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Fourteen Pretty Woman through the Triple Lens of Black Feminist Spectatorship

Elizabeth Bell Indiana University Press ePub

D. Soyini Madison

Africanism is the vehicle by which the American self knows itself as not enslaved, but free; not repulsive, but desirable; not helpless, but licensed and powerful; not a blind accident of evolution, but a progressive fulfillment of destiny.

—Toni Morrison

Black women are employed, if not sacrificed, to humanize their white superordinates, to teach them something about the content of their own subject positions.

—Valerie Smith

In viewing a film, the black feminist spectator gazes at the images, plot, and meanings unfolding before her through a lens formed out of an awareness that race, gender, and class are inextricable as sites of struggle in the world and that they operate variously in all symbolic acts. As a spectator she sits before the screen, all the while reading what she watches through a consciousness of the profound confluence of what it means to be underclass, to be woman, and to be black. Whether she is witness to cultural representations wherein these factors are prominently manifest or deliberately made to appear nonexistent, the black feminist spectator carries her ideology with her and is focused on the interworkings of these “isms”—projected or masked—on all human representation and action. Black feminist critics are in a kind of “third wave” of analysis that is focused, not so much on the invisibility or the silencing of the black female voice, as on the ways specific conceptualizations of literary and cultural study are fostered and institutionalized and how the effects of race, class, and gender operate on the practice of criticism.

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Medium 9780861967155

Chapter 8 Los Angeles Film Festival

Edited by David E James and Adam Hyman John Libbey Publishing ePub

Jack Hirschman*

Something more than a report of the second Los Angeles Film Festival has to be given, for in a very important way the festival did not end in the early morning hours of 13 February with the choice of a winner of the $250 first prize, but it continued for a couple of days more, unofficially.

As for the actual competition, some forty films were entered. Screening began at 7 p.m. on Lincoln’s birthday, and nearly nine hours later, less numbed and bloodshot than we thought we’d be, John Fles, Stan Brakhage, and I went off for breakfast to choose the winning film.

The choice we made was a fifty-minute work by Stan Kaye called Georg. The decision was a majority one, with Brakhage holding to his preference for a cameo (Jess-like) work by Larry Jordan, while at the same time fully in agreement with the other judges that Georg is a work of authority, imagination and prodigy (it is the twenty year-old Kaye’s first film).

Made on a shoestring of between three and four thousand dollars (for the most part up in a Topanga Canyon location overlooking the Pacific), Georg was written by Kaye as well, who also plays the part of the title-hero’s voice. I say voice, because there is an intentioned Pirandello device in this film which works marvelously well. The film purports to be a record (in moving pictures, stills, and tapes) of the life of an “unfortunate creature”. What happens is that the film opens with Kaye’s (Georg’s) voice announcing the record to come, but what we subsequently see is that record actually being filmed. Georg in fact is the director of the film, or so the illusion is given. The Georg we see is played by actor Mark Cheka, and Georg’s wife by Lynn Averil. Microphone and cable punctuate many of the scenes. In one scene Georg-Cheka puts a microphone in front of his wife and says, “Say something”. Moreover, as the film develops, the camera and microphone, i.e., the obsession of Director Georg to record his life, become another aspect of the sellout “outside” world intent upon crushing the simple relationship between the couple. When the wife gets sick of the camera, of its directions, the suggestion is that she is sickening of the “visual” Georg. In a memorable stop-action scene, Georg-Cheka attempts to seduce his wife (in the very late months of her pregnancy); and this scene is paralleled with another in which the wife is seen trying desperately to escape from the camera, scurrying behind shack and bush, as though the camera were no less her seducer-husband, which, in fact, by extension it is.

