40+ Essays on Film, Moving Image, and Digital Media in the Sarai Readers

Framegrab image of early action heroine “Fearless” Nadia (née Mary Ann Evans) in Miss Frontier Mail (Homi Wadia, 1936). Read Rosie Thomas’s 2007 article on this film.

Today, Film Studies For Free focuses on, and links to, some remarkable film and digital media studies essays commissioned and edited by the Sarai Programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi.

The Sarai Programme was initiated in 2000 by a group consisting of internationally renowned cinema scholar Ravi S. Vasudevan, Ravi Sundaram (both fellows at CSDS) and the members of the Raqs Media Collective (Jeebesh Bagchi, Monica Narula and Shuddhabrata Sengupta), a Delhi based group of media practitioners, documentarists, artists and writers.

Sarai’s mission is to act as a platform for discursive and creative collaboration between theorists, researchers, practitioners and artists actively engaged in reflecting on contemporary urban spaces and cultures in South Asia. Its areas of interests include media research and theory, the urban experience in South Asia: history, environment, culture, architecture and politics, new and established media practices, media history, cinema, contemporary art, digital culture, the history and politics of technology, visual/technological cultures, free and open source software, social usage of software, the politics of information and communication, online communities and web-based practices.

The below collection of articles — painstakingly drawn from the numerous, openly accessible Sarai Readers produced by the collective — reflect the above interests, but have been curated here by FSFF because of their particular, potential relevance to scholars of cinema and related moving image and digital media studies.


    Screen Attachments: new Issue of SCREENING THE PAST

    Framegrab from Nuovo cinema Paradiso/Cinema Paradiso (Giuseppe Tornatore, 1988), a film which is the starting point of film theorist Francesco Casetti in his new article “Cinema Lost and Found

    Film Studies for Free rushes you the wonderful news that a special issue (no. 32) of Screening the Past has just gone online. The issue treats the topic of Screen Attachments and is edited by Catherine Fowler and Paola Voci

    The obvious highlight is a brilliant article by Francesco Casetti, but a quick glance at all the other articles indicates a very high quality issue indeed. FSFF‘s own favourite is Fowler and Voci’s study Brief Encounters: Theorizing Screen Attachments Outside the Movie Theatre’, with its compelling use of Sara Ahmed‘s notion of orientation.

    The Classics and Reruns section also has some real gems.

    Screen Attachments

    Classics and Reruns


      >Routledge Film Studies free online: Celebrity and Stardom; European Cinema; Race and Film; and Audience and Spectatorship


      Update at 14.33 BST: The PDF files linked to here are currently not working. Will sort out and update as soon as possible. Apologies for any inconvenience.
      Cate Blanchett as Galadriel in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

      While it is often the emergence of exceptions that proves rules, the very existence of Film Studies For Free shows that there might occasionally be such a thing as a free lunch.

      At the same time, this wily blog is certainly no purist when it comes to campaigning for Open Access in scholarly publishing. FSFF‘s inbuilt pragmatism means that it is always very happy to pass on news of the experiments of otherwise ‘closed’ or ‘subscription only’ academic publishers with marketing strategies involving limited free online access to their scholarly publications.

      While there is, as yet, no challenger on the horizon to Intellect‘s extensive championing of the Film Studies freebie, publishing giant Routledge is currently offering up occasional free ‘article collections’ for particular subjects. Their Film Studies collection is focused on the following four key themes: Celebrity and Stardom; European Cinema; Race and Film; and Audience and Spectatorship.

      Free access to the below articles in their current collection will last until December 31, 2010, so do be sure to download them before then.

        >In-Sight from Excursions: action movies, neuroscience, dreamscapes, intermediality and spectatorship


        Bruce Willis as John McClane in Die Hard (John McTiernan, 1988)

        The image seems to be a way of marking such a potential separation between exterior and interior while belonging to both. Moreover, that condition of holding ‘in sight’, as a means of externalisation as belonging to the image, is realised in the easy conceptual slippage from ‘in sight’ to ‘insight’- originally ‘internal sight’ or seeing with the eyes of the mind, that later becomes a seeing into a thing or subject. To bring an object within sight is to affect the ‘inner eye’, to re-formulate the relationship of the visible to the invisible, presence to absence.  Lindsay Smith, ‘Foreword: In-Sight’, Excursions, Vol. 1, Issue 1 (June 2010), i-ii

        Thanks to the regular updates to Jurn, the excellent search-engine that Film Studies For Free uses in its every waking hour (and then dreams of every night), FSFF found its way to a newish e-journal — Excursions — with a first issue replete with interesting and, yes, insightful items on film.

        Its Mission Statement reads as follows:

        Excursions is an invitation to journey into the unfamiliar, a space in which to reflect upon the travels of concepts, beyond the boundaries of one’s discipline. An on-line peer-reviewed journal, Excursions is designed to showcase high-quality, innovative and inventive postgraduate research. Run by postgraduates in the School of English at the University of Sussex, we aim to encourage work that plays with the permeable nature of academic disciplines. As such, our interest lies in the interdisciplinary. Each issue of the journal has a theme which contributors can interpret as they see fit. We welcome critical papers or creative pieces and seek to place cultural, political, artistic and scientific discourses together in surprising combinations and illuminating moments of collision.

