>On the Documentary Real – in Fiction and Documentary cinema and television


Stella Bruzzi, ‘Plenary Lecture: Approximation: Mad Men, the death of JFK and nearly history’ [NOTE: Presentation begins a few minutes in after a brief ‘Blooper‘ Reel, with some profanities…!] (Audio: Stella Bruzzi: lecture ; Video: Stella Bruzzi: questions; Audio: Stella Bruzzi: questions)

A fairly self-explanatory post from Film Studies For Free today: a collection of brilliant videos, above and below, recorded at the Documentary Real symposium which took place at October 21st, 2010 at the ‘Vooruit’ in Ghent, Belgium.

The main participants were Cis Bierinckx (curator, artistic director Beurshouwburg Brussels), Stella Bruzzi (film theory, University of Warwick), Edwin Carels (curator, art theory, KASK), Marc De Kesel (Philosophy, Radboud University Nijmegen, Artevelde Hogeschool Gent), Katerina Gregos (curator), Steven Jacobs (art history, KASK and Antwerp University), Vincent Meessen (artist), Jasper Rigole (artist), Avi Mograbi (Israeli filmmaker), and Duncan Speakman (artist).

So, with no further ado, here’s the symposium introduction, and below that are the remainder of the videos: 

The symposium ‘The Documentary Real invite[d] artists and theorists to interrogate the ambiguous relation between documentary film and reality. To what extent can a reel of film capture reality—if this is possible at all—and when can we say that it calls a new reality into being? Do not most films oscillate between ‘document’ and ‘argument’; that is, between representing, rewriting and creating reality? Moreover, what strategies do artists use to document our daily lives? Is the detour through alienation and animation perhaps the proper way to make an outright and truthful work? Do new developments in technological media provide new opportunities for documentary artists? Finally, how do these artistic experiments and their problems represent the culture we live in?

Edwin Carels, ‘Re-animating Animation’ (Audio: Edwin Carels)
Steven Jacobs, ‘Framing Pictures’ (Audio: Steven Jacobs)
Vincent Meessen, ‘CLINAMEN Cinema – the Documentary Swerve: A Performative Lecture’ (NOTE: The performative lecture of Vincent Meessen included a screening of unique footage of a famous modernist architect protected by copyrights. For this reason the presentation cannot be made available online. Only the introduction and questions after the performance are shown). Audio: Vincent Meessen
Duncan Speakman, ‘Subtlemob’ (Audio: Duncan Speakman)
Marc De Kesel, ‘Hotel Holocaust: On “Shoah Documentary Real”‘ (Audio: Marc De Kesel: lecture; Video: Marc De Kesel: questions; Audio: Marc De Kesel: questions
Cis Bierinckx introduces two films ‘”Details 2 and 3″ by Avi Mograbi’ (Audio: Cis Bierinckx)

>Werner Herzog’s Cave: videos and links


One of the most distinctive filmmakers of our time, Werner Herzog has been called the “romantic visionary” of the New German Cinema movement. His edgy, larger-than-life films fuse the epic with the intimate, redefining the scale and scope of filmmaking to include more than 60 works shot on every continent. He appeared in conversation with acclaimed author and essayist, Pico Iyer at UC Santa Barbara on October 25, 2010. (download the video here)

A 10 minute fragment from a ‘masterclass’ with Werner Herzog. For 7 Planete Doc Review, with Pamela Cohn with Michałem Chacińskim, 2010. Also see this video.

Film Studies For Free hopes its Werner Herzog-obsessive readers will have a few hours to spare. They’ll need them to watch the above embedded (and linked to) videos, some of the more recent, and most worthwhile of freely accessible online encounters with LA’s most interesting resident filmmaker.

These videos, and the critical and scholarly reading below, will help time pass before the Spring 2011 premiere of Herzog’s latest (3D) film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (trailer, related videosecond related video). Don’t say that FSFF isn’t looking out for you, Herzog-ites!

Scholarly online writing about Herzog:

>Jump Cut’s Best Issue Ever?


 A re-enactment of a scene at Abu Ghraib in
Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008)

Back from its annual holidays, and (rather languidly) catching up with what it has missed, Film Studies For Free couldn’t believe its luck to discover that the always excellent film and television studies e-journal Jump Cut had published one of its best (and biggest) issues ever.  Just take a look at the following tasty section headings and then scroll down further for direct links to each and every article. 

Experimental documentary; Reframing Standard Operating Procedure—Errol Morris and the creative treatment of Abu Ghraib; Corporate Hollywood today; U.S. film; International film and television (East Asian film and television; South Asian film; Latin American film; Central Asian television; European film and television; Middle Eastern film); Sex and its Anxieties; Torture and horror film; Experimental and art worlds; and The last word on Fretting about film criticism

By the way, if you are a Facebook user and would like to receive FSFF‘s frequent, short, recommendations of openly accessible film studies resources of note, but don’t want to join its merry legion of Twitter followers, then why not visit and like Film Studies For Free’s handy Facebook page where lots of great and good film and moving image studies folk hang out?

