It’s Summer conference season once again and I’ve just spent a chunk of the start of this week at the annual European Cinema Research Forum conference which was organised this year by Leanne Dawson at the University of Edinburgh. Since attending the first ever ECRF conference as a PhD student back in 2001 at Bangor University, it’s one I always try to get back to and is always a good opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues and to learn about new films I should try and see. This year was no different!
For a start, it was a chance for me to catch up with the ECRF’s founders Owen Evans and Graeme Harper who also happen to be my co-editors on the Journal of European Popular Culture (always happy to accept submissions…). Unfortunately, I had to leave before Owen gave his paper but I thoroughly enjoyed Graeme’s paper on the onscreen European landscape.
Graeme was speaking as part of the first panel I attended on the theme of ‘Film and Ethics’ along with co-panelists Martin O’Shaughnessy and Carmen Herrero. Martin’s paper was examining the representation of shame in the work of French director Laurent Cantet, particularly in his earlier works, and in relation to class, gender and employment status, among other factors. Carmen shifted the focus of the panel to contemporary Spanish cultural practices. In particular, she was examining the impact of the current economic crisis on practices and processes of film-making in Spain, from the use of crowdfunding to changes in patterns of distribution.
After ‘Film and Ethics’, I went along to a panel on ‘Changing Bodies’ which covered blockbuster French cinema and contemporary German film. Ann-Marie Condron was the first speaker with a paper examining the representation of the body in the recent French box office hit Les Intouchables, analysing its parallel depiction of the disabled body and able-bodied black masculinity. Ann-Marie’s fellow panelist was Rebecca Harper whose paper centred on female masculinity in contemporary German cinema and its relationship to the concept of Heimat, broadly understood as ‘home’.
Tuesday morning was time for two back-to-back panels, kicking off with three papers by a group of colleagues from the University of Manchester who are working together on an AHRC-funded project analysing Transnational Desires. Their project is particularly interested in a consideration of the role of the audience and audience reception and they have been carrying out research at a range of film festivals in Spain, France and the UK, analysing audience questionnaires and conducting focus groups. Darren Waldron started proceedings with a paper on ageing in French and Spanish queer cinema, and two recent works in particular: Les Invisibles and 80 Egunean. Chris Perriam followed up with an examination of the ways in which Spanish queer culture engages with, and draws on, aspects of French film which he illustrated by way of Gaël Morel’s film Notre Paradis. Their panel was rounded off by an extremely interesting paper by Ros Murray on trans activist documentary from France and Spain.
The second morning panel was also my last, unfortunately, as I had to leave before the afternoon activities started, but it did give me an opportunity to learn about Bulgarian box office hits and internet marketing, 1980s UK cinema and trends in onscreen representations of lesbians in contemporary Spanish and Swedish film – not bad going for 90 minutes! Working backwards from the last paper, Francesca Middleton was responsible for the paper on 1980s UK film by way of an analysis of Neil Jordan’s use of storytelling (and lacunae, in particular) in Mona Lisa. My second taste of Bulgarian cinema – the first came via a brilliant short film screened at the Locarno Film Festival a few years back – was thanks to Maya Nedyalkova who gave a paper on the Bulgarian blockbuster Love.net and its interactions with the internet, whether onscreen through the narrative or in terms of its marketing and distribution strategies. And Spanish and Swedish cinema were at the heart of Jacky Collins’s paper which set out three key trends in the onscreen representation of lesbians, pointing out that, despite new developments, a tendency towards heterocentrism and androcentrism still prevails.
The 2014 conference looks set to take us to the other side of the Atlantic, to Oakland University in Michigan and will, I’ve no doubt, provide just as much cinema-related food for thought as this year did.