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Medium 9780253014078

8. Modulating Cinematic Avatārs: Shahani’s Unit

Laleen Jayamanne Indiana University Press ePub

In this book I am mobilizing the Sanskrit word avatār (a philosophical concept but also a powerful vernacular idea galvanizing human imagination and collective practices across the earth over millennia, one that has also rather recently enriched English and cinema, two of the many “Indian languages”) as a cinematographic conception of the manifestation of energy, or shakti. A strictly doctrinal religious point of view (which I do not adhere to, nor does Shahani) defines it in the following manner: “Avatār is a composite of two words ‘ava’ and ‘tar.’ ‘Ava’ denotes below and ‘tar’ denotes the process of coming down. This term Avatāra means to ‘come down’ or descend. . . . Avatāra is the manifestation of the power of the deity. Portions of his [sic] divine nature descend to earth, assuming different forms, both human and animal, to deliver the earth in times of danger and emergency.”1 However, for me, as a Lankan, avatāra is not a religious idea but a Sinhalese word with a strong everyday ring; it means “ghosts,” stories about which we couldn’t have enough of as children. Also, importantly, I can still hear the intonation of voice and the hand gesture of my great-aunt, who would, in mock exasperation, exclaim, “Mé lamaya avatāra dakala!” (This child has seen ghosts!), when one of us said something absurd, improbable, and fanciful. So as a Sri Lankan outsider to Indian high and popular folk traditions (which I have tried to understand and learn a little about from a faraway Australia) but as a member of a vast community of speakers of the group of languages designated as Indo-European, I hear multiple (animistic, philosophical, religious, homely, and fanciful) imaginative resonances in this word, which I have tried to elaborate in my own fashion, true to cinema. Sanskrit is to the many vernacular tongues of Asia what Latin was to the various vernacular languages spoken across the Roman Empire. In the case of Sinhalese (derived from both Sanskrit and Pali), the vernacular Pali mediated and got the tongue and brain around Sanskrit, the language of the learned, scholars and priests all. Gautama Buddha used Pali as a language that made his ideas accessible and appealing to the people. He taught with parables and stories, and people listened. So the vernacular Sinhalese word for avatār is holman. My dear old great-aunt spoke proper Sinhalese with a mock seriousness, while the village women usually used the word holman but also knew the classical Sanskrit(ized) term as part of their language. I, as a former Ceylonese whose mother tongue has receded into latency in deference to English and the new worlds it has opened up, would like to hold on to both words as a double act without allegiance to any one rule (least of all any religious ones), because my intellectual authority to do so is derived from cinema and its multifaceted history and potential.

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Medium 9780253016737

4 Children of the Revolution: The Rebirth of the Subject in Revisionist Discourse

Constantin Parvulescu Indiana University Press ePub

This chapter focuses on Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Camera Buff (Amator, Poland, 1979). So far, I have discussed the work of directors whom history has not included among the major cinematic innovators of the Eastern Bloc. After Somewhere in Europe, Radványi participated in uninteresting projects (Women without Names, 1950) or in politically problematic ones (The Doctor from Stalingrad, 1958). In spite of his long and successful career with DEFA, Maetzig never became a director whose personal style would be remembered,1 while Moskalyk, who made a bold step towards auteur cinema with Dita Saxová, continued his career in the less prestigious medium of television in the conservative, post-1968 Czechoslovak climate of “normalization.”2 In contrast, Kieślowski’s work was nominated and won some of the industry’s most desired international awards3 and became the object of book-length studies. He is nowadays remembered as “one of the most acclaimed Polish film-makers” (Iordanova 2003, 109), representing a generation that gained artistic prominence in the 1970s, when, one can speculate, intellectual, aesthetic, industrial, and to a certain extent political conditions were more conducive to art cinema than in the 1950 or early 1960s.