Experimental documentary

Conference report: Reframing Standard Operating Procedure—Errol Morris and the creative treatment of Abu Ghraib [Society for Cinema and Media Studies panel. Saturday, March 20, 2010. 2:00-3:45 pm. Chaired by Linda Williams (University of California, Berkeley). Papers by Bill Nichols (San Francisco State University), Jonathan Kahana (New York University), and Williams with a response by Irina Leimbacher (University of California, Berkeley)]

Corporate Hollywood today
U.S. film
International film and television
East Asian film and television
South Asian film
  • Rage against the state: historicizing the “angry young man” in Tamil cinema by Kumuthan Maderya (Tamil cinema’s “Angry Young Man” genre enjoyed a popular run in the 1980s, depicting the violent struggle of anti-heroes against failed bureaucracies, corrupt politicians, crooked cops, and a feeble justice system) 
  • Indian cinema and Partition by Jyotika Virdi (Love and loss in India’s historical trauma, the Partition – Review of Bhaskar Sarkar’s Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition. (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009))
Latin American film
Central Asian television
European film and television
Middle Eastern film

Sex and its anxieties

Torture and horror film
Experimental and art worlds
The last word

>Amsterdam fine links!


Image from Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972), based on Stanisław Lem‘s 1961 novel. Read BC Biermann’s film-philosophical PhD Thesis chapter on this film adaptation

A little window of opportunity for Film Studies For Free‘s author to bring you one of this site’s regular features today: a report (or, more accurately, a labour-intensive links-harvest) from a University research repository, one of those online archives in which, on occasion, academics choose not only to store references to their published film studies work, but also to provide Open Access to that work.

The repository in question today is that of the University of Amsterdam/Universiteit van Amsterdam (UvA), home to one of the best Film and Media Studies departments in the world. Below is a list of links to an amazing spread of very high quality film research accessible there, most of it in the form of full-length PhD theses.

Obstinate Battles for Documentary Memory: Patricio Guzmán Resources Online

Regular readers will know, hopefully, that Film Studies For Free issues forth only on the topics that take its fancy. It receives no commercial or other patronage, and it does not respond to ‘prompts’ for its hypertextual-utterances: nor does it want any! It loves and supports free online culture, and it prefers to make its own reading, viewing and blogging choices. Sometimes, though, it does get independently inspired by commercially-available film releases or new offline publications of a very worthwhile kind, as was the case today. And the result is a little bit of unsolicited free advertising…

FSFF was so HAPPY to hear that Chilean documentarist Patricio Guzmán‘s films The Battle of Chile (19751978), The Pinochet Case (2001) and a particular personal favourite, Chile, Obstinate Memory (1997 – see the opening sequences above) have been released on a new DVD by a great and longstanding supporter of Latin American film culture — Icarus Films — that it decided to mark this very auspicious occasion with a related scholarly links-list in honour, and warm appreciation, of Guzmán’s hugely important films.

Happy birthday Albert Maysles! Videos and Other Links

[The video embedded above presents a conversation with] one of America’s foremost non-fiction filmmakers, Albert Maysles who along with his brother David (1932-1987) is recognized as a pioneer of direct cinema, the distinctly American version of French cinéma vérité. Their seminal early films Salesman (1968), Gimme Shelter(1970), and Grey Gardens (1976) became cult classics and are still finding new rapturous audiences. On the occasion of the publication of A Maysles Scrapbook: Photographs/Cinemagraphs/Documents, Maysles screens selections from filmed portraits of Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, and Truman Capote, and takes audience questions (courtesy of Hammer Museum at UCLA, March 10, 2009 on YouTube).

‘The documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles describes how using his digital video camera inspired him “to tape the little things that I witness in everyday life. They’d be pieces of poetry”‘, Aisling Kelliher, Everyday Cinema, MIT Media Lab

‘We can see two types of truth here. One is the raw material, which is the footage, the kind of truth that you get in literature in diary form – it’s immediate, no one has tampered with it. Then there’s the other kind of truth that comes in extracting and juxtaposing the raw material into a more meaningful and coherent storytelling form, which finally can be said to be more than just raw data.’ Stella Bruzzi citing Albert Maysles in ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’, EnterText 1.2, Spring 2001

It’s Thanksgiving and Albert Maysles’s birthday today. It’s very much a poignant timing for the latter occasion as the artist (and partner to Christo) Jeanne-Claude (Denat de Guillebo), who featured in a series of the Maysles’s Brothers‘ films, died on November 18, 2009. But, this year, Film Studies For Free is marking all three observances, and giving thanks for the Maysles’s highly influential filmmaking, with its usual tribute of links, below, to high-quality scholarly and other interesting online resources, in addition to the great video embedded above.

Video and website resources:
Interviews with or about the Maysles:
Scholarly/critical articles:

Concordia cinema studies resources freely accessible online

The woman at the window: image from Jane Campion‘s Bright Star (2009); a trope explored in Julianne Pidduck‘s PhD thesis on the costume film now accessible online

Film Studies For Free was excited to hear last week that Concordia University has launched its online Institutional Research Repository Spectrum, with 6,000 full-text theses and dissertations. It was excited because it knows that based at Concordia is the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema of the Faculty of Fine Arts, the largest, university centre for the study of film animation, film production and film studies in Canada.

