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Session 24: Integrating Traditions: Film and Space in New Cinema History

Paper 1 - Fernando Ramos, Universidad Complutense, Rethinking Film Culture from the New Cinema History.

Following the call for a re-examination of ‘film itself’ formulated in the recent years within NCH research, this paper considers its consequences for a line of work interested in analysing film culture, that is, the institutions, discourses, places and practices that are not films but without which there would be no films. This relates, in the tradition of NCH, to the cinema as site of cultural exchange, but it also goes beyond and includes discourses in specialized magazines, practices at institutions such as film schools, film clubs, etc. The presentation will address some of these aspects based on the results of the research project conducted at Leipzig University between 2012 and 2017: ‘Cinephilia under the dictatorship. Film culture in Spain and the GDR during the 1950s and 1960s’. The project followed a comparative approach that concentrated on the (institutional, discursive, personal) developments on the film cultural field in both countries. While the research project provides the basis, the focus of the presentation is directed towards a discussion of the methodological and theoretical challenges posed by this investigation. These include (a) the difficulties inherent to a comparative approach in the analysis of film culture and reception; also (b) the reformulation of some certain assumptions as we focus on peripheral contexts (as seen from a west-European centre) where (c) film cultural exchange took place within the limits of a dictatorship, as well as (d) the redefinition, in a context of scarcity, of film cultural coordinates as part of a cinema history without films.

Ramos Arenas, F. (2019): From Stalinism to Cinephilia. The Emergence of East German Film Culture in the 1950s. In: The Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 39 (2), pp. 271-289. Ramos Arenas, F. (2017): Un cine leído. Cultura cinematográfica, censura y especulaciones en la España de la década de los sesenta [Read cinema. Film culture, censorship and speculations in Spain during the 1960s]. In: Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 18 (3), pp. 239-253.

Ramos Arenas, F. (2017): Film Clubs and the Politics of Film Culture in Spain and the GDR around 1960. In: Communication & Society 30(1), pp. 1-15.

Ramos Arenas, F. (2015): A decade between Resistance and Adaptation. The Leipzig University Film Club (1956-1966). In: Karl, Lars and Skopal, Pavel (Ed.): Film Industry and Cultural Policy in GDR und Czechoslovakia, 1945-1960. New York: Berghahn Books. pp. 315-340.

Dr. Fernando Ramos Arenas is associate professor at the Department of Art History at Complutense University in Madrid, where he directs the research project Film Culture in Transition. From 2010 to 2017 he worked at Leipzig University, where he directed the project Cinephilia under the Dictatorship; he has received a Marie Curie fellowship in 2015 and in 2017–18 he was Visiting Researcher at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Paper 2 - Guy Barefoot, University of Leicester, Cinema on Film: New Hollywood and the no longer new drive-in, 1968-1976.

Rather than looking at the significance of film within cinema, the starting point of this paper is the representation and significance of cinema within film. It examines films made (if not always widely seen) in the era spanning the late 1960s and first half of the 1970s, a time when Hollywood filmmaking norms were being challenged by ‘New Hollywood’ filmmakers. It focuses on four films: Targets (dir. Peter Bogdanovich, 1968), Adam at 6 A.M. (dir. Robert Scheerer, 1970), Drive-In (dir. Rod Amateau, 1976) and The Other Side of the Wind (dir. Orson Welles, filmed in the 1970s, but not completed then, and first shown on Netflix in 2018). To varying degrees and in different but overlapping ways, each film devotes screen time to a drive-in cinema as an aspect of contemporary American life and film culture. While other films of the late 1960s and after portrayed the drive-in as part of cinema’s and/or the cinemagoer’s past, in these films the image of the drive-in is employed in a contemporary cultural battle based on different views of cinema. In its turn this paper will use the textual and contextual analysis of individual films to reflect on what film representations of the cinema (including films not seen at the cinema) can and cannot tell us about cinema-going and cinema culture. It thus moves from the analysis of individual representations of cinema in film to a discussion of the place that the film text and contemporary critical debates have in the study of moviegoing and exhibition practices.

Barefoot, Guy, ‘My Search for Passion Pits with Pix: Cinema history and 1950s Drive-In audiences’, Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies (2019), 16.1, pp. 824-43

Godfrey, Nicholas The Limits of Auteurism: Case Studies in the Critically Constructed New Hollywood (New Brunswick: Rutgets University Press, 2017)

Segrave, Kerry Drive-in Theaters: A History from Their Inception in 1933 (Jefferson & London: McFarland, 1992)

Guy Barefoot is Associate Professor in Film Studies at the University of Leicester. His publications include The Lost Jungle: Cliffhanger Action and Hollywood Serials in the 1930s and 1940s (2017). He is currently researching the drive-in cinema in 1950s America and the popular imagination.

Paper 3 -Jono Van Belle, Örebro University, Films and authorship in memories, a case study of Ingmar Bergman.

Research in the field of new cinema history has explicitly moved away from the traditional focus on film texts to focus instead on cinemagoing as social and cultural phenomenon, and on cinema as a social institution. Using the case of Swedish film director Ingmar Bergman, this paper aims to re-integrate the text and auteur into historical audience studies, aiming at a more comprehensive approach for understanding historical film reception than either traditional film studies or new cinema history offers. I will present key results from a comparative study of oral history narratives about Bergman and his films with respondents living in Belgium (n = 27) and Sweden (n = 21). A triangulated analysis involving also contextual features retrieved from archival research reveals both similarities and differences in the reception. Not surprisingly, the different national contexts play a role in how participants identify with both the auteur Bergman and the characters in his films. Specific to the Swedish participants in the study is that Bergman’s love life and his own persona-building are crucial to the reception of his films. However, a salient feature in both cases is that Sweden as a socio-cultural construct returns throughout the participants’ accounts, illustrating that “place” is relevant to cinema memory as communicated through the provenience and setting of the films.

Van Belle, J. (2018). The Everyday Life of Auteurs du Cinema: The reception of Ingmar Bergman and his films. Participations, 15(2), 135–153.

Van Belle, J. (2019a). Re-conceptualizing Ingmar Bergman’s status as auteur du cinema. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(1), 3–17. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549417718211

Van Belle, J. (2019b). The seventh art? Art cinema and Ingmar Bergman from an audience perspective. Studies in European Cinema, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/17411548.2019.1660508

Van Belle, J. (2019c). Scenes from an audience: The auteur and the film text in audience experiences. Ingmar Bergman: A case study. (Doctoral thesis). Ghent University and Stockholm University, Gent, Belgium.

Dr. Jono Van Belle is a postdoctoral researcher at Örebro University (Sweden), working on Swedish Cinema and Everyday Life, a project on cinemagoing in Sweden in the 1950s and 1960s. Previous research focused on how films and the auteur are indispensable in memories of cinemagoing, using the case of Ingmar Bergman.

Paper 4 - Aydın Çam & İlke Şanlıer Yüksel, Çukurova University, Integrating Film and (New) Cinema (History) Studies: A Research on Cinemagoing Experiences in Taurus Highland Villages and A Forgotten Sub-Genre, “Yörük Films”.

Based on the New Cinema History approach, this comparative research focuses on the exhibitions and cinemagoing experiences of Taurus highland villagers and the films they watched. The main objective is to explore the cinematic experiences of the villagers of Taurus highlands through travelling cinema and/or cinema halls. In order to carry out this studyand to select the villages, we followed the route of Musa Özder, a travelling film exhibitor, and his statements in an interview entitled “Cinema Investigation in the Taurus Mountains,” conducted by Osman Şahin in 1974 for a cinema magazine, Yedinci Sanat (Seventh Art). Hence, we conducted in-depth interviews with travelling film exhibitors and 40 villagers, who were born in or before 1970 and lived in Taurus highland villages within the borders of Mersin province between 1960 and 1980. Our findings present how the exhibition practices and places, and moviegoing experiences in these villages may direct us to quite different paths from the Western notions of cinema places, exhibitions, and audience in traditional/conventional cinema studies. And also, one of our findings, “audience-recalled films”, shows how we may integrate traditional way of looking at films and doing research from New Cinema Histories methods as a novel approach.

Taurus highlands is the region where human mobility is increased along with the radical transformations in the settlement processes since the 17th century. Since then, the Yörüks (Nomads), which constitute an important ethnic group of the region’s population and engage in nomadic practices between Çukurova Plato and Taurus Mountains, have been largely settled and nomadism is tried to be kept alive culturally. During our research, some of the films that participants remembered are based on the Yörük myths and legends and some others are based on the stories of writers who were born and raised in these villages. Therefore, narratives and narrative structures of these films are local. Furthermore, the production, distribution and screening practices of these films are also local and distinctive, which would characterize the epoch. These films met the local demand by being equipped with local elements and features through the model of regional management and also they create a forgotten sub-genre: Yörük films. Consequently, New Cinema History approach (and its novel methodologies) capacitates quite wide perspectives to frame interdisciplinary, empirical, and comparative researches on distribution, exhibition, and cinemagoing practices. But our research also shows that this approach has quite potential to integrate film and cinema studies and to make researches on production practices, film aesthetics, film structure, narration, and genres.

Biltereyst, D., & Meers, P. (2016). New Cinema History and The Comparative Mode: Reflections on Comparing Historical Cinema Cultures. Alphaville, 11, 13–32.

Meers, P., Biltereyst, D., & Van De Vijver, L. (2010). Metropolitan vs Rural Cinemagoing in Flanders, 1925–75. Screen, 51(3), 272–280.

Srinivas, L. (2002). The Active Audience: Spectatorship, Social Relations and The Experience of Cinema in India. Media, Culture & Society, 24(2), 155–173.

Treveri Gennari, D. (2018). Understanding the Cinemagoing Experience in Cultural Life: The Role of Oral History and the Formation of ‘Memories of Pleasure’. Journal for Media History, 21(1), 39–53.

Aydın Çam is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at Çukurova University. He got his BA degree from Department of Communication Sciences at Marmara University and a PhD degree from Media and Communication Studies Program at Galatasaray University. His research mainly focuses on the New Cinema History, cinema history of Çukurova, cinemagoing, and spectatorship. Recently, he works on travelling cinema experiences in Taurus’ highland villages, nomad (Yörük) films, and mapping of Adana cinema history. He is also interested in cinema and space relations such as cinematic spaces, spatial experiences, and mapping the cinematic spaces.

İlke Şanlıer Yüksel is an assistant professor in the School of Communications at Çukurova University, and serves as the director of Migration and Development Studies Research Center. She got her BA degree from Sociology Department at Boğaziçi University and a PhD degree from Communication program at Anadolu University. Her research mainly focuses on the sociology of migration and the sociology of cinema. She works on media’s role in diasporic cultures, transnational politics through mediated settings, cinema and mobility. She has a long experience of field research and ethnographic research on migrants.

Paper 5 - Elif Kaymaz, Middle East Technical University, New Cinema History as Architectural History: The Case of Büyük Sinema, Ankara.

The question of space and the ways to approach it have been widely debated in New Cinema History by scholars from the fields of human geography and spatial/digital humanities such as Robert C. Allen, Les Roberts, and Jeffrey Klenotic whose studies have mapped the sites of moviegoing and exhibition of various scales. However, the spatial concerns found in this body of literature, be it case studies or commentaries, and tend to overlook the processes (i.e., design, (re) building, negotiation operations) and agencies of production of these sites (i.e., architects, contractors, owners, promoters, workers). Yet, as architectural historian Hilde Heynen put it, the site itself is “a stage,” generated by a reciprocal and transformative relationship involving both its creators and users. Aiming for an interdisciplinary conversation between New Cinema History and Architectural History, this paper demonstrates the role of the processes and actors of architectural production (a matter of urban/rural development) in the generation of the (varied and fluctuating) meanings of exhibition sites. Specifically, in my project, I look at the case of Büyük Sinema, a downtown movie theater whose creation process falls in between the radical and populist modernisms of post-WW2 Ankara. First, through an examination of plans, photographs, testimonials, and interviews, I analyze the site vis-à-vis the lenses of both its chief architect and its builder within the context of the changing dynamics of urbanization and modernization. Then I juxtapose the high-modernist vision of those creators with the leisure patterns, audience practices, and mass culture of the epoch in order to reveal previously misunderstood perceptions about permanent sites of film exhibition. I argue that rather than isolated, fixed, and stable, these sites are interconnected with their built environment, receptive to their performative audiences and users, as well as materially, economically, and functionally flexible and resilient.

Heynen, Hilde. 2013. “Space as receptor. instrument or stage. Notes on the interaction between spatial and social constellations.” International Planning Studies 18 (3-4): 342-357. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/13563475.2013.833729 Allen, Robert C.. 2006. “The Place of Space in Film Historiography”. TMG Journal for Media History 9 (2): 15–27. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18146/tmg.548 Kaymaz, Elif. “An Architectural History of the Movie Theaters in Ankara.” METU Thesis Collection (I.AH .19-7), 2019. http://etd.lib.metu.edu.tr/upload/12624036/index.pdf

Elif Kaymaz is a Ph.D. student in the Department of History of Architecture at the Middle East Technical University. Her primary interest concerns the intersection of architectural history and cinema & media studies. Currently, she is investigating architectural practices and spaces of moving image exhibition in post-WWII Turkey.