Monday, 23 March 2009

Reports from the E-Repositories #1: eScholarship Initiative/California Digital Library

Image from November (Hito Steyerl, 2004, DVD, 27 min)

Film Studies For Free has donned its fetching explorer's hat to check out some excellent university e-repositories for research and scholarship.

In the first of a series of posts reporting on its findings, here are five of the best, freely-accessible, film-related items that FSFF found on its e-travels, today courtesy of the eScholarship initiative of the California Digital Library, served by the individual units of the University of California:
  • Laure Astourian (2008) “Bridging Fiction and Documentary in Godard’s Notre Musique”, The Berkeley Undergraduate Journal : Vol. 21: No. 2, Article 4 (thesis adviser: Ulysse Dutoit) (abstract: This paper is a close analysis of Jean-Luc Godard’s 2004 film, Notre Musique. Its primary focus is the implications of Godard’s blending of documentary footage with staged footage. Among the examples of documentary and narrative blurring, Godard stages an interview with an internationally known poet, Mahmoud Darwish, and though the pretext is completely false, the exchange that takes place is honest and potent. Aside from the famous personages who play themselves, the film’s other main characters are actors. They insert themselves seamlessly through events that actually took place in Sarajevo (i.e. that were not planned for the shooting of the film). I believe this technique echoes Godard’s belief that people have faith in the imaginary, and doubt reality. Even though the narrative curve is atypical--there is no climax, and the two main characters never meet--it offers that which the spectator needs in order to submit himself or herself to a film: the imaginary. Thanks to the lens of narrativity, the varied documentary subjects (the Israeli/Palestine conflict, the symbolic rebuilding of the Mostar Bridge, the Native American plight, the future of digital filmmaking) whose philosophical links would otherwise not be considered are conjoined into a field where realities point to imaginaries and vice versa. Throughout the film, the characters acknowledge the inability of images and words to represent certain atrocities, and strange way by which imaginary representations are at times more believable than the truth.)
  • Deniz Göktürk (2005) “Yüksel Yavuz’s Kleine Freiheit / A Little Bit of Freedom”, TRANSIT, Vol. 1: No. 1, Article 50915 (abstract: Yüksel Yavuz’s internationally celebrated film Kleine Freiheit / A Little Bit of Freedom (2003), tells the story of a friendship between two young men, both of them illegal immigrants living in Altona, one of them a Kurd from Turkey. Baran’s application for asylum has been declined, and he has therefore fallen into an illegal status in Germany. That means that he does not have basic rights, such as health care or job protection. He works as a delivery boy in a relative’s kebab restaurant. When he has a toothache, they try to cure him in the kitchen by sticking a hot skewer into his mouth. His scream leads over into the first montage sequence of a bicycle trip. This triple exposure sequence conveys a gripping cross-section of the neighborhood by superimposing shots of city traffic with shots of the various locations to which kebab is delivered, ranging from a Turkish bakery to a construction site and a brothel. The sequence conveys a sense of multilayered locality, which is underscored by the music of Mercan Dede. Despite the excess of mobility displayed in these images, the characters remain confined within the St. Pauli neighborhood throughout the film. Taking advantage of a “Germany in transit,” Yavuz’s cinematically impressive engagement with locations in Hamburg raises a whole range of interesting questions such as: Where is home? How are transnational mobility and traumatic memory represented in cinema? Do immigrants live in a “parallel world”? Do they care about integration into German society? Do they form new inter-ethnic alliances in this new place? How do questions of race and gender come into play? And where are German (and global) spectators positioned in relation to immigrant spaces and networks?)
  • Kathleen Sclafani (2006) “Finding Home in a Liminal Space: Exile and Return in Andreas Dresen’s Halbe Treppe ”, TRANSIT: Vol. 2: No. 1, Article 61212 (abstract: In his film Halbe Treppe, Andreas Dresen uses stylistic elements and modes of production similar to exilic filmmakers, as described by Naficy in his book An Accented Cinema, in an attempt to portray both a sense of exile and a desire for freedom in his characters. Since exile is inextricably bound-up in questions of both homeland and identity, the film invites comparison not only to exilic cinema but also to certain aspects of New German Cinema, particularly issues of German identity that many critics argue have been too often ignored by other young German filmmakers. By emphasizing the importance of Frankfurt/Oder as the setting for his characters’ experience of exile, Dresen creates a connection between identity and “place” that encourages the spectator to reflect upon the traditional notion of “Heimat” and how it might be re-imagined in a new multicultural, unified Germany.)
  • Dean K. Simonton, 'Film awards as indicators of cinematic creativity and achievement: A quantitative comparison of the Oscars and six alternatives', Creativity Research Journal. 16 (2-3), pp. 163-172 (abstract: Although film awards are often taken as indicating the creative achievements that underlie outstanding motion pictures, critics have questioned whether such honors represent a consensus regarding cinematic contributions. Nevertheless, a strong agreement was demonstrated by investigating 1,132films released between 1975 and 2002 that had received at least 1 award or award nomination from 7 distinct sources (Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, New York Film Critics Circle, National Board of Review, National Society of Film Critics, and Los Angeles Film Critics Association). The results indicated that (a) almost all award categories exhibited a conspicuous consensus, the Oscars providing the best single indicator of that agreement; (b) Oscar awards provided meaningful information about cinematic creativity and achievement beyond that provided by Oscar nominations alone; (c) awards bestowed by the 7 organizations corresponded with more specialized awards granted by guilds and societies, with the Oscars usually providing the best correspondence; and (d) awards correlated positively with later movie guide ratings, the correlations being especially large in the categories of picture, direction, screenplay, and acting. The findings were discussed in terms of whether the awards can be considered to be indicative of cinematic creativity.)
  • Hito Steyerl (2005) “November: A Film Treatment”, TRANSIT: Vol. 1: No. 1, Article 50914 (abstract: In the eighties Hito Steyerl shot a feminist martial arts film on Super-8 stock. Her best friend Andrea Wolf played the lead role, that of a woman warrior dressed in leather and mounted on a motorcycle. The engagement expressed in the formal grammar of exploitation films later became Wolf’s political praxis: She went to fight alongside the PKK in the Kurdish regions between Turkey and northern Iraq, where she was killed in 1998. Now honored by Kurds as an “immortal revolutionary,” her portrait is carried at demonstrations.
    In November Hito Steyerl examines the spectrum of interrelationships between territorial power politics (as practiced by Turkey in Kurdistan with the support of Germany) and individual forms of resistance. Her memories and accounts of Wolf’s life provoke the filmmaker to engage in a fundamental reflexion: She comes to understand how fact and fiction are intertwined in the global discourse. Her friend’s picture as a revolutionary pin-up would equally connect with either Asian genre cinema or a private video document. If October is the hour of revolution, November is the time of common sense afterward, though it is also the time of madness – Hito Steyerl considers from this perspective a relationship which began with a pose, and Andrea Wolf took its implications so seriously that she was no longer satisfied with symbolic action. Wolf chose the Other of filmmaking, which was what made her into a true “icon”.

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