FSFF also specifically knew that highly significant Canadian scholars, such as Julianne Pidduck (now a professor at the Université de Montréal) and André Habib (also at the Université de Montréal) had produced graduate theses there.

So, it is delighted to bring you the below links to the fabulous (mostly) Film Studies thesis resources accessible via the repository, including ones by Pidduck on the costume film (and also on contemporary film noir), Habib’s brilliant francophone thesis on Jean-Luc Godard, and great work by other (now) well-known scholars such as Liz Czach.

Film International for free – Lynch, Kieślowśki, Gomorrah, Brokeback Mountain, Tearoom, and Caché

Still from Tearoom (William E Jones, 1962/2007)

A very busy Film Studies For Free has just got round to reading yet another of Intellect‘s freely accessible journal issues: Film International (Volume: 7 | Issue: 1 February 2009). This was an excellent, highly stimulating read indeed. Below are links to all the main articles. FSFF particularly enjoyed the essays by Orr, Supanick, Sharrett and Ogrodnik.

Aesthetic Journalism – a free preview

Film Studies For Free (always a fan of substantial freebie content in otherwise non-Open Access publications) thought some of its readers might be especially interested to know that they can currently preview for free the first 28 pages, or so, of the book embedded above (published by Intellect Books).

While Aesthetic Journalism doesn’t touch at all on mainstream filmmaking, it does seem to be a strikingly novel study of ‘the journalistic turn in the contemporary visual arts’, one that may prove especially useful to those considering issues of ‘documentary’ and ‘fiction’ in relation to artists’ film and video (FSFF is thinking of some of the work of such visual artists and filmmakers as Harun Farocki, Hito Steyerl, Clio Barnard, Adam Chodzco, and Alia Syed, to name but a few).

Here’s the publishers’ blurb to whet your appetite some more:

As the art world eagerly embraces a journalistic approach, Aesthetic Journalism explores why contemporary art exhibitions often consist of interviews, documentaries and reportage. This new mode of journalism is grasping more and more space in modern culture and Cramerotti probes the current merge of art with the sphere of investigative journalism. The attempt to map this field, here defined as ‘Aesthetic Journalism’, challenges, with clear language, the definitions of both art and journalism, and addresses a new mode of information from the point of view of the reader and viewer. The book explores how the production of truth has shifted from the domain of the news media to that of art and aestheticism. With examples and theories from within the contemporary art and journalistic-scape, the book questions the very foundations of journalism. Aesthetic Journalism suggests future developments of this new relationship between art and documentary journalism, offering itself as a useful tool to audiences, scholars, producers and critics alike.

The author Alfredo Cramerotti (1967) is a writer, curator and artist based in the UK. Among his recent research and curatorial activity: co-curator, Manifesta 8 European biennial of contemporary art (2009-2011); curator, QUAD Derby (2008-present), co-curator, CPS Chamber of Public Secrets (2004-present) and AGM Annual General Meeting (2003-present).

Jarman Award 2009 winner is Lindsay Seers

Recording of part of Lindsay Seers‘ exhibition ‘Swallowing Black Maria
(more info here)
Lindsay Seers’s Extramission 6 (Black Maria) [is] one of the real finds of [the Altermodern: Tate Triennal exhibition, 2009]. Seers shows a semi-autobiographical, quasi-documentary film about her life, screened in a mock-up shed whose design is a copy of Thomas Edison’s Black Maria, his New Jersey film studio. The story is implausible, troubling, and beautifully told by different narrators.

As a child, Seers is so overwhelmed by visual stimulus that she cannot speak. As soon as she sees a photograph, she decides she wants to be a camera. She uses her mouth as the camera, and goes about with a black bag over her head. As she grows up, Seers stops being a camera, and wants instead to be a projector. She wears a model of Edison’s studio on her head, projecting the movies in her mind. She struggles to illuminate the world.

The whole story is both dreamlike and moving. How much of it is true? There are interviews with Seers’s mother and with a psychologist. Are they really who we think they are? As I staggered out, someone muttered “What is she on?” Adrian Searle, guardian.co.uk, February 3, 2009

Film Studies For Free is very happy to add its congratulations to the many being deservedly delivered today to Lindsay Seers following the award to her yesterday of this year’s Jarman prize for artists working with the moving image. Seers, whose hypnotic work as an artist includes film practice-based research produced as a lecturer in arts practice at London’s Goldsmiths College, receives a cash prize, but also a very valuable broadcast commission – to make four artworks for Channel 4’s acclaimed Three Minute Wonder slot (3MW). FSFF looks forward to watching those.

The Jarman Award was inspired by British avant-garde film-maker Derek Jarman, one of the most innovative, esteemed and visionary artists of the last century. Interviews and features on this year’s award shortlist and Jarman’s legacy can be found at Engine, an online forum from Animate Projects.

Below are some further links to online and openly accessible resources, reviews and information about Lindsay Seers’ work.