Pasquale Cicchetti | Andrew Dorman | Havva G. Economides | Matthew Holtmeier | Raluca Iacob | Heath Iverson | Diana Popa | Kathleen Scott | Sarah Soliman | Beatriz Tadeo Fuica | Giles Taylor | Chelsea Wessels
Thesis: Exploding Home: Iconographies of Home and Homeland
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St.
There's no place like home, said a jaunty Judy Garland in the conclusion of the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz. More than seventy years later, American imagination seems to find it harder than expected to come back from Oz. More exactly, it is the very border between the wild realm of Oz and good old Kansas that appears to be blurred.
Dealing with the cultural traumas that have marked the symbolic body of the nation in the last decade - from 9/11 to the housing market downturn - my research addresses the cinematic representation of both domestic and external spaces in contemporary American cinema, engaging long established cultural tropes (such as those related to the Puritan concepts of Wilderness and Errand) as well as issues of medial subjectivity and narrative patterns.
Ranging from recent combat films to Gran Torino and No Country for Old Men, this enquiry employs a variety of analytical approaches to focus on its subject. Building on the work of historians like Richard Slotkin and Sacvan Bercovitch, it aims at reframing those recent cultural strains within contrasting narratives of domestic and external space. This sort of narrative dialectics leads in turn to the core point of the production of identity, opposing strategies of linguistic resistance - as authored by de Michel de Certeau and Homi Bhabha - to superimposed, unifying rhetorics of national consciousness. In order to achieve this kind of socio-narrative breadth, film-texts will eventually be considered from the standpoint of Jurij Lotman's cultural semiotics, with a specific focus on the semantics of space (border crossings, re-enactment of the Frontier myth, etc).
By translating social strains into narrative and iconographic terms, my research aims at exploring the boundaries of the cultural approach within the framework of textual analysis. In addition, as it underlines the inner dialectics of American cinematic imagination, my thesis also contrasts the kind of centre/periphery model often used to describe national cinemas as opposed to an allegedly unified 'Global Hollywood'.
After a secondary education mainly focused on the humanities, I received my BA degree in Cultural Heritage at the University of Milan, Italy, with a major in History of Animation. Then I moved to Bologna, where I pursued my MA in Cinema, Television and Media production, expanding my interests in animation, culture-oriented semiotics and American culture. My final thesis, dealing with the mythological foundations of American cultural identity, was inspired by the work of the late Professor Franco La Polla and supervised by Dr Roy Menarini. My current supervisor at St Andrews is Professor Robert Burgoyne.
I also collaborate as a film critic with several Italian magazines, and I run an independent webzine called Sushiettibili.
Thesis: Cultural Specificity in Transnational Flows: The Non-National Cinema and the Construction of Japaneseness
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St./ Office Hour: Monday 1-2pm.
The amount of literature dedicated to Japanese cinema is considerable and wide-ranging, yet the majority of scholarship available remains fixated upon the supposed ‘Japaneseness' of the cinema and is fraught with issues of Western-centric analysis. As I have found, similar concerns are evident in attempts to identify national cinema as a clearly-defined film category and by association the nation as a finite cultural space. How does one measure the ‘nationality' of national cinemas? How is our assessment of this affected by geopolitics, the ‘global' and the transnational, as well as the decision-making of national film industries which either accentuate or deemphasise national characteristics?
In my research, I am looking at contemporary Japanese cinema (and specifically films that have been exported successfully to Western markets in recent years) as a case study with which to explore the transnational status of national cinema. I aim to locate the study of national cinema according to a more expansive set of criteria, taking into account cross-cultural exchanges that inform an alternative conception of cultural specificity - the non-national - and investigate the ways in which nation-ness is precariously constructed from both within and without. In this sense, certain national cinemas appear both global and local, and as a result downplay nation-ness while displaying stereotypical cultural characteristics.
In the context of modern Japanese cinema, a non-national framework enables us to look beyond the academic construction of Japanese aesthetics, film form and subject matter, and suggest that the nationality of national cinema is continually in flux, always in a state of ‘becoming', as Andrew Higson has suggested, and cannot be fully assessed through traditional approaches.
Films under discussion in this research include: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), Tetsuo: The Bullet Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 2009), Visitor Q (Takashi Miike, 2001), and Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2008).
