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Film Studies 13th Annual Postgraduate Conference

May 3, 2018 - May 4, 2018

13th Annual Postgraduate Film Studies Conference

The Annual Postgraduate Film Studies Conference is a showcase of the dynamic research environment and impressive range of studies undertaken by the postgraduate community at the Department of Film Studies at the University of St Andrews. The conference is a two-day, student-organised event hosted by the Department of Film Studies, designed for all the doctoral candidates in Film Studies to present professional conference papers pertaining to their thesis research. The presentation panels will take place at Parliament Hall on Thursday the 3rd and Friday the 4th of May, 9AM-5PM each day.

The invited keynote speaker and inaugural conference presenter will be Dr Deborah Shaw, University of Portsmouth, presenting her paper ‘Film Texts, Paratexts and Human Rights: Spotlight on Mexican/US Migration Films.’

The entrance for this conference is free, and all are welcome.

Conference Schedule:

Thursday, 3rd of May, 2018
09:00-09:30     Registration
09:30-10:30     Keynote Presentation
10:30-10:45     Keynote Q&A
10:45-11:00     Break
11:00-11:40     Panel 1A: National Film Industries
11:40-11:50     Panel 1A: Q&A
11:50-12:50     Lunch Break
12:50-13:50     Panel 1B: Film Texts and Paratexts
13:50-14:05     Panel 1B: Q&A
14:05-14:45     Panel 1C: Regional and National Film Festivals
14:45-14:55     Panel 1C: Q&A
14:55-15:10     Break
15:10-16:10     Panel 1D: Ideological Approaches to Film Festivals
16:10-16:25     Panel 1D: Q&A
16:25-16:55     Feedback on presentations.

Friday, 4th of May, 2018
09:00-09:30     Registration
09:30-10:30     Panel 2A: Revising History Through Cinema
10:30-10:45     Panel 2A: Q&A
10:45-11:00     Break
11:00-11:40     Panel 2B: Political Women Filmmakers and Spectators
11:40-11:50     Panel 2B: Q&A
11:50-12:40     Lunch Break
12:40-13:20     Panel 2C: Intertextual Politics of 80s and 90s Chinese Cinema
13:20-13:30     Panel 2C: Q&A
13:30-14:10     Panel 2D: Objects and Otherness
14:10-14:20     Panel 2D: Q&A
14:20-14:35     Break
14:35-15:15     Panel 2E: Space and Performance
15:15-15:25     Panel 2E: Q&A
15:25-15:55     Feedback on Presentations
15:55-16:00     Vote of thanks.


Thursday, 3rd of May, 2018


Dr DEBORAH SHAW • Reader in Film Studies, University of Portsmouth

Film Texts, Paratexts and Human Rights: Spotlight on Mexican/US Migration Films

We are in an age of multiple digital platforms where our entertainment, news, work, social life and social activism are conducted through our smart phones, tablets, laptops or desktop computers, or most probably a range of these simultaneously. This has significant consequences for our understanding of the primacy of certain texts over others, and leads to a dismantling of hierarchies relating to films and their paratexts. In this paper I focus on a specific social issue – migration from Central America and Mexico to the United States – and the texts that engage with this issue. The main case study is the activist project behind the film Who is Dayani Cristal? (Marc Silver, 2013), and I argue that the film and project are part of an emerging new paradigm for the human rights documentary, and correspond to the open space documentary as conceptualised by Helen de Michiel and Patricia R. Zimmermann (2017).


PANEL 1A • National Film Industries

Panel Chair: Patrick Adamson

JINUO DIAO • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Internetisation of the Chinese Film Industry: From Perspectives of Film Distribution

The Chinese film industry has been significantly enhanced by a large adoption of internet technologies, particularly in film distribution and exhibition. On-line film distribution continuously prospers and Chinese internet giants such as iQIYI, Tencent and Alibaba have become major distributors thanks to their established facilities and technologies and their inherent advantages in accessing and collecting consumers’ data. The internet companies can synthesise the data of potential film viewers acquired via various interfaces such as mobile social networks and online commerce stations and precisely promote new films to specific audiences and deliver them directly to the end viewer in a fast and low-cost approach.

