Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Film Strip image from Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 29: Volker Pantenburg on Scanning Landscape and the Horizontal Pan

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar at 6:30 pm on Thursday, November 29 to welcome Volker Pantenburg (UIC-visiting) for his talk, "Scanning Landscape: Notes on the Politics and Economy of the Pan." Daniel Eisenberg (SAIC) will provide the response. The CFS will be held at DePaul's Loop Campus in the Daley Building at 14 E. Jackson Blvd., Room LL 102, using the State St. entrance located at 247 S. State.

Thursday, November 29 at 6:30pm
Volker Pantenburg, UIC-visiting, Bauhaus University Weimar 
"Scanning Landscape: Notes on the Pilitics and Economy of the Pan"
Respondent: Daniel Eisenberg, SAIC

Pantenburg describes his talk as follows:

Compared to the abundant research done on montage, Film and Media Studies have paid relatively little attention to the study of camera movement.  Focusing on the horizontal pan, my paper investigates some of the implications of this specific operation.  Which historical constellations of the gaze does the pan pick up?  How does it modify the spatial and temporal parameters of the profilmic world?   And what are we to make of the affinities between panning and historiographic investigation? My discussion of these questions concentrates on the Austrian filmmaker Gerhard Friedl's film Did Wolff Von Amerongen Commit Bankruptcy Offences? (2005) and relates it to earlier works that make extensive use of horizontal panning, such as Too Early, Too Late (1982), by Danièle Huillet and Jean-Marie Straub.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 25: Haidee Wasson on Protocols of Portability and Projection

Note: If you will be attending the reception immediately following the talk, please RSVP by Thursday, October 18 to the CFS Coordinator, Nova Smith, at

Please save the date for the opening of the 2012-13 Chicago Film Seminar. We are pleased to announce that on Thursday, October 25th at 6:30pm Haidee Wasson, associate professor of film studies and associate dean of research and graduate studies at Concordia University in Montreal, will give a talk entitled "Protocols of Portability and Projection: Technologies of the Small Screen at Mid-Century."  Jacob Smith, assistant professor of radio, television and film at Northwestern working on the cultural history of media with a focus on sound and performance, will deliver the response. 

We will convene in our new location at DePaul's Loop Campus in the Daley Building at 14 E. Jackson Blvd. (at State St.), Room LL 102**We ask that you use the State St. entrance to the building, located at 247 S. State.**  Maps can be found here and here.  A reception will follow.

Wasson describes her talk as follows:

The history of portable film projectors offers us a very different view of what cinema has been -- not big but small, not only moving but also still, permanent but just as often provisional. Through the lens of the portable projector and its small screen, cinema’s apparatus has long been less a singular ideal and more an iterative process, serving a range of aesthetic ideals, epistemological projects, corporate and governmental mandates. This presentation will provide a framework for thinking about what it means to integrate portability into our assumptions about cinema’s past, using a cluster of case studies beginning in 1939 and ending in 1959. Particular attention will be paid to the role of the American military in developing film projectors during the war and well beyond.

We look forward to seeing you all there. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

May 10: Jane Gaines on the Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film

Please join us for the final Chicago Film Seminar of the year at 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 10 to welcome Jane Gaines (Columbia University) for her talk, "A Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film Historiography." Christine Gledhill (New York University) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, May 10 at 6:30pm
Jane Gaines, Columbia University
"A Melodrama Theory of Feminist Film Historiography"
Respondent: Christine Gledhill, New York University

Gaines describes her talk as follows:

This paper is the end of a book that begins with the problem of what we should do with the evidence that so many women made significant behind-the-scenes contributions to building national film industries in the silent era. While the book begins with the chapter “Pink-Slipped: What Happened to Women in the Silent Film Industries?” the end considers the difficulty of how to say “what happened” but poses it as a problem of how to locate ourselves in historical time. This calls for a theory that is companion to the “historical turn” and that takes its inspiration from the tradition of melodrama theory already established within the field.