As an undergraduate I received an MA Honours in Liberal Arts from the University of Glasgow before moving on to complete a MLitt within the St Andrews Film Studies department. Aside from my current research, my other interests include issues of invisibility in queer cinema since the 1920s, the stereotyping of East Asia in both Western and Asian cinemas, extreme cinema, and horror films in general.
Havva G. Economides
Thesis: A critical history of Peter Jackson’s Weta Special Effects ‘Studio’ under consideration of the economic and social context of the New Zealand film industry and the global film industry
It is clear that the development and role of CGI, Special Effects and 3D in the last 10 years and the influence of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings Trilogy and his effects companies ‘Weta Ltd.' (Weta Digital & Weta Workshop) have drastically changed the perception of epic fantasy films and have heavily influenced the creation of "realistic immersive fantasy worlds" and characters carrying these films.
Additionally, Weta Ltd. have developed into the world's leading Special Effects 'Studio', synonymous with New Zealand national filmmaking and identified as a global leader. The relationship between Weta as an auteur-driven, special effects ‘studio' that is now clearly a national brand and the overlap and discontinuity between older concepts of national New Zealand cinema and the national projection that Weta has accomplished are also of great interest in my work.
My academic research focuses on themes such as national cinema/global influence and issues of studio culture in developing a critical history of the Weta 'Studios' under consideration of the economic and social context of the New Zealand film industry not in isolation of, but in constant interaction with the filmic text.
It has been a goal of mine to finish my academic training in cinema and media studies ever since I completed my BA(Honours) in Film and Media Studies in New Zealand in 2004. My training in New Zealand has been instrumental in shaping my critical thinking about the New Zealand film industry and the way Peter Jackson has been influencing the American motion picture industry. But I felt I had to understand the industry first from the practitioner's perspective and hence, I worked in the Hollywood film industry for a number of years.
I returned to academia in 2008 when I became part of the UCLA MFA in Producing (Producers Program). When I returned to Wellington in 2008 to raise funds for my studies at UCLA I met with Richard Taylor (co-owner of WETA Workshop) and Philippa Boyens (co-writer of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) amongst others in order to discuss the influence of Peter Jackson's epic filmmaking and his unique use of technology, especially within the fields of Computer Generated Images (CGI) and digital effects on the new Hollywood blockbuster and immersive world building. My hope is to combine my PhD and my MFA into a full-time academic career and teach both, cinema and media studies as well as film production at a research university in the USA, UK or New Zealand.
Thesis: Filming Invisible Peoples: Minor Cinemas at the Interstices of Film Culture
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St.
'Minor Cinema' is an increasingly popular term in the field of Film Studies, but while the term has a fairly concrete origin, it has been used with increasing ambiguity. I believe part of this confusion stems from the term being associated with various compatible film movements and manifestos, such as Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino's Third Cinema (often misunderstood itself), and part of it stems from its origin as the complicated philosophical concept Minor Literature, authored by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Finally, because of the increasingly transnational characteristics of global films, the term is often difficult to apply to a film-text without first working through the complexities of its production and distribution.
By re-evaluating the term in light of these problematics and illustrating the way its theoretical concerns are even more significant in the era of transnational production, I will show the political importance of Minor Cinemas for audiences in several global sites of filmmaking.
After receiving my BA in English from Western Washington University, I continued on to earn my MA from Western Washington University as well, where I wrote my MA thesis on the production of subjectivity using the philosophies of Deleuze and Guattari. After completing my MA, I taught composition and research writing at Bellevue College using films as objects of inquiry.
My supervisor is David Martin-Jones, whose research engages with Deleuze and cinema.
Thesis: Urban Identities: Issues of Mobility and Marginality in Contemporary Romanian Cinema
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St.
Unlike other national cinemas in the region which garnered a lot of international attention during the 1990s, Romanian films only became a subject of discussion on an international scale in the last decade, thanks to the emergence of a new generation of filmmakers who have been described as belonging to a 'New Wave' of Romanian cinema. However, differences in themes and approaches have made it difficult to pinpoint a common characteristic of these films, which range from the 'minimalist hyper-realist' style of Cristi Puiu's films to Cristian Nemescu's almost Kusturica-style debut feature California Dreamin' (2007). There is also little to connect Cristian Mungiu's 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days (2007) to Nae Caranfil's Filantropica (1999), or even less to Caranfil's epic, grand-scale, cinema-referential film The Rest is Silence (2008).
