Category Archives: Geography

Cinema and cartography

As a rule I try to keep posts that curate a small set of links to papers on the cinema arising outside film studies to the last Thursday of the month, but we need to bring this one forward by a week to give me time to do some other things for subsequent posts.

More excitingly, it gives me a chance to link my interest in the cinema to my interest in cartography. I am obsessed with maps (and satellite images and aerial photography too), and will quite happily spend hours looking an atlas. They are simply fascinating things. If you want to see map-making at its