Lives on Film: Auto/Biographical Fiction and Documentary Film Studies


Seven Great Film Studies PhD Theses from the University of Edinburgh

Framegrab from Jeux interdits/Forbidden Games (René Clément, 1952)

The classically idyllic, carefree world of childhood would appear to be diametrically opposed to the horrors of war and world-wide conflict. However, throughout film history, filmmakers have continually turned to the figure of the child as a prism through which to examine the devastation caused by war.
This thesis will investigate the representation of childhood experience of the Second World War across six fiction films: Roberto Rossellini’s Paisan (1946) and Germany Year Zero (1947), René Clément’s Forbidden Games (1952), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962), Jan Nemec’s Diamonds of the Night (1964) and Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985). [Pasquale Iannone, Childhood and the Second World War in the European fiction film PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh, 2011: 11; hyperlinks added by FSFF]

Film Studies For Free went a-hunting at the research repository at the University of Edinburgh and found that seven great full-text PhD theses have been archived there.

Each of these works of original research has a huge amount to offer any student of cinema, and so it’s really great that their authors and their university have made them publicly available online.

FSFF hopes its readers will join it in saluting them!

Surveillance Film Studies

Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway, 1948). Take a look at
Hannah Gregory’s great visual essay on this film

Today, the compulsively unsecretive, positively Panoptic, Film Studies For Free focuses on ‘surveillance film studies’. Do cast a beady eye, therefore, at the unsuspiciously Open Access scholarly resources linked to further down the page.

The post has been inspired by the thrilling chronometric proximity of an interdisciplinary conference, taking place next week, on the “Cultures of Surveillance” at University College London (September 29-October 1), with keynote lectures by the very brilliant professors Tom Gunning and Simon Cole.

The full programme can be found here. Anyone interested in these topics should also check out some related and highly innovative work online by the amazing film and humanities scholars at UCL at the following four websites:

  • Objects Under Surveillance Museum Roundtable, University College London, January 19, 2011 Videos [m4v] of the event can be viewed by clicking on the images below.

Intro. & Simon Baker / Sue Woods & Katy McGahan  /  Neil Paterson  /  Discussion                  

Documentary and Space: New issue of MEDIA FIELDS JOURNAL

Framegrab from El Valley Centro (James Benning, 2000). Read Elizabeth Cowie’s article on Documentary Space, Place, and Landscape which discusses Benning’s film, among others. Cowie is author of the new book Recording Reality, Desiring the Real (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011)

Film Studies For Free brings you openly accessible brilliance from the latest issue of Media Fields Journal. It’s a really excellent issue on documentary and space – a must-read. And however hyperbolically positive (the always hyperbolically positive) FSFF is, it doesn’t always say that. So, do yourselves a big favour and click on the below links without further ado.

What Time Reflects: In Memory of Mani Kaul, 1944-2011

One of my major influences was the French film maker Robert Bresson. Bresson’s films reflected a particular brand of Christian belief called Jansenism which manifests itself in the way leading characters are acted upon and simply surrender themselves to their fate. I believe that cinema is not so much visual as temporal. But most filmmakers concentrate on the spatio-visual aspect. This has led to certain problems. What time reflects is more contemporary than the arrangement of a set of visuals. I do not want to focus on this visual aspect in my films, but want to make the temporal primary. [Mani Kaul, ‘Interview’, ARC, November 15, 2005]

[Mani Kaul] has been described as a formalist. But the term does not do justice to the intense emotional stories that [reverberate] from the images that make up his interpretations of myth, music and [architecture]—although often they are more like collaborations with those cultural pratices and forms. He defies categorisation: to call his work non-narrative does not account for the detailed and complex narration that his camera work offers within any single scene. Even to call him an Indian film maker does not seem useful since Kaul refuses to locate his work within national or cultural subjectivities. [Ian Iqbal Rashid, ‘Asian and Asian Diaspora Programme’, RUNGH, Vol. 3, No. 2, 1995, p. 36]

Apologies for the very poor quality of this video;
its inclusion here can only be very insufficiently indicative of the film’s actual brilliance

The Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul, who grew up artistically in India’s subsidized ‘‘parallel cinema’’ (i.e., parallel to commercial cinema) in the 1970s, has worked repeatedly with Indian song traditions, including Dhrupad (1982), which mesmerizes with the sound and image of one classical music performance style designed to facilitate spiritual meditation. Such work highlights the way in which we often take sound for granted as a convenient emotional conductor.
Pat Aufderheide, Documentary Film – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 17

Film Studies For Free was saddened to hear, via film scholar Surbhi Goel, of the death of the great Indian filmmaker Mani Kaul. Last week, it posted a list of links to studies of the works of another legendary director from that country – Ritwik Ghatak, one of Kaul’s most important teachers at the Film and Television Institute of India. But Kaul was a genuinely pioneering and deeply unconventional film artist in his own right who also became a hugely influential teacher and writer on cinema. He will be greatly missed.


    >Issues of KINEMA (Spring and Fall 2010)


    Image from Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007). Read Alessandro’s Zir’s article on this film for Kinema (Spring 2010)

    Film Studies For Free continues with its roundup of recent offerings from online film studies journal by catching up with the last two issues posted at Kinema: a Journal for Film and Audiovisual Media.

    Lots of good stuff here, but FSFF particularly enjoyed Alessandro Zir’s essay on Paranoid Park, Antonio Sanna on the connections between the Alien series of films and Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel, and Des O’Rawe’s study of Godard’s Film Socialisme.

    Spring 2010

    Fall 2010