In my research I would like to study the ways in which the structure and history of post-communist Romania has influenced its urban identities, especially as they are reflected in contemporary Romanian films, and the effect that Romanian films have on the construction of Romanian identity, both nationally and in an international setting. I plan to follow two different directions in my research, both concerned with issues of urbanity. One of these directions refers to the history, production and exhibition of films in Romania, with a special focus on the film festivals running in Romania at the moment which promote Romanian films (Transylvanian International Film Festival, Iasi International Film Festival, Sighisoara Film Festival), and the web network that connects them to other festivals in the region and around the world. The other direction will focus on a content analysis of a number of Romanian films, focusing especially on issues of marginality and mobility/migration as they are portrayed in films.
I graduated with a BA in Journalism from Babes Bolyai University which I followed up with an MA in Theatre studies/Cultural studies at the same university. However, during my studies I became increasingly interested in the study of film, an interest which led to obtaining an MA in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam. While at UvA my main interest revolved around theories of emotion, culminating with a MA thesis in which I tried to argue for a new perception of the concept of authorship in film, from the perspective of 'expressing emotion' (in the format described and argued for by Jenefer Robinson in her book Deeper than Reason. Emotion and its Role in Literature, Music and Arts).
For my current research project I am supervised by Professor Dina Iordanova, an expert on both the study of Eastern European and Balkan films, as well as the film festival market.
Thesis: Radical Landscapes: Images of National Space and Place in the Margin of British Cinema
Images of the national landscape have long been staples of the visual culture of Britain, especially in painting and, more recently, the cinema. Historically, landscape imagery has functioned as a site in which interconnected matters of national identity, political power, and environmental aesthetics have been negotiated and critiqued. In conventional, narrative British cinema, landscapes are typically ancillary and secondary to the dramatic action which they stage; however, beginning in the last quarter of the 20th century, a growing number of artist, avant-garde, and experimental filmmakers began to move representations of space and place to the center of their cinematic practice. My research will consider this foregrounding of landscape, location, and space in the periphery of British filmmaking as it seeks to understand the broader of aesthetic, political, and philosophical implications of these cinematic approaches to questions of place.
Examining films ranging from Peter Greenaway's early shorts and the works of many members of the London Film-makers' Co-op to contemporary filmmakers such as Patrick Keiller, Emily Richardson, and Gideon Koppel, my critical method is interdisciplinary in its approach. Drawing on a variety of art historical theories, I will consider these films' responses to historical formulations of landscape as variously picturesque, sublime, or banal. Additionally, informed by Gilles Deleuze's writings on cinema, especially his postulation of the affective power of landscape images to create zones of indetermancy or ‘any-space-whatevers,' I will also examine these films' as attempts to locate utopian possibilities in Brtitish topography and society. Finally, I will analyze these landscape films within the context of 20th century philosophy's turn toward the space and the question of being ‘s situatedness-‘dwelling' in Martin Heiddeger's formulation; ‘haunting' in the writing of Jacques Derrida-specific locales.
I received a BA in Humanities with Great Distinction from Shimer College, completing a thesis on early American cinema and the phenomenology of the urban experience. In 2011, I completed a Master's degree in the University of Ediburgh's Film in the Public Space programme, where my work focused on film's movement through various institutional spaces such as the archive and the film festival. My current project is supervised Dr Tom Rice and Dr Leshu Torchin.
Thesis: Slowness in New Romanian Cinema
Slowness, as an aspect of time in film, has been recently discussed in response to an aesthetic and stylistic trend in international filmmaking loosely described as slow cinema. In the February 2010 issue of Sight and Sound, Jonathan Romney defined slow cinema as a ‘varied strain of austere minimalist cinema,' suggesting that the term allows stylistic variations, does not refer to a homogenous group of films and needs to be explored in its diversity. New Romanian Cinema, with films such as The Death of Mr Lazarescu (2005), 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006), 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007), Police, adjective (2009), Aurora (2010), Tuesday, after Christmas (2010) and Beyond the Hills (2012), is part of the larger international trend of slow cinema. Drawing upon an existing body of research on cinematic time, I will examine stylistic practices in order to explore how slowness can be described through mise-en-scène and cinematography.
