Research themes

While the department has research expertise in a wide range of areas, particular strengths include:

Global film cultures

The Department has staff expertise in global cinema, and their work covers a wide range of geographic areas and languages (from Europe to Asia). Yet, the Department seeks not only to celebrate global cinema, but also to approach it critically, asking how ideas of the ‘global’ took shape, how they are sustained today, and in whose interest. Within this research theme, the Department foregrounds questions of film culture and institutions, exploring phenomena such as:

  • film festivals and cine-clubs
  • media circulation (from the colonial period to the present)
  • activist networks
  • histories of political cinema.

New directions in film and media historiography

The Department has produced a spate of award-winning research in film history and has expertise covering the entire period, from the pre-cinema to the digital. In seeking to rethink traditional film history, the Department foregrounds work in:

  • "useful cinema" (film beyond art and entertainment, such as advertising, military and science film)
  • media archaeology
  • material histories of film.

Analysing audio-visual environments

This is an emerging research area, developing methods for analysing how audio-visual environments are both crafted and experienced. The Department has extensive research in this area, with emphases on sound, texture and performance in film. Though intersecting with other topics and approaches such as sensory theory and phenomenology, the work is unique in its links to political economy (for example, attention to unseen labour), and to the ethical implications of the audio-visual experience.

Documentary and non-fiction cinema

The Department has a particular shared interest in non-fiction film, including documentary, activist filmmaking and emerging research areas such as scientific and educational film. These areas can mutually inform one another.

On the one hand, historians of "useful cinema" can learn from scholars of political documentary and advocacy, who question what it means for film to be "useful" or to have an impact upon the world. On the other hand, histories of useful cinema can help revise classical accounts of documentary’s early development, which all too often focus entirely on individual "pioneers" (for example Grierson, Ruttmann) while ignoring the broader filmic infrastructures within which early documentary cultures were embedded.