        And here is the table of contents:


        >Seeing the join: on film editing


        In memoriam Dede Allen  
        (December 3, 1923 – April 17, 2010)
        The below entry was originally published the day before Dede Allen died. Allen was the highly innovative editor of such notable films as Bonnie and Clyde, The Hustler, Rachel, Rachel, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Night Moves, Slap Shot, Reds, The Breakfast Club and Henry and June

        Dissolve by Aaron Valdez (2003): “Found footage film constructed of hundreds of dissolves taken from old educational films and reassembled to create a meditation on our own impermanence”. 

        Film Studies For Free presents a much requested links list today, one to openly accessible, high quality scholarly studies of film editing. Without further ado, let’s jump cut straight to it:

        • ‘The Art of Film Editing’, Special Issue of P.O.V: A Danish Journal of Film Studies, edited by Richard Raskin, Number 6 December 1998 – PDF containing:
          • Søren Kolstrup, ‘The notion of editing’   
          • Sidsel Mundal, ‘Notes of an editing teacher’  
          • Mark Le Fanu, ‘On editing’
          • Vinca Wiedemann, ‘Film editing – a hidden art?’
          • Edvin Kau, ‘Separation or combination of fragments? Reflections on editing’
          • Lars Bo Kimersgaard, ‘Editing in the depth of the surface. Some basic principles of graphic editing’
          • Martin Weinreich, ‘The urban inferno. On the æsthetics of Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver
          • Scott MacKenzie, ‘Closing arias: Operatic montage in the closing sequences of the trilogies of Coppola and Leone’
          • Claus Christensen, ‘A vast edifice of memories: the cyclical cinema of Terence Davies’,
          • Richard Raskin, ‘Five explanations for the jump cuts in Godard’s Breathless

          Participations: Studying Cinema Audiences

          Dr Frank N. Furter/Tim Curry loving his ‘audience’ (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, UK, 1975)
          Film Studies For Free is delighted, as always, to flag up that the new issue of Participations – the Open Access journal of audience and reception studies — has just gone online. 
          It encompasses an excellent special section devoted to cinema audiences, but there are lots of high quality essays throughout, and a great set of Film Studies book reviews.
          Special Edition on Cinema Audiences

          In-between-isms: Winnicottian film, media, and cultural studies

          As the first credit [of Michael Haneke‘s 1989 film Der Siebente Kontinent/The Seventh Continent] rolls, the view shifts to the inside of a car [as above]. It is a shot from the rear: a man and woman are seated in the front, towards the left and right edges of the frame, their heads silhouetted against the windscreen. Immobile, silent, they stare straight ahead, neither speaking to nor looking at one another. With its hold on that image, Haneke’s long take does its work. Taking its time, The Seventh Continent centres its audience in the space between two, in the place where a look, or a word, that might happen does not […]’Vicky Lebeau, ‘The arts of looking: D.W. Winnicott and Michael Haneke’, Screen, 50:1 Spring 2009

          ‘Part of [Vicky] Lebeau’s work [previewing her forthcoming book The Arts of Seeing: the cinema of Michael Haneke (Reaktion)] focuses on Haneke’s use of absence and duration in his ubiquitous lingering shots, which Haneke himself has suggested (echoed by Lebeau) are not so much meditations on death, but unlived lives. Lebeau illustrated by examining the opening sequence of The Seventh Continent (1989), in which the camera is fixed in the back seat of a car, looking forward through the windscreen as the vehicle travels through a car wash. In her analysis of this scene and Haneke’s work in general, Lebeau evoked Donald Winnicott‘s discussion of infantile gazing and the horror of the reflection-less specular image, and ultimately challenges us to consider cinema itself as a form of aural and visual thinking.‘ Davide Caputo, ‘Conference Report: Emergent Encounters in Film Theory: Intersections between Psychoanalysis and Philosophy’, Scope, Issue 14, June 2009

          ‘Freud did not have a place in his topography of the mind for the experience of things cultural. He gave new value to inner psychic reality, and from this came a new value for things that are actual and truly external. Freud used the word “sublimation” to point the way to a place where cultural experience is meaningful, but perhaps he did not get so far as to tell us where in the mind cultural experience is.’  D.W. Winnicott in The Location of Cultural Experience

          “The concept of transitional phenomena, introduced by the object-relations psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott, stems from his ‘discovery’ of transitional objects–the ubiquitous first possessions of young children that belong both to the child and to the outside world, and which occupy an intermediate position between fantasy (inner world) and reality (outer world). Importantly, while transitional objects have a physical existence, they are also pressed into the service of inner reality. Winnicott used the term ‘potential space’ to refer to the intermediate zone inhabited by transitional phenomena. For the child, playing inhabits this ‘intermediate zone’, which is consequently significant in developmental processes. Winnicott argued that this grounds all kinds of adult cultural experience, which is located in ‘the potential space between the individual and the environment’, a space of ‘maximally intense experiences’.
               This model has much to offer by way of understanding of how we might engage with the world at a public level without setting aside our inner lives, our emotions and psychical investments. In the context of T-PACE, it offers new directions for the cultural researcher interested in exploring interaction between the psychical and the social/cultural, between our inner (psychical) and our outer (material) worlds, aiding understanding of key aspects of the way we relate to, consume, produce and use cultural resources, cultural objects and texts of different kinds.” Annette Kuhn, T-PACE Project website (hyperlinks added by FSFF)