This paper will discuss the success of Chinese internet companies made in the film industry and benefits they have brought to the industry. I will also discuss mitigation of risks displayed from the exposure of internet companies in the Chinese film industry. This paper aims to introduce how Chinese film industry has successfully pioneered internetisation, which can benefit film industries in other countries to embrace internet technologies.

MARIA FERNANDA MIÑO PUGA • 1st Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Ecuadorian Cinema for the 21st Century: Theoretical Approaches

In Latin America the Ecuadorian film industry is usually categorized as a third-tier film producing nation, with long periods of very little or no production.  Although recent policies have somewhat tried to establish a sustainable industry, an integral strategy would require exploring several fronts: the local and regional contexts, successful industry and business models, as well as issues in decoloniality and shadow economies.  Rather than exploring each aspect individually, the present proposal aims to study Ecuador’s domestic industry as a living organism that benefits from various torrents of thought, to later study its impact on aesthetics and cultural characteristics of the films produced in the country.


PANEL 1B • Film Texts and Paratexts

Panel Chair: Cassice Last

AAKSHI MAGAZINE • 4th Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Memory and Nostalgia: The ‘Golden Era’ of Film Music

The film music of 1950s Hindi cinema has been assigned the status of a ‘golden era’ of film music by fans and experts.  This is not solely a discourse on music per se, though an appreciation of the melody, lyrics and singing is a part of this appreciation. In this paper, I am interested in placing the film song in its socio-political context, and understanding this discourse vis-à-vis the place of nostalgia within modernity. For this, I undertake a close analysis of different kind of platforms- contemporary Hindi cinema as archive, the digital archive (YouTube, Blogs and Facebook) and activities of fan groups – to understand how these platforms together preserve and curate the idea of a ‘golden era’.

ANDREA GELARDI •1st Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

World Cinema: Between Theory and Practice

In the last 25 years, world cinema has increasingly gained momentum in film studies. Despite being a controversial concept, world cinema has been largely adopted as a methodology to study, teach and understand non-Western film productions. I suggest that, at a more empirical level of analysis, world cinema appears to be more than a narrow area of studies or a niche branch of academic research. On this regard, film scholars have highlighted how film festivals play a key role in the selection and circulation of world cinema and how their supranational funds financially support world cinema directors. With my research, I suggest to focus on those institution operating in film preservation. In particular, I propose the analysis of an Italian film archive committed to the preservation and promotion of both national and international film heritage. I am referring to Fondazione Cineteca di Bologna that I will analyze in connection with the concept of world cinema. By that, I intend to provide a dynamic understanding of this institution, its operative system and historical development within the international context. In approaching this analysis, I will point out which are the core elements I seek to analyze and the methodology I will adopt.

SOURAJ DUTTA • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

How to Write About a Film Without Watching It

This paper talks about a speculative software that combines developments in the field of computer hypertexts from the 60s to the late 90s with the latest development in Artificial Intelligence based software technologies, especially in the fields of image and speech processing. I will talk about how these latest developments might affect the discipline of Film Studies, especially in my area where I essentially look at the inter and intra-textual relationship between films. Developments in both Narrow and General-Purpose AI systems indicate a future where computer systems can independently read image, audio, and video content with minimal human intervention. It stands to reason that these developments in processing capabilities can be harnessed to create a system which would, in some sense, work as a centralized or aggregated version of the collective intelligence that Jenkins and Shambu talks about.


PANEL 1C • Regional and National Film Festivals

Panel Chair: Shruti Narayanswamy

SARAH SMYTH • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Sheffield Doc Fest: Your Festival? Whose Festival?