            The argument is that melodrama as a mode tells us something about how we  negotiate the paradoxes of historical time—the time in which the past and the future are irreconcilable. One wonders how melodrama can be both  resigned to “here today, gone tomorrow” and show us that  there is “always a tomorrow.” We do know that melodrama invents ever more complex devices with which to represent the impossibility of living in a present that is also a “former future,” one of which is the startling coincidence. This coincidence  leads to that other problem in disjunction-- our historical coincidence (or non-coincidence) with events in the historical past. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

April 12: Cinema and Experience- Commemorating the Life and Work of Miriam Hansen

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar, in a joint event with the University of Chicago, at 7:00 pm on Thursday, April 12 to commemorate the life and work of the late Miriam Hansen. The CFS will be held at the University of Chicago Film Studies Center, Cobb Hall Room 307, 5811 S. Ellis Ave. A map can be found here.

Thursday, April 12 at 7:00pm
Commemorating the Life and Work of Miriam Hansen
University of Chicago Film Studies Center, Cobb Hall Room 307, 5811 S. Ellis Ave.

The evening will feature a short screening followed by a roundtable discussion with Hansen's colleagues and former students and a reception celebrating the launch of her recently published work Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March 8: Jim Collins on Portable Media Devices and Playlist Culture

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar at 6:30 pm on Thursday, March 8 to welcome Jim Collins (Notre Dame) for his talk, "Portable Media Devices and Playlist Culture." Max Dawson (Northwestern) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, March 8 at 6:30pm
Jim Collins, Notre Dame
"Portable Media Devices and Playlist Culture"
Respondent: Max Dawson, Northwestern

Collins describes his talk as follows:

My paper will reflect on some of the issues raised by Professor Eivind Røssaak raised in the insightful paper he presented to the Chicago Film seminar this past November("The Performative Archive: The Archival Turn in Film, Art and New Media Practices”) but I will be talking about how portable media devices-- iPods, smart tablets, and ereaders --function as personal digital archives. What kind of “performativity” do we as amateur curators engage in on a regular basis? Pursuing the ramifications of archivability -- rather than just accessibility-- involves a complicated mix of technology, consumerism, and individual identity formation. Now that these devices allow us to surf the net as well as watch films, consume television, read novels, and listen to music, all on the same screens, with various file libraries “behind” those screens, how has playlisting become not just a matter of assembling song lists but a mindset that has come to define how we make digital culture our own?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

February 2: Noa Steimatsky on Barthes, Warhol and the Face

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar at 6:30 pm on Thursday, February 2 to welcome Noa Steimatsky (UChicago) for her talk, "Death at Work: Barthes and Warhol Look at the Face." Scott Durham (Northwestern) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, February 2 at 6:30pm
Noa Steimatsky, UChicago
"Death at Work: Barthes and Warhol Look at the Face"
Respondent: Scott Durham, Northwestern

Steimatsky describes her talk as follows:

Enframed in a consideration of Andy Warhol’s mid-1960s film portraiture, my talk for the Chicago Film Seminar will dwell on Roland Barthes’s “modern anthropology” of the cinematic face. A deep ambivalence, involving de-mythifying and re-mythifying maneuvers, haunts Barthes’s reflection on the facial image, and foreshadows some of the deepest concerns of Pop in the following decade. Especially in the almost forgotten essay, “Visages et figures,” Barthes diagnoses a fallacy of “expressivity” of the contemporary movie star juxtaposed with a vision of lost plenitude (real or imagined) invested in an earlier moment of film history. The up-front material artifice of late-silent and Classical cinema is predicated on a layering and masking that endow it with cultic, auratic charge. Yet the archaic functions of the mask might still be operative in Warhol’s deployment of multiplicity and temporality in his great film portraits.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 19: Miriam Petty on African American Children's Spectatorship

Please join the Chicago Film Seminar at 6:30 pm on Thursday, January 19 to welcome Miriam Petty (Northwestern) for her talk, "A Dance with Uncle Billy: Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and African American Children's Spectatorship." Karen Bowdre (Indiana) will provide the response. The CFS will be held, as always, in the Flaxman Theater, Room 1307 of the School of the Art Institute's building at 112 S. Michigan Ave.

