Saturday, March 28, 2015

SCMS Conference Notes, Saturday 3/28

Saturday afternoon I attended panels P8 "Decolonial Approaches to Feminist Film Theory" and Q10 "East Asia on the Move: Cinematic Transnationalism and East Asia" during the SCMS conference.

"Decolonial Approaches to Feminist Film Theory" contained numerous original and inspiring concepts; here I would like to note a few ideas that will likely influence my approach to filmic texts in the future. The panel members challenged the audience to consider how established hierarchies, positioned by the "certainty of signs," might be repositioned by considering depictions of organic relationships (Krista Lynes, Concordia University) and even scenes in which female figures are represented as not achieving the goals they set out to accomplish within fictional narrative films (Chair Jamie Rogers, UC Irvine). In addition, a decolonial feminist approach might highlight the ways that docudramas represent the complicity between patriarchy and national law (Gohar Siddiqui, University of Wisconsin-Platteville), and in the case of a recent documentary from India, how both the neo-liberal script and the right-wing nationalist script work to limit the mobility of women (Soumitree Gupta, Carroll College).

East Asia on the Move Panel, SCMS 2015

"East Asia on the Move: Cinematic Transnationalism and East Asia" considered how Hollywood "Shanghai films" of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Shanghai Express (Sternberg, 1932), might offer, contrary to readings of such films that maintain a West/East binary, the possibility for an alternative space of femininity and romance (Ying Xiao, University of Florida). Man Fung Yip's fascinating recent work fills a "blindspot" in scholarship by focusing on the mass-production of B-quality ninja films in Hong Kong during the 1980s, while chair Namhee Han concluded the panel by discussing how digitized colonial-era films in Korea have been inserted into recent Korean productions to create a sense of authenticity while, at the same time, digital re-creations of colonial-era films have also found their way into mainstream productions. Sangjoon Lee, from Nanyang Technological University, framed and contextualized the articles in a sophisticated manner that nicely rounded out the discussion.

Friday, March 27, 2015

SCMS Conference Notes, Friday 3/27

Since I teach the standard undergraduate film course "World Cinema" and use a transnational theoretical approach in my courses and writings, I was particularly keen on attending Friday's "L5 Workshop: Teaching Transnational Cinemas" and the "M16 Workshop: The “World Cinema” Turn in Film Studies." Both sessions were memorable and thought-provoking, ensuring that attendees will be considering new ideas and rethinking old ones.

"Teaching Transnational Cinemas," Sponsored by the Transnational Cinemas
Scholarly Interest Group and the Teaching Committee

"Teaching Transnational Cinemas" was chaired by Iain Smith from the University of Roehampton. He began the session by noting how "World Cinema" courses are often based on a national model (Japanese film, German film, Nigerian film, etc.) which tends to ignore the interconnections between national traditions. In addition, while the term "transnational" has been theorized (thinking beyond the scope of the nation, considering cross-cultural encounters and racial tensions, etc.), it is time to consider transnational pedagogy--especially since students may struggle without the framework of the national when approaching cinema and cultural flow.

The difference between "World Cinema" and "Transnational Cinema" was one of many topics addressed during the workshop. All presenters, as well as audience contributors, brought up practical concerns (such as which films to select) and strategies (such as teaching "World Cinema" in a comparative manner by studing film genres-- see the work of William Costanzo). I felt inspired by the discussion and ideas presented, and hope to write a future blog post on the way/s I use transnational theory in the classroom to both contribute to this discussion as well as listen to critique.

"The “World Cinema” Turn in Film Studies" workshop
sponsored by the Transnational Cinemas Scholarly Interest Group

Following the Transnational Cinema's panel was the "M16 Workshop: The “World Cinema” Turn in Film Studies." Unfortunately, neither Dudley Andrew nor Jean Ma could attend; however, the discussion got off to a wonderful start as co-chairs David Richler and Malini Guha of Carleton University questioned the ubiquity of the term "World Cinema" and its designation oftentimes as a "Non-Western" marketing term, thus re-inscribing the "West and the Rest" dichotomy. In contrast, the term "transnational" has been lauded as a term superior to the "postcolonial," and yet is the term not subsumed by "world" as in "World Cinema," and does it lead to universalizing analyses?

Workshop discussants introduced such topics as film festivals (as both locations of reception and production) that retain a western bias, the notion of "new waves" and their relation to national film traditions, the use of the term "cosmopolitan" cinema (based, at least pedagogically, on promoting empathy as a way for students to approach films alongside an absence of pre-conceptions), and the ways in which postcolonial theory (and in a very welcome turn, the work of Edward Said as discussed by Luca Caminati) can allow one to locate and identify geopolitical links in cinema. (Unfortunately, I must add, I had to slip out of the panel before hearing all audience feedback and their questions to the presenters--but as evidenced here, there is still much to consider!).

Also of note: Thursday's panel, H17 "Reimagining Sinophone Cultures through the Lens of Cold War Cinemas," included a stunning presentation by Ting-Wu Cho on exploitation films from Taiwan entitled: "“Taiwan Pulp!: Subversive Pleasure at the Neoliberalist Turn? (1970s–1980s).” The presentation, and hopefully subsequent publication, will undoubtedly contribute to a clearer and more rich understanding of Taiwan's transition from 1970s to 1980s film by considering exploitation films and their relationship to the national imaginary.

Society for Cinema and Media Studies Conference, 2015

This year it has been excellent to attend the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Montreal, Canada. While I am not presenting this year, I am grateful to gain new insights by studying the work of scholars and colleagues who have prepared an astounding 485 panels. This year I intend to focus on panels that discuss Transnational Film theory and East Asian cinemas and I will update this blog throughout the week.

I was very pleased to see my recent book, Transnational Representations: The State of Taiwan Film in the 1960s and 1970s available at the Columbia University Press/ Hong Kong University Press table in the exhibition hall this year.

Flying in to Montreal, March 2015

Downtown Montreal near the conference location