Established in 1994, Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Doc/Fest) lays claim to being the UK’s leading documentary festival. Doc/Fest represents a complex hybrid festival model that professes to serve dual agendas by engaging the local Sheffield audience in documentary while at the same time acting as a key industry event on a national and international level.

Both 2016 & 2017 editions of Doc/Fest’s brochure, a publication specifically targeted at Sheffield’s general public, opened by welcoming festival-goers to ‘your festival’ This simply articulated message strongly positions Sheffield’s general public as the most important of the festival’s stakeholder groups by bestowing ownership of Doc/Fest on them. In contrast, Doc/Fest’s separately produced Industry Catalogue did not communicate a similarly inclusive welcome message, raising questions around how the festival views both of these stakeholder cohorts.

By adopting Julian Stringer’s assertion that the film festival is ‘an external agency that creates meanings around film texts’ this paper argues that in spite of Doc/Fest’s much articulated dedication to being a festival for the city it is almost impossible to consider or understand the festival’s historical trajectory, programming agenda or civic role without framing it within the prism of its predominant, prolific, highly curated and successful industrial agenda.

ABDULRAHMAN ALGHANEM • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Film Festivals and Industry in the Arabian Gulf

Though feature films from Arab Gulf region existed since the 1950s, independent filmmakers have been confronted with social and cultural obstacles, in addition to a lack of funding and distribution opportunities, in producing and marketing their films inside and outside the region. Since 2004, lavish supports for film festivals in most of the Gulf States have allowed the prospect of Khaleeji film industry to mature and grow accordingly. This paper presents two cases: the Dubai International Film Festival and the Saudi Film Festival in order to evaluate the extent to which film festivals in the Arab Gulf States (AGS) reflect about their nations. This presentation takes a critical discourse analysis approach to investigating Gulf States’ eagerness to promote national and foreign cultural achievements on the international stage. It claims that these two film festivals are in line with the development of Khaleeji film industry and the circulation of cinema throughout the Arab Gulf region. By exploring issues of institutional backgrounds for these film festivals, this paper attempts to provide recent industry patterns and obstructions and suggests how they should be investigated.


PANEL 1D • Ideological Approaches to Film Festivals

Panel Chair: Ana Maria Sapountzi

PEIZE LI • 1st Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Citywide Film Festival Study

Nowadays, increasing number of film festivals are setting up more local venues for screenings and events to enlarge their local outreach. Some of these film festivals have developed into ‘citywide film festivals’. The literal meaning of the word ‘Citywide’ is ‘existing or happening in all parts of the city’. In this study, citywide film festivals are defined as festivals with multiple venues spread widely within cities. This study seeks to answer the question ‘how do citywide film festivals impact the festival host city?’ By answering this question, this study will analyse some examples of citywide film festivals and some relative literature.

DARAE KIM • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Virtues of a Film Festival

Can a film festival have virtues? If so what are they?

The paper will argue that a film festival possesses notions of virtue that are usually assigned to individuals and they are constructed and shaped by various stakeholders. Utilising practice theory from virtue ethics and sociology perspectives, virtues of a film festival can be unpacked and examined. MacIntyre’s practice theory is different from that of Bourdieu but that does not mean they are incompatible; MacIntyre’s virtue philosophy can be expanded using Bourdieu’s social theory.

Furthermore, film festival related controversies can bring out hidden issues to the surface allowing analysis. Through a selected cast study, the paper will examine how stakeholders can affect pre-conceived notions of virtues of a film festival.

ALEXANDRA-MARIA COLTA • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews & University of Glasgow

Human Rights Film Festivals-Mapping the Circuit

This paper traces the global proliferation of human rights film festivals and the development of an alternative exhibition network of films and events related to human rights. Since 2004, the Human Rights Film Network (HRFN) has acted as the main informal organization that gathers, supports and promotes film festivals under the same thematic umbrella. Nevertheless, these festivals are extremely diverse in terms of their approach to human rights and aesthetic discourses as well as their power and position within the circuit. Therefore, this paper explores the differences and similarities between human rights film festivals and engages with the “unassigned place of human rights” (Wils 2017) determined by geopolitical concerns. It addresses the core-periphery relationship between festivals as well as the problematic principle of universality of human rights. Drawing on participant observation at the HRFN Annual Meeting in 2017 in Amsterdam, filtered through the case study of one-member festival – Document Human Rights Film Festival in Glasgow – and interviews with other key members of the network, this paper will explore the role of the network in navigating these tensions and how it operates as a circuit of films and ideas between member festivals as well as between other parallel circuits and networks.