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Medium 9780253020871

10. Intersubjective Attunement, Filiation, and the Re-creative Process: Jules and Jim–from Henri-Pierre Roché to François Truffaut

Alistair Fox Indiana University Press ePub

My purpose in this chapter, following the theoretical exposition in chapter 9, is to show how the intersubjective attunement made possible by the combined operation of neurological and psychological processes involved in reception generates a response that is not merely passively receptive, but also actively re-creative. To a large extent, the processes involved are invisible and unconscious, but their presence can be detected through their outward signs: namely, in patterns of unconscious filiation that can be traced from one author to the next and in the evidence of imitation and reconstitution provided by the cinematic adaptation of literary works. Neuroscience has, as yet, been unable to track empirically the neurological ways in which these intersubjective/re-creative processes are effectuated at this stage in scientific research–the human brain is far too complex for that–but enough evidence exists, in forms that are accessible to critical and historical analysis, to enable scholars to make informed surmises.

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Medium 9780861967155

Chapter 23 Inner-city Symphony: Water Ritual #1: An Urban Rite of Purification

Edited by David E James and Adam Hyman John Libbey Publishing ePub

Veena Hariharan

Barbara McCullough and the L.A. Rebellion

Barbara McCullough belongs to the second wave of filmmakers of the L.A. Rebellion that emerged following the establishment of the Ethno-Communications program at UCLA in 1970.1 Theirs was a radical politics inspired by the tidal wave of color – anti-colonial struggles abroad and the war against internal white colonialism at home. They also attempted to challenge the racial implications of American capitalism through their efforts to regain the institutions that marketed and distributed black culture so that the profits from this could be ploughed back into the black community.2 Rebelling against representations of African Americans in mainstream media, they connected with Africanicity through their creative links with Third Cinema, on the one hand, and avant-garde jazz on the other. The second wave, characterized by a personal, experimental, and avant-garde mode, created a space for black, feminist, creative, and critical filmmaking. McCullough claims Zora Neale Hurston as her primary inspiration while Shirley Clarke, Julie Dash, and Maya Deren influenced her avant-garde film aesthetic.3 Rituals and the ritualistic; music, especially avant-garde jazz and world music; and the city of Los Angeles (signified by the freeway), are the dominant preoccupations of McCullough’s films.

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Medium 9780253018618

“I Like the Way You Die, Boy”

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

fantasy’s role in Django Unchained

Glenda R. Carpio

“And I am taking the story of a slave narrative and blowing it up to folkloric proportions . . . worthy of high opera. So I could have a little fun with it. One of the things I do is when the bad guys shoot people the bullets usually don’t blow people apart. They make little holes and they kill them and wound them, but they don’t rip them apart. When Django shoots someone, he blows them in half.”


DJANGO UNCHAINED IS not supposed to be experienced or understood as a historically accurate representation of slavery; surprisingly, this point has been lost on many a viewer. It is, as the film critic Chris Vognar rightly notes, a typical Tarantino movie, which is to say that it is “more concerned about movies than anything else.” At the same time, the film is deeply situated in both the history of cinema and historical fantasy. Tarantino has “a little fun” telling the story of a slave named Django, a reference to the titular hero of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti Western, himself named after the virtuoso jazz musician Django Reinhardt. Tarantino also makes multiple visual and narrative allusions to the blaxploitation tour de force, the 1975 film Mandingo, and other films in this genre—The Legend of Nigger Charley (1972) and its sequels, The Soul of Nigger Charley (1973) and Boss Nigger (1975), as well as direct and oblique references to Norse mythology, to D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation (1915) and the novel that inspired it (Thomas Dixon’s 1905 The Clansman), to the slave narrative genre, and a host of other cultural artifacts. But Django Unchained also jolts viewers with scenes of chattel slavery that are so violently horrific that watching without squirming is impossible, as when a slave is torn apart by dogs or when two slaves are made to fight each other to death with bare hands. The combination of Tarantino having “a little fun” and his subject matter, arguably the mostly explosive and, especially from a contemporary perspective, most earnestly treated topic in American history, risks trivialization. Yet Django Unchained is also a richly allusive cultural text that, through its intertextuality and its arguably excessive use of violence, makes vivid the brutality of American chattel slavery.

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Medium 9780253010025

5 The West African Cinema Industrial Complex, 1960s–70s

James E. Genova Indiana University Press ePub

In 1968 Robert Delavignette, the ex-colonial administrator and author of Les paysans noirs, gave his take on the meaning of the end of French rule in West Africa. Commenting on the prospects for the region’s future he wrote, “Decolonization, it is independence. But independence is not real unless it is linked with the economic and social development of the decolonized country.” And, for that development to be realized, he added, “the cooperation of the [newly independent] country with some other countries,” namely, France, was required.1 Several years earlier as a participant in a roundtable conference sponsored by the Association française de science politique he had discussed at length the continued necessity of cooperation between France and the former overseas territories after they attained political sovereignty in order for them to develop appropriately. At the meeting Delavignette said, “The subaltern cadres rapidly assimilate the rudiments of the matters that we would want them to learn; they recognize that they derive from [those lessons] some material benefits, and they aspire to progress in the apprenticeship [and obtain] some [of the] secrets of the White people’s technical prowess.”2 Delavignette’s rhetoric was consistent with France’s reconfigured civilizing mission in the late colonial period, in the formulation of which he had played a major part.

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Medium 9780253018069

3 Sex and Antimilitarism

Siegel, Carol Indiana University Press ePub

SEX RADICALISM IS probably not the first thing that comes to mind for most American pacifists who are now seeking ways of raising public consciousness about the dangers of militarism. However, this was not always the case. At the height of the sexual revolution, free love was often depicted on film as an opposing force to love of war, and this idea remains relevant to the question of the difference between liberal and radical cinematic depictions of sexuality. In contrast to films made during the sexual revolution and some recent foreign films, in contemporary America dominant views of sexuality make it impossible for films to depict making love as an antiwar activity. As a result, the young men depicted in films that are critical of war are shown as being without recourse for meaningful modes of resistance to a fascistic mind-set, including the racism and hatred of difference that play a large role in military aggression.

While the spectrum of possible political positions has contracted in the American imagination, one thing that has not changed in recent years is the frequency with which the word “fascist” occurs in discourses condemning bellicosity and the misuse of political power associated with it. The use of “fascist” as a descriptor, like that of “radical,” is complicated by its present lack of reference to the old political concepts of the Left and Right. I think few today would disagree with Robin Wood’s statement that “we cannot (except as polemical hyperbole) call our current right-wing government fascist; one can, however, see very plainly the various components of fascism building all over the Western world” (22). Those on the Right who favor Middle Eastern wars frequently argue that they are justified because we Americans must suppress “Islamofascism,” while on the antiwar Left, all warmongering is routinely described as fascist. The problem is that there is no agreement about its meaning among those deploying the term.

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Medium 9780861966820

The Bump in the Road

Marie Beardmore John Libbey Publishing ePub


John’s working life was humming along fine; not only were his films garnering awards but so was he. In 1993 Theresa Plummer-Andrews presented him with a BBC Lifetime Achievement Award, which John refers to as his “old age” award. Theresa, still then head of BBC Children’s Acquisitions, Co-productions, gave a small speech to mark the occasion. “He’s made a few films here and there, but mostly, he’s known as the man who put the L into lunch!” No one in the industry, and plenty outside of it, could argue with that!

While his professional life continued to zing along, things were not so great personally and, inevitably, John and Chris hit a bit of a sticky patch. During this period, he met a few nice ladies who he fondly remembers. In the September of 1993, while making the Beatrix Potter films, John attended the Cartoon Forum in Inverness. There, he reconnected with a young woman he had met some years previously at an animation seminar in Switzerland. He recalls back then being in a strange 1930s hotel at the Lake of Neuchatel where there was an extraordinary good-looking girl at the bar every evening. “I remember at the last evening I asked who she was. Anyway, a year or two later on my way to the Cartoon Forum at Inverness, I was enjoying a gin and tonic before catching the plane at Terminal 1, Heathrow. I was sitting at the top of a little spiral staircase that went up to the bar, when a fantastically good looking girl came over and kissed me on the cheek and said, you don’t know who I am, do you? And it was her. “We travelled to Inverness together and that was lovely … and then an extraordinary thing happened on my return. There were two planes coming back, one was early so I avoided that, and caught the later one. There was an empty seat beside me and the whole plane went ‘ohhh’ when she came and sat in it! It was the only empty seat. How could she have had the seat reserved and held? I said how on earth did you manage that? She just giggled.” Over time, they became good friends. Eurostar had just begun, and they would meet at the Musée d’Orsay. “I’d take the taxi at the Gare du Nord and then I’d have to find her amongst the animal sculptures outside the Musée.”

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Medium 9780253010407

7 Rahsaan Roland Kirk

Kathy Sloane Indiana University Press ePub

“Rahsaan.” That was really Todd’s
inspiration, I do believe.

George Cables

They wrote that song “Bright Moments”
together. Todd’s name is on that song.

Eddie Marshall

Todd Barkan

I met Rahsaan on a bus going to a Columbus Jets game in Columbus, Ohio. He was on his way to see his girlfriend by himself, just with his little stick and his roller at the end of the stick and the horn attached to it. I was about eleven years old. And he became my mentor in the music. It turned out that he lived very close to where I lived in Columbus; the area of town that he lived in, near East High School, was very close to Bexley, Ohio, which is a suburb where my folks lived. My neighborhood was mostly Methodist and Jewish, and he lived in a black neighborhood very close by. His dad owned a candy store. Rahsaan went to the Ohio School for the Blind.

Rahsaan became a mentor to me, and then later on I was able to hire him at Keystone Korner and make the recording of “Bright Moments,” which I played keyboards and percussion on. We had a wonderful, lifelong relationship. I toured Australia and Europe with Rahsaan during the time that Keystone was open. We toured in ’74 and ’75, right before he had his stroke. He passed away in 1977.

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Medium 9780253015594

2. Italian Cinema and the Colonies to 1935

Ruth Ben-Ghiat Indiana University Press PDF



Italian Cinema and the Colonies to 1935


his chapter offers an overview of the imbrications and encounters of Italian c­ inema with the colonies up to 1935. I focus on the 1920s, a decade that has been slow to receive attention in accounts of both Italian colonial and filmic enterprises. During those years, the Fascists developed the ideologies and strategies of conquest that would serve them in Ethiopia and during World War II, quelling active rebellion in Somalia and carrying out a ruthless repression of resistance in the Libyan regions of

Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. In the realm of ­cinema, the 1920s is normally considered a period of crisis and retrenchment, due to the collapse of production and distribution structures. Tenacious research has revealed a variegated filmic landscape, though, one characterized by a good number of colonial and exotic-­themed productions.1 I bring these imperial and filmic histories together in my reading of Camerini’s 1927 work Kif Tebbi, which is located within the Orientalist genre that flourished internationally in the decade after World War I. My discussion of this Italian narrative of masculine redemption emphasizes the ways it sets the tone for empire films, but also highlights Orientalist elements that found less favor in the militaristic climate of later Fascism. This chapter also explores the notion of c­ inema as an “eye of the war” as it emerged during the Italo-­Turkish

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Medium 9780861966738

Disney Films 1989–2005: The “Eisner” Era

Amy M. Davis John Libbey Publishing ePub


Throughout popular culture in America in the 1970s and 1980s, changes in the ways in which women were portrayed began to appear. The images of the happy home-maker and contented wife and mother did not disappear, but neither did they remain the only acceptable alternative shown to be available to “respectable” women. Furthermore, the definition of a “respectable” woman was beginning to broaden throughout this time, encompassing not just the housewife, but also the single career woman, the working wife and mother, the single mother, and various permutations of these identities. Women’s magazines expanded from covering only such topics as fashion, recipes, and maintaining a youthful appearance, and began including articles about the ways a woman could “have it all”: being a wife, mother, and career woman all at the same time, and finding equal fulfilment in her work both inside and outside her home.296

