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Session 8: Approaches: Memories & Cinemagoing Experiences

Paper 1 - Maya Nedyalkova, Oxford Brookes University, Tracing Shifts in Bulgarian Film Distribution and Exhibition through the Memories of Different Generations of Spectators.

Investigating select aspects of social history and popular culture in the UK during the 1930s, British author and cultural historian Annette Kuhn writes: “… British cinema culture was far from synonymous with British cinema… Films aside, a cinema culture is in any case shaped by the contexts and the manner in which films are consumed, and by the people who consume them” (2002: 2). Similarly, when systematising the research data of the Italian and European Cinema Audiences in the 1950s projects, film scholar Daniela Treveri Gennari (2019) discusses the feelings and practices of film viewers, linked to the spaces ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the exhibition venues. Treveri Gennari deems important for further consideration not only film programming in particular weeks across select towns but also the lived experiences, related to the cinema theatre itself, the multisensory aesthetics of perceiving the projected image, the interactions with the rest of the spectators, the intentions, expectations and performances of certain social roles. In the same way, any investigation of Bulgarian film culture should note individual memories of personal and collective experiences, rituals and practices, associated with watching and distributing films, the excitement of encountering favourite actors and directors on the screen, as well as the nostalgia for past technologies and exhibition venues.

In this short presentation I provide a summary of the results of focus groups and interviews with eighty-six Bulgarian participants of varying ages, who come from fourteen towns of different sizes and locations, and recount their first memories of watching films. In addition to confirming Kuhn and Treveri Gennari’s observations on dynamic and complex film cultures, the comparison between different personal memories and experiences points towards the local (lived) consequences of regional, national and global cultural and industrial shifts in transnational film distribution and exhibition. Thus, this presentation integrates the traditions of oral history and qualitative interpretation with broader film history and industry surveys in order to uncover the interactions between the Bulgarian and world cinemas that shape local film culture.

Kuhn, A. (2002) An Everyday Magic: Cinema and Cultural Memory. London/New York: I.B. Tauris.

Schrøder, K., Drotner, K., Murray, C. and Kline, S. (2003) Researching audiences: A practical guide to methods in media audience analysis. New York: Oxford University Press.

Treveri Gennari, D. (2019) ‘Inside and Outside’, paper presented to Cinema-going: Past and Present, University College Cork, 5 April.

Maya earned her BA in Film and Philosophy and MA in Film and Cultural Management and she explored selected transnational aspects of the Bulgarian film industry during her AHRC-funded PhD at the University of Southampton. Currently a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, she is investigating the shifting patterns of contemporary Bulgarian film consumption, positioned within global culture and economy.

Paper 2 - Hasan Akbulut, Istanbul University & University of East London, MIRC, Cinemagoing as a Modernization Experience and a Practice: Cinema Experiences in Audiences’ Memories in Turkey.

This paper was produced as part of the research project titled “Cinemagoing as a Cultural and Social practice: An Oral History Project on Audience Experiences in Turkey” (2017) supported by TÜBİTAK, and focuses on the experience of cinemagoing in the audience’s memories. Within the scope of the research to determine the audience of the cinema experience between the years 1960-1980, oral history interviews were conducted with 100 people living in four cities. In this study, where the data was analyzed narratively and phenomenologically, the answers to the questions of how the cinemagoing was experienced at that times in Turkey, how the cinema experiences were recorded in memory, how these experiences were told, what factors are behind this storytelling style, were sought. In this paper, it is claimed that the audience narrates their cinema experiences as a narrative of modernization, and different manifestations of this understanding of modernization in audience’ cinema narratives are explained in later sections. According to the analysis, the audience associates their experiences of cinemagoing in Turkey with modernization on the following themes and topics: Experiencing the city and participating in urban everyday life; experiencing the physical features of movie theaters and taking pleasure from their historical and architectural texture; watching mostly American or European films instead of local ones; watching movies according to the rules of manners; evaluating the films as a source of learning and acculturation; dressing in certain forms and consuming some of the products used especially by the movie stars in those films (fashion and consumption). Furthermore, in this paper, It will also be discussed both how the historical-social-political context and the demonstration practices of the 1960s, and the context of the period of this research, are decisive in the narration and comprehension of the audience experiences as a narrative of modernization.

(2018). “Bir Seyirci Araştırmasından Etnografik Deneyimler ve Hikâyeler”, (Ethnographic Experiences and Stories from a Spectator Research), Folklor ve Edebiyat, vol.24, no.4, pp.13-34.