Friday, 4th of May, 2018

PANEL 2A • Revising History Through Cinema

Panel Chair: Jinuo Diao

SANGHITA SEN • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

The Spring Thunder: Bollywood Revisits Naxal Movement

Though the Indian parallel cinema has been documenting the Naxal movement of the 1960s, since the very beginning, as a pivotal moment in post-independence India, archiving/constructing the history of politics of dissent through cinema, Bollywood began depicting it only after the decline of parallel cinema and long after the Naxal movement was considerably subdued by the Indian state. This paper seeks to explore the way this movement is represented in post-millennial Bollywood, what prompted the filmmakers to turn to this movement for their films and what role does it play in the narrative, the aesthetic strategies employed to accommodate this counter-politics into a film-practice that conforms to the nationalist discourse.

SEPTEMBER LIU • 1st Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Nostalgia and Chinese New Wave

Chinese new wave works developed an intimate association with nostalgia. Their frequent representations of yesterday overshadowed their avowed prospects toward today and tomorrow. Accentuating quotidian artefacts such as a sorghum field or an old dictionary, Red Sorghum (Zhang Yimou, 1987) and King of the Children (Chen Kaige, 1989) commissioned a nostalgic vision that epitomised the new wave’s fantasy of the past, desire of the present, and prospective of the future. Based on a reconfiguration of nostalgia as a critical concept, I shall revisit the multi-faceted nostalgic representations in the two works and thereby demonstrate the bifurcated landscape on which they mapped their cohorts’ destiny. In tandem with allowing me to reconsider the intricate relation between Chinese new wave and nostalgia, a survey as such provides a detailed, although by no means comprehensive, picture of what might be construed as the agency of nostalgia and the politics of Chinese new wave.

PATRICK ADAMSON • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

The Transnational History of the 1920s Epic Western

The release of The Covered Wagon (1923) has long been regarded as a landmark moment in the development of both the western genre and the historical film. Paramount’s epic – along with the cycle of large-form westerns which followed it – earned acclaim from even the most film-wary elements of American society for being the screen’s first ‘authentic’ visualization of the Frontier heritage by which many contemporary thinkers defined American identity.

Scholars have near-exclusively attributed this resonance to successful ‘exploitation’ of a certain mytho-historiography consonant with contemporary nationalistic ideology. However, solely domestic explanations are here reductive: Hollywood studios also openly cultivated this cycle as a testament to cinema’s universalizing, if culturally imperialistic, potential as the ‘Esperanto of the eye’.

Therefore, this paper examines the strategies whereby export versions of The Covered Wagon and successful followers, specifically John Ford’s The Iron Horse (1924), were ‘put across’ abroad as at once ‘American’ and also polyglot and transnational: context specific re-editing; elaborate ‘exploitation’ campaigns contiguous with those of the emergent documentary; and staged ‘educational’ prologues. Reworking and reframing within globalized historical trajectories granted these national epics borderless new lives and afterlives, while indicating a transnational appeal that, I argue, anticipates current interest in global westerns.