          ‘Roger Silverstone’s approach to television relies on the insights of D.W. Winnicott for whom the social subject emerges in the “potential space” between the individual and the environment in relation to a transitional object. It is here, in this potential space, that the subject acquires agency, attempts to fulfill its needs, and begins to master space. That process, however, is never complete, and the subject spends much of its life searching for “ontological security” through the appropriation of other transitional objects—such as television—which help ground its experience of time and place and satisfy its needs and desires.’ Bryan Ray Fruth, Media Reception, Sexual Identity and Public Space, PhD Thesis, University of Texas at Austin, August 2007 (citing Roger Silverstone, Television and Everyday Life (New York: Routledge, 1994), 9 and 10-12)

          Today, Film Studies For Free focuses its attention on some of the highly promising turns taken by the particular branches of film, media, and cultural studies that have been inspired and informed by the work of the British object-relations theorist and psychoanalyst Donald Woods Winnicott.

          As FSFF‘s links-list below testifies, there is an extremely rich vein of openly-accessible Winnicottian film and media research and scholarship online, much of it, happily, authored by the pioneers in, and/or champions of, this field, including the late Roger Silverstone, Annette Kuhn, Victor Burgin, Susannah Radstone and Matt Hills.

          Those interested in this field of work should definitely visit the website of the Transitional Phenomena and Cultural Experience (T-PACE) project based at Queen Mary, University of London, convened by Annette Kuhn, with fellow members Matt Hills, Patricia Townsend, Tania Zittoun, and Phyllis Creme. Here, you will find an excellent bibliography of offline research as well as other useful research resources.

          At the foot of the post, FSFF has embedded a short and snappily informative video from the excellent Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded collaborative research project Media and the Inner World. The project is directed by Caroline Bainbridge (Roehampton University) with Candida Yates (UEL). MiW brings together academics, psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and media figures for a series of discussions about the role of emotion and ideas of therapy in popular culture, and is always keen to attract new writer-contributors for its website: you just have to be interested in the psychocultural aspects of popular culture.

          The Close-Up: Studies of Cinematic Attention, Emotion, and Intersubjectivity

          (Carl Theodor Dreyer, France 1928)

          ‘The close-up has objectified in our world of perception our mental act of attention and by it has furnished art with a means which far transcends the power of any theatre stage’, Hugo Münsterberg, The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916), p. 56

          ‘Good close-ups are lyrical; it is the heart, not the eye, that has perceived them’, Béla Balázs, ‘Theory of the Film’ in Gerald Mast & Marshall Cohen (ed), Film Theory and Criticism, Oxford: Oxford Uni Press (1979), pp. 288-298. p. 289

          ‘[T]he close-up does not tear away its object from a set of which it would form part, of which it would be a part, but on the contrary, it abstracts it from all spatio-temporal co-ordinates, that is to say it raises it to the state of Entity’, Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image. Trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986, pp. 95-96

          ‘[T]he space of the narrative, the diegesis, is constructed by a multiplicity of shots that vary in terms of both size and angle- hence this space exists nowhere; there is no totality of which the close up could be a part’, Mary Ann Doane, ‘The Close Up: Scale and Detail in the Cinema’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, September 22, 2003 p. 108

          Film Studies For Free gets inexorably drawn in to, and then engulfed by, the close-up today. In other words, it brings you lots of links to high quality and openly-accessible scholarly or critical studies of the history and theory of this particular cinematic (and televisual) shot-choice and its reception.

          Sensing cinema: phenomenological film and media studies

          Film Studies For Free is using all of its searching senses today to bring you lots of links to perceptive film and media studies of the phenomenological kind, or to studies which at least touch meaningfully on issues of phenomenology, perception, and haptics.

          Those especially interested in these topics might also like to experience the fascinating Cinesensory website once they’ve dipped into some of the wonderful, openly-accessible, scholarly resources below:

          Queer Film and Theory Links In Memory of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

          Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the death at 58 of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, one of the founders of the discourse of ‘queer theory’, and an inspirational teacher and critic.

          Like many other film researchers, some of FSFF‘s author’s own writing on queer films was deeply influenced by Sedgwick’s brilliant exploration of the epistemology of the closet.

          In memory of Sedgwick, FSFF has assembled a webliography, below, of links to pieces of high quality, freely accessible, scholarly writing (or recordings/videos) on the web on the topic of queer/glbt films and/or queer film theory, a number of which, unsurprisingly, employ her critical insights. Further links added since original post: last updated June 2, 2009.

          P.S. Another set of must-reads from the Reverse Shot website – just click on the film-title links below for some great reading on queer cinema and television:

          Broken Sky

          The Wire

          Lan Yu


          Be Like Others

          The House of Mirth

          Far from Heaven