My research will contextualise slowness in New Romanian Cinema in two ways. First, by situating it briefly in relation to previous traditions of the slow in Romanian filmmaking under state-socialism (communism). Second, by looking at the way in which the contemporary films relate to the increased preoccupations with time in film today, notably in so-called European art cinema and festival cinema, thus being able to see the historical specificity of forms of slowness.
The term slow cinema is used to describe a contemplative, meditative mode of filmmaking. I suggest that slowness in New Romanian Cinema can also create doubt and equivocation about, for example, an historical event and a personal trauma that is never explicitly spelled out. I will show that the specificity of slowness in New Romanian Cinema relates to the way in which the most banal sequences can be crackling with tension.
Looking at this moment of Romanian filmmaking as part of the current trend of ‘slow films' can help us understand the distinctiveness and specificity of these films in relation to the wider array of slow cinema, with which they nevertheless share aesthetic similarities.
My background is in literary studies, I have received my BA in English and an MA in Irish Studies from Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj, Romania. Then, in 2005 I received an MA in Gender Studies from the Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. During my studies I have gradually become interested in film via literary adaptations to film and feminist film theory.
My thesis supervisors are Professor Richard Dyer and Dr Leshu Torchin.
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St./ Office Hour: Tuesday, 3-4pm
My research focuses on how spectators respond emotionally, affectively and ethically to films that feature explicitly violent stylistic designs. I explore how what we consider to be our most basic emotional, corporeal and ethical responses to violent cinematic stimuli (such as shock, fear, repulsion, outrage and disgust) are structured by socio-political and cultural determinants such as gender, race, nationality and economic status. In determining how our embodied and ethical responses to cinematic violence are influenced by certain political and ideological dispositions, I draw on elements of haptic theory and feminist cultural theory, as well as the ethical philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Jean-Luc Nancy. I am interested in determining how adopting a deconstructive approach to theorizing and practicing spectatorial perception in the cinema can open up new areas of engagement with and fields of vision within controversial genres such as European New Extremism and body horror.
I am also a member of the editorial collective of www.deleuzecinema.com, an international networking and collaboration site for Deleuze scholars.
I received my Bachelor of Arts in Cinema & Media Studies and Political Science from Wellesley College in 2010. I have also studied film at King's College London. My supervisor is Dr. David Martin-Jones, an expert in Deleuzian film theory and international cinemas.
Thesis: The Influence of the Pop Musician on Film Narratives
Use of particular musicians, whose individual styles shaped the experience of a film, is deeply intertwined with the history of the cinema, as is the use of musicians within a film narrative. My research examines the effect of using a distinct and recognisable musical figure either as the subject of a film, or as the author of the film's soundtrack. Adding a distinct musical presence culturally categorizes a film. I am interesting in investigating the cultural capital attributed to specific musicians, and how that capital then lends itself to films with which the artist is associated.
I will be examining several subgenres in which musicians feature as the film's subject. I intend to look at biopics, film-a-clefs, and rock documentaries for a study of how musicians directly interact with a film's narrative. Additionally, I will be looking at films for which the soundtrack was composed primarily or entirely by one musician, to explore questions of film authorship, asking if these musicians can be said to author the film through their music.
Outside this project, other areas of research I am interested in are television studies, and feminism and gender studies.
I received my BA in Cultural and Media Studies from The New School in New York. Following that, I attended St Andrews for my MLitt in Film Studies. For my Ph.D., I'm extremely pleased to be working with Professor Richard Dyer and Dr. Joshua Yumibe.
Beatriz Tadeo Fuica
Thesis: Cinematic Reconstruction of National Identity after Dictatorship in Uruguayan Fiction Film and Documentary
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St.
Like several other Latin American countries in the 1970s, Uruguay went through a period of dictatorship (1973 - 1985) which had several lasting consequences for its society. The re-establishment of democracy following this event, which shocked and threatened what was believed to be a stable democratic country, has enabled the rethinking of Uruguayan national identity. This process can be explored through the fiction films and documentaries made after 1985. Since then, a clearly identifiable New Uruguayan Cinema has started to emerge, part of a broader blossoming movement which includes literature, music and visual arts.
Although Uruguayan cinema has finally begun to gain international recognition, there are very few articles published about it - in marked contrast to the cinemas of many other newly democratised Latin American countries, which have been amply studied by film scholars. It is important to highlight that the processes experienced by the different nations that make up Latin America cinema are different. Although the dictatorships of the Southern Cone tend to be analysed together, their transitions to democracy and representations of their recent past were diverse.