PANEL 2B • Political Women Filmmakers and Spectators

Panel Chair: Darae Kim

ISABEL SEGUÍ • 4th Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Auteurism and Formalism as Problematic Approaches to Inscribe Women in Latin American Political Film Histories

Women participated abundantly in cinematic political projects in Latin America in the last third of the 20th century. The oral narratives are full of descriptions of the importance of their labour and explicit recognition of their contribution. However, this same contribution is barely recognised in the academic literature. The presence of women in the historical accounts seems to vanish somewhere in the way from the oral to the written, from the unofficial to the official. This paper argues that for a politically coherent, accurate, and comprehensive inscription of women in Latin American political film history a new set of tools based on Third cinema principles (non-auteurist, non-formalist, and non-hierarchical) needs to be used. Because reinvesting in strategies of patriarchal or colonial origin (such as the incorporation of women auteurs to the canons, or the search for “women’s writing”) impedes recovering or even understanding the groundbreaking contribution of women to Latin American political filmmaking: their collaborative anti-elitist cinematic practices.


SHRUTI NARAYANSWAMY • 3rd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

“And what made Veena go wild in the cinema hall?”

In this paper, I will explore cinema halls as a site of intersection of women’s reform, nationalism and modernity in 1930s Bombay. Transitioning from the 1920s to the 1930s, cinema halls overcame their disreputable image as sites of moral corruption to become mainstream popular entertainment. However, my paper will argue that beyond functioning as exhibition venues, cinema halls were an active site where the public – especially women – could engage with contemporary political and social concerns. I will also look at how the film industry and cinema space itself were being represented in film narratives, and how the dynamics of this meta-commentary offer an insight into how Bombay cinema of the 1930s was re-imagining itself and its role in society.


PANEL 2C • Intertextual Politics of 80s and 90s Chinese Cinema

Panel Chair: Andrea Gelardi

HUIMIN DENG • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Intertextual Network of the Images of Migrant Workers Within Chinese Urban Cinema and Independent Documentary at the Turn of the 21th Century

Migrating from rural areas to urban areas, Chinese farmers become part of the urban working class. The migration has attracted both urban cinema and independent documentary to represent the integration of farmers into urban space. However, whether the figures of peasant workers in urban areas can be simply treated as the urban working class is problematic. Here I introduce the theories of textuality and intertextuality to explore the audiovisual representation of Chinese migrant workers within Chinese urban cinema and Chinese independent documentary at the turn of the 21st century, searching for the communal sign representation and social signification of peasant images within urban context. As a result, peasant workers are depicted as drifters between urban areas and rural areas because they are marginalized by local workers, urban elites, and urban governors due to the household registration system. Their identity, cultural manifestation, and social status are shaped by the rural-urban mediation, if not conflict.

LIFEI LIU • Visiting Scholar, East China Normal University

The Evolution of Parent-Child Relationship in Chinese Family Melodrama Films Since the 1980s

The Chinese traditional culture is a kind of introverted culture, which is family-centered, with an emphasis on the relationship by blood and ethical value. The concept of family order and parent-child relationship has been an important feature of traditional culture. This research tries to explore how the relations between father and son evolved. From 1980 to 1999, the order of traditional parent-son relationship began to invert and break the order because of the Chinese political changes and introduction of western literature. As the neo-conservatives tend to protect the traditional culture since 2000, the parent-child relationship show varied themes. On the one hand, some young director groups who standing in the position of “son” dissatisfied with the authority of “father”, but cannot leave their beloved parents. On the other hand, some other films show a more harmonious tendency: the fathers are affectionate and the sons are dutiful. To explore this kind of evolution can help us understand the relationship between the modern culture and traditional culture heritage and also show the similarity and difference between family themes and historical themes.


PANEL 2D • Objects and Otherness

Panel Chair: Souraj Dutta

ANA MARIA SAPOUNTZI • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Objects of Otherness: Laurence Olivier’s Queer Mr. Darcy

Laurence Olivier was one of the most idolised actors of the 20th century, and an international film star of the highest magnitude. Yet while existing scholarship on Olivier provides an extensive study of his career, and supplies ample research of his Shakespearean work, it notably neglects to engage with his Hollywood canon. Thus, Olivier is commonly positioned as a Shakespearean star within academic and cultural consciousness.

