Alternative Non-Fictions: Essay Films, Hybrids, and Experimental Documentaries
Fifth annual cinema and media studies graduate-student conference
University of Chicago
Conference Date: April 5, 2008
Keynote Address: Richard Neer (University of Chicago)
Deadline for Abstracts: January 1, 2008
Alternative Non-Fiction: Essay Films, Hybrids, and Experimental Documentaries will be the fifth Graduate Cinema Conference at the University of Chicago, a one-day event that will bring together graduate students on cinematic theory and practice. Vaguely defined and broadly inclusive, the term “essay film” has been used in popular and academic discourse to describe a wide variety of alternative nonfiction films and filmmakers that defy easy categorization. The term has been applied to the practices as diverse as Chris Marker’s philosophical travelogues, Michael Moore’s incisive polemics, William E. Jones’s queer archaeological ruminations, Trinh T. Minh-ha’s explorations of post-colonial embodiment, Ross McElwee’s filmed diaries, and Jean-Luc Godard’s meditations on art and cinema. While certainly alternative and innovative in form, these practices have historically been used to address social and political issues, as well as intensely personal visions, in ways that are not often open to conventional filmmaking.
With the rise of documentary in both mainstream and avant-garde film and media practices, alternative nonfiction forms have taken on an increasingly important place in filmmaking today. These practices have served as supplements to and refutations of traditional modes of cinematic rhetoric and representation—bringing to the fore issues of medium specificity, textual hybridity, and narrative conveyance. In this spirit, the conference aims to examine the discourses that have arisen in these alternative non-fiction practices and their implications for the wider field of cinema studies.
We invite papers on a wide range of topics including, but not limited to:
--Conceptual frameworks for analyzing alternative nonfiction filmmaking.
--Formal and expressive possibilities afforded by alternative nonfiction.
--Filmmakers including: Vertov, Godard, Marker, Welles, Rappaport, Farocki, Kluge, Akerman, Friedrich, Trinh, Errol Morris, Derek Jarman, Ross McElwee, Cheryl Dunye, William E. Jones.
--Presentations and representations of minority subjectivities, including but not limited to racial, postcolonial, sexual, and gendered minorities.
--Figurations of alternative desires (feminist, queer, postcolonial, and otherwise).
--Politics and polemics in essay films.
--The social, political, and critical constructions of the traditional/alternative dichotomy.
--Essayistic practices in narrative filmmaking.
--Cinematic essays in new media.
--First person documentaries and the diary film.
--Fiction and non-fiction hybrid films.
--The essay film and the underground/avant-garde traditions.
--Literary practices and essay filmmaking.
--And the larger issues raised by alternative nonfiction (originality, public domain, aesthetic categories like romanticism and modernism, cinematic ontology, indexicality in cinematic and digital images).
The keynote speaker will be Richard Neer, Department of Art History, University of Chicago. Professor Neer has recently published an article in Critical Inquiry titled “Godard Counts” on questions of cinematic evidence in Godard’s Histoire(s) du cinéma. Working on the relationship between style and politics, he has published widely on classical art, historiography, Poussin, and French cinema.
Limited financial assistance for travel may be available for international students.