I graduated from Universidad de la República, Uruguay, as a Translator. I came to St Andrews to pursue a Masters Degree in Spanish and Latin American Studies. My Masters dissertation explored how Uruguayan men and women who were born immediately before or after the early phase of the dictatorship, and whose parents suffered imprisonment, torture, dissapearence or exile, approached that period through documentary film. This research focused in particular on the handling of time and space in the light of theoretical frameworks of memory and postmemory.
My PhD thesis, which is an interdisciplinary project, will be conducted under the supervision of Dr. Gustavo San Román from the Department of Spanish and Dr. David Martin-Jones from the Department of Film Studies.
Thesis: Big Screens, Little Boxes: New Media and Scale in Middle-Twentieth Century Moving Image Culture
Screen size underlies the aesthetics and reception of all filmic, electronic, and digital moving image media. Our twenty-first century viewing activities are shaped by the interrelationships between large and small devices: between multiplex cinemas, widescreen televisions, mobile phone viewing, computer monitors, virtual windows, and web browsers. In turn, these polarities of scale point back to the beginning of film history at the end of the nineteenth-century when cinema-going, initially structured for an individual user bent over the peephole of a Kinetoscope viewing box, was transformed into a collective practice through the projection of moving images onto a screen. Following Jean-Louis Baudry’s evocation of Plato’s Cave (1976), conventional analysis of the film experience has posited an immobilised spectator analogous to a chained prisoner. This model is focused primarily on the optic register, in which coded regimes of looking are structured through a darkened room in which the viewer is confined. Today, however, as moving images shrink to fit the iPhone and expand to fill an IMAX Theatre, this framework has become reductive. Contemporary variances of screen size and screen use call for theoretical enquiry into how screens configure vision and interaction to construct a viewing space.
Through my research I explore screen size and new media in the middle decades of the twentieth century. The post-war proliferation of television sets in the United States was regarded as a key factor in dwindling cinema attendances, prompting the compression of old films to fit 10-inch home monitors and the subsequent augmentation of widescreen film technologies as Hollywood fought to win its audiences back. These dichotomies of scale extended to American visual culture and leisure activities at large. The model train set, for example, reached the heights of its popularity at mid-century and has, as its dimensional antipode, the Disneyland Railroad that circled the cinema-themed park. My project is intermedial and interdisciplinary: it constructs a dialogue between the big screens and little boxes that become prominent at this juncture, drawing upon media archaeology, film theory, and cultural history, in order to assess devices that use scale to affect the perceptual skills of their participants. I focus case studies on widescreen cinemas, television consoles, virtual reality simulators, theme parks, handheld viewing boxes, and children’s toys. Emphasising how tactics of display are structured technically and formally, I investigate the ways in which mid-century moving image artworks and their corresponding platforms shaped divergent practices of spectatorship that continue to this day.
My thesis supervisors are Professor Richard Dyer and Dr Joshua Yumibe. Before joining the PhD programme at St Andrews I read for degrees in Comparative Literature and Film Studies in London, first at King’s College and then at UCL.
Thesis: Once Upon A Time Outside the West: Rethinking the Western in Global Context
Office: Resources Room, 99 North St.
Most scholarship on the western reinforces current conceptions of the western as a genre directly rooted in a particular construction of the American West. This project aims to address this view by arguing that first, an examination of early cinema challenges its singular connection to an American origin, and second, the thematics of the western have found context-specific and relevant uses throughout global cinemas. Thus, the formation of the western genre is heavily reliant on a range of cinematic contexts, from early French films to Australian bushranger films. This reciprocal relationship is often overlooked in scholarship, as it is generally examined using a Hollywood-centric approach. My project seeks to fill a gap in current studies of the western through removing the exclusive American connection and by tracing the reach of western thematics through different transnational case studies.
I received my BA in Film Studies and English from Willamette University, where my research interests focused on the intersecting influences of John Ford and Sergio Leone in the work of Clint Eastwood. While pursuing my MA at Western Washington University, I completed a thesis on filmmaking responses to Franco's regime through the work of Pedro Almodóvar and Guillermo del Toro. I am currently the research assistant for Cinema St Andrews, a project which investigates history and cinema in the town of St Andrews. My PhD research is co-supervised by Professor Robert Burgoyne and Dr Dennis Hanlon.