Drawing on notions of ‘camp’, and placing them in dialogue with seminal Queer theories, this paper will analyse Olivier’s performance as Mr. Darcy in Robert Z. Leonard’s Pride and Prejudice (USA, 1940), to identify his uniquely disruptive presence. By observing Olivier’s interaction with objects throughout the film, this paper will contend how Olivier’s onscreen persona manages to serve as a symbol of Otherness. This research is part of a larger thesis project which aims to examine an overlooked part of Olivier’s career, as to forge a new critical approach in the discourse surrounding the actor and recognising him as a queer star.

SOPHIE HOPMEIER • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

The Container and the Contained: Human Remains as Material Culture in Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau’s Le ciel et la boue (1961)

In 1962, the Musée de l’Homme trained cinematographer, Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau’s film, Le ciel et la boue, won an Academy Award for best documentary. The film traces an expedition through Netherlands New Guinea (present day Papua, Indonesia) to map unchartered territory and to capture a ‘stone age’ way of life, “armed with only cine-cameras”. In this presentation, I will explore the recurrent visual tropes of human skulls in the film, relating them to the history and development of Physical Anthropology in France and its relationship to French Ethnography and studies of material culture in the Musée de l’Homme. By isolating the dynamics of subject and objecthood in Gaisseau’s approach to skulls, I will ask how the film responds to the museum’s ambition to both understand and proselytise ‘the indivisibility of humanity across space and time’, and what the implications of this are for depictions of ‘otherness’ in the film, the museum and in a broader public imaginary.


PANEL 2E • Space and Performance

Panel Chair: Maria Fernanda Miño Puga

CASSICE LAST • 2nd Year Film Studies PhD, University of St Andrews

Survival Spaces and Character Agency

This paper examines the aesthetics, composition and behaviour of the cinematographic space created by the contemporary American survival film. By comparing survival film to survival video games, it examines how the created wilderness landscape influences the function of that particular space. Focusing primarily on character agency, this trans-media interrogation examines how different media create their spaces to forge a specific relationship between space, narrative and character.

By comparing 127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010) to three survival video games this paper compares the varying ‘design intensities’ of the created spaces. Where the survival video gameworlds function as a site of vast character potential and agency, the authored landscape encouraging extreme exploration and interactivity, the survival film uses its cinematographic survival space to naturalise its narrative and thematic developments in which the survival setting initially removes agency from the character. This paper eschews the notion of setting as the externalisation of character turmoil and instead argues that the film positions the setting as an autonomous figure actively impacting the narrative. Building upon Lefebvre’s work and the Affrons’ ‘set theory’ via film and video games, this paper examines how survival film complicates notions of landscape and setting, and the impact on character agency.

ALICE BLACK • 3nd Year Film Studies PhD (PT), University of St Andrews

Unspoken: Exploring the Relationship Between Performance and Production Design in Christian Petzold’s GDR Drama Barbara

The wave of contemporary German cinema in the Post-Wende era that focused on stories about the former GDR fell broadly into two distinct camps: films which retained an element of nostalgic fondness for life in East Germany and those which sought to expose its darker side as a police state.  Neither wistful nor entirely negative, Christian Petzold’s Barbara (2012), challenged these binary views by offering a more complex representation of living in a police state. Petzold declared that his GDR would be colourful, a place where birds sang and love blossomed but which also acknowledged spying neighbours and work camps.  The meticulous period detail which characterised Barbara’s production design however, was not created to achieve verisimilitude for the spectator.  Instead, the material texture of the locations, props and playback sound was designed specifically to inform, shape and enable the actors to achieve an “emotional authenticity” in their onscreen work. Using textual analysis of key scenes which foreground the connection between spaces, objects, diegetic sounds and non-verbal acting will demonstrate how performance becomes a key component not only in Petzold’s articulation of the past but in how performance enables the spectator to understand and invest in a world structured around codes, double-meaning, secrecy, and suppression.


May 3, 2018
May 4, 2018
Event Category:


Parliament Hall, South Street