Going also (though not completely gone) was the image of a woman whose goodness was exemplified by her being innocent and asexual, and beginning to emerge in this period was the woman who was kind, virtuous, good, and aware of (as well as able to enjoy) her own sexuality. Television, in particular, began to feature shows about strong, capable women – referred to by some as “superwomen” – who were successful – and balanced – in their careers, with their families, with their love lives, and in any other areas of their lives.297 A successful woman was one who was shown as either having it all or – if she had suffered a setback of some sort – was getting it back together and would, eventually, “have it all”. Women characters such as Claire Huxtable of The Cosby Show were presented as positive role models for America’s women, and the heroines of shows such as Kate and Allie and Alice served as role models for those women who were trying to sort out their lives.298 In Hollywood’s movie industry as well, examples were emerging of women who, instead of being on the hunt for a husband, were on the hunt for everything else, and when (because, in most of these films, a man eventually did come along and sweep the heroine off her feet) she fell in love, finding a husband and starting a family were often portrayed as being not her goal, but rather the last pieces of her life falling into place.

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Medium 9780253021359

7. Oscar Micheaux’s The Symbol of the Unconquered: Text and Context

Pearl Bowser Indiana University Press ePub


The four pictures given the public up to date and within a period of two years—The Homesteader, a stirring story of pioneer life in the great West country; Within Our Gates, the action of which centers about the Southland; The Brute, a dramatization of the best and the worst in Negro life; and The Symbol of the Unconquered, the action of which deals rather with condition than locale—are all powerful sermons visualizing the struggle of Dark America for a place in the sun.

—Georgia Huston Jones, unidentified magazine (Spring 1921)

Moving pictures have become one of the greatest vitalizing forces in race adjustment, and we are just beginning.

—Oscar Micheaux, The Competitor, January–February 1921

Within two and a half years after founding the Micheaux Film Corporation, Oscar Micheaux had produced four features, films which critic Georgia Huston Jones called “powerful sermons visualizing the struggle of Dark America for a place in the sun.”1 The Homesteader (released in 1919), Within Our Gates (1920), The Brute (1920), and The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), according to Jones, showed “the tragedy of the Negro being enacted on American soil and voiced the heart cry of millions in a world where the common heritage of trials and obstacles and disappointments are intensified by the evil shadow of prejudice.” In a career that spanned thirty years, Micheaux made close to forty films, with approximately half of his total output produced in the first decade (1918–1929). These silent films were tools to express his personal view of the African-American experience. By addressing such contemporary social issues as concubinage, rape, lynching, peonage, and miscegenation in his pictures, he created a textured and layered response to the social crises that circumscribed African-American life. Oscar Micheaux’s silent films and early novels were acts of recollection and imagination, creations and re-creations shaped by his personal experience and the desire to construct an image of himself for his audience. Suspended between autobiography and commerce, memory and dreams, his stories, though often personal, were not unique; they were woven with threads of commonalty and communality. He spoke from his living history and from the specific realities of his time; he referred to what lay beneath or beyond the particular.

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Medium 9780253007445

12. Trash’s Last Leaves: Nollywood, Nollywood, Nollywood

Kenneth W. Harrow Indiana University Press ePub

A number of Nollywood films are marked by an obsessiveness, leading to frustration in the spectator. This can take on monstrous proportions, like the “object a” that Žižek identifies with the stage of capitalism marked by extreme consumerism (Žižek 1992). The patterns of materiality in African cinema could be traced through their use of characteristic objects that are placed in relationship to subjectivity as it takes form under various stages of capitalism.

The connection between loss and trash brings us to the connection between subject, divided in assujetissement, and object whose value defines it as more or less trashy or as more or less precious. In my previous book on African cinema, I traced these stages of subject-object relations, following Žižek, as the subject position became increasingly fragile and divided, and as the object morphed from the original nonmaterial form of object a (l’objet a) to one of monstrous material proportions.1 A summary of this shift can be seen in the following description of three moments of change Žižek traces using Hitchcock’s films.

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