Thursday, January 19 at 6:30pm
Miriam Petty, Northwestern
"A Dance with Uncle Billy: Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson and African American Children's Spectatorship"
Respondent: Karen Bowdre, Indiana

Petty describes her talk as follows:

My paper uses celebrated tap dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and his cinematic relationship with child star Shirley Temple as the springboard for an examination of African American children’s spectatorship in the 1930s and early 40s. Relying on a variety of autobiography, memoir and personal essay as the work’s source material, I argue that the stories of the authors’ childhood moviegoing experiences complicate accepted theories of the African American viewer as "resistant" and "oppositional." These personal accounts challenge and dimensionalize such theorizing in important ways. In them, we find Black children spectators who are willing to identify and fantasize across the boundaries of race in addition to, or even instead of a "resistant" posture. The viewing and identificatory practices of Black children revealed in these accounts also emphasize the importance of context, and point toward the impact that segregated venues made upon the African American viewing experience in the classical cinema era.

Summary: Hamid Naficy on Early Iranian Cinema's Production Mode

On Thursday, October 13, the Chicago Film Seminar commenced its 2011-2012 season at Northwestern Law School by welcoming Hamid Naficy of Northwestern to deliver a talk on “Early Iranian Cinema’s Production Mode.” Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa of Columbia College provided the response.

This talk centered on Iranian cinema’s silent and early sound period, which Naficy describes as the pre-industrial “artisanal era.” In examining the historical circumstances that gave rise to early Iranian film, Naficy focuses on the unique production circumstances of this national cinema while also situating it alongside other contemporaneous Iranian arts and social structures. From the artisanal era’s outset in 1897, Iranian cinema was distinct from Western national cinemas in its close association with elites and royals rather than the masses, a connection that would grow via the Shah’s interest in and official sanctioning of the new medium. Beyond just this support of the privileged class, Naficy further provides an in-depth framework of the specific societal conditions that contributed to the artisanal, rather than formally industrial, aspects of Iranian cinema. Among the many roots of this production mode were a focus on foreign film imports and exhibition over local production, a cottage industry based on workshops and ateliers rather than studios, and a predominant system of patronage that was highly unstable and heavily present in other media of the period as well. This infrastructural arbitrariness, part of what Homa Katouzian calls a “rickety” society, was notable throughout Iran and was characterized by decentralized power, social volatility and the unaccountability of the state, all of which required a particular flexibility and ingenuity on the part of filmmakers and other artists in order to successfully navigate the unsteady social structures.

While this rickety society provided the artisanal mode of production’s socio-historical roots, Naficy further develops its specific manifestations within the early Iranian film industry into a detailed exploration of what he calls a “rickety cinema.” The twelve specific elements of this rickety cinema are not, however, solely linked to early Iranian film, as Naficy asserts that many of these traits are likely present within numerous non-Western national cinemas. Among the chief components of the silent and early sound period’s artisanal mode of production was the multifunctional craftsmanship of its filmmakers operating as part of horizontally and vertically integrated film workshops, as well as the presence of liminal middleman filmmakers who were often positioned between foreign, secular modernity and traditional, pre-modern Iran. Additional characteristics include the multiculturalism and deep diasporic connections of these often minority filmmakers, the hybrid self-fashioning of film workers to shape non-traditional cultural identities, and the interstitiality of operating outside of established dualisms of East/West or colonized/colonizer. Improvisation in the face of unreliable legal and technological structures, the instability of exhibition due to the paucity of established venues, and the indirectness of foreign film imports (then the majority of films shown) as negotiated by intermediaries without regard for local tastes were also key to Naficy’s examination of the rickety, artisanal structure that would so define the period.

To best exemplify these various components, Naficy highlights pioneering filmmaker Ovanes Gregory Ohanians, a multiethnic and transnational immigrant who founded Tehran’s first film studio and Iran’s first acting school, as well as directed the nation’s first feature length commercial silent film, a self-reflexive movie about a traditional man’s gradual acceptance of, and incorporation into, the film industry titled Mr. Haji, the Movie Actor (1933). As a figure, Ohanians embodied the multicultural, improvisational, entrepreneurial and structurally rickety nature that shaped early Iranian cinema’s artisanal era even into the present moment.