Meers, ‘New Cinema History and the Comparative Mode: Reflections on Comparing Historical, Cinema Cultures,’ Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, 11, 2016, 13–32.
Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, ‘Beyond comparison: Histoire croisée and the challenge of reflexivity,’ History and Theory 45 (1), 2006, 30-50.
Will Higbee and Song Hwee Lim, “Concepts of transnational cinema: towards a critical transnationalism in film studies,” Transnational Cinemas, 1(1) 2010: 7-21.
Wolfgang Fuhrmann, Ph.D, is a German film historian, currently living in Bogotá, Colombia. He received his PhD from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands. Author of “Imperial Projections: Screening the German Colonies” (Berghahn 2015). He is specialized in colonial/postcolonial cinema, transnational film studies, and Latin American Cinema.
The five British newsreel companies operating during World War II employed more than seventy-seven cameramen during the conflict. Risking their lives to film for the war effort, the visuals obtained by these men were then censored, and any approved images were pooled to all five companies. The way that this footage was portrayed to audiences as war ‘news’ in Britain then lay in the hands of the newsreel editors and producers.
‘Fake news’ may be a hot topic in current discussions but manipulating the news is not a new phenomenon. Newsreel production during wartime was subject to the decisions made by cameramen, editors, cutters, and the British government, resulting in how the war would be seen by cinema audiences. The way that visual news has developed over time needs to be considered, and this cannot be done without understanding how cinema newsreels were created. How did Fox Movietone’s cinema newsreels become the Fox News that we see today? What were the problems when the cinema audiences were only offered one source of visual news, monopolised by five companies? Using production documents, BECTU interviews with newsreel staff, government records, and other primary sources, this paper will address the gap in our knowledge about how cinema newsreels were made during World War II.
It is more important than ever to integrate cinema newsreels into the history of how news was created for receptive audiences. The mass consumption of news started with newsreels, and it began in the cinema. Without acknowledging this, how can we begin to understand how we have reached the situation in which we find ourselves today?
Film Propaganda in Britain and Nazi Germany: World War II Cinema – Jo Fox
Films of Comment and Persuasion of the 1930s – Rachael Low
Ministry of Morale: Home Front Morale and the Ministry of Information in World War II – Ian McLaine
The British Board of Film Censors: Film Censorship in Britain. 1896-1950 – James C. Robertson
Useless If Delayed: Adventures in Putting History On Film – Paul Wyand
Grace is a final year PhD student at Durham University. During her PhD, Grace has extensively researched the production, exhibition, distribution and reception of World War II newsreels in Britain. Her thesis emphasises the individual narratives within the machinery of the newsreel industry, stating that wartime newsreels have played an integral role in influencing British attitudes to the war – both then and now.
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