(2017). “Cinemagoing as a Heterogeneous and Multidimensional Strategy: Narratives Of Woman Spectators”, TOJDAC: Turkish Online Journal of Design, Art and Communication, 7(4): 530-541.

(2016). “Sinemaya Gitmek ve Seyir Deneyimi: Bir Sözlü Tarih Çalışması” (Cinemagoing and Experince of Spectacle: An Oral History Study), Türk Film Araştırmalarında Yeni Yönelimler 12, (pp, 231-252). İstanbul: Bağlam.

(2012). Yeşilçam’dan Yeni Türk Sinemasına Melodramatik İmgelem (Melodramatic Imagination from Yeşilçam to New Turkish Cinema). İstanbul: Hayalperest.

He is a professor at Istanbul University and is a member of the editorial board of sinecine. He has completed research projects on cinemagoing in Turkey in 2018. He is currently a visiting researcher at University of East London MIRC and is conducting a project on transnational film reception.

Paper 3 - Guldeniz Kibris, Leiden University, Cinema-going experiences in Cold War Turkey.

Gledhill, C. (1987), “The Melodramatic Field: An Investigation,” in C. Gledhill (ed.), Home is Where the Heart is: Studies in Melodrama and the Woman’s Film

Treveri, D. (2018), “Understanding cinema-going in cultural life: the role of oral history and the formation of “memories of pleasure,” Journal for Media History

Maltby, R. (2012), Cinema, Audiences and Modernity: New Perspectives on European Cinema History.

BA in International Relations, Koc University, Istanbul; MA in Modern History and Nationalism, Sabanci University, Istanbul; PhD in History & Middle Eastern Studies, Leiden University

Withdrawn - Paper 4 - Jacqueline Maingard, University of Bristol, Cinemagoing in South Africa, 1920s to 1960s: Memories and Identities.

This paper focuses on the relationship between cinema memories, films and film genres, relevant to the case study of District Six, Cape Town, and to other similar areas in South Africa, such as Sophiatown in Johannesburg, and Marabastad near Pretoria. In an earlier publication (Memory Studies Special Issue, January 2017) my primary focus was on extant life histories that included references to cinemagoing in District Six. In this paper, I wish to explore these life histories further to identify recorded instances of specific films, and their genres and stars, as a means of excavating and explicating the interrelationship of films with social and cultural life in the 1920s to 1960s and the identities of cinemagoing residents of places like District Six. I am interested in the following questions: What can the study of films and film genres reveal about the abiding appeal of the cinema to audiences in District Six and other similar areas that has not yet been explored? To what extent can we postulate that the films screened and their genres had relevance for people’s lives, such as for instance gangster films, as against the appeal of their ‘dream factory’ qualities? Through a detailed review of some of the life histories I have accessed, and accompanying archival material in the form of novels, short stories, autobiographies and photographs that are specifically focused on films, genres and stars, the paper seeks to expand historical perceptions of some of the films seen in District Six and similar areas in South Africa. I will relate this material to wider forms of social and cultural life, showing how the cinema, its fictional characters, and its projections of worlds seemingly beyond the historical realities of life in South Africa, were imbibed into District Six and other areas with visibly long-lasting effects. The paper asks what conclusions are possible as to the osmotic influence of the cinema on the social and cultural lives of residents of District Six and other similar areas that laid the ground for constructing cinema-driven identities.

Maingard, J. (2017) Cinemagoing in District Six, Cape Town, 1920s to 1960s: History, politics, memory. Memory Studies, 10(1), pp.17-34.

Martin, D-C. (1999) Coon Carnival: New Year in Cape Town, Past and Present. Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip.

Nasson, B (1989) ‘She preferred living in a cave with Harry the snake-catcher’: towards an oral history of popular leisure and class expression in District Six, Cape Town, c.1920–1950. In: Bonner, P, Hofmeyr, I, James, D. (eds) Holding Their Ground: Class, Locality and Culture in 19th and 20th Century South Africa. Johannesburg, South Africa: Ravan Press and Witwatersrand University Press, pp.285–309.

Pinnock, D (1984) The Brotherhoods: Street Gangs and State Control in Cape Town. Cape Town, South Africa: David Philip.

Jacqueline Maingard is Associate Professor in Film at the University of Bristol, and Honorary Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. She is the author of South African National Cinema (Routledge, 2007) and is completing a second monograph, Cinema Citizens: black audiences in South Africa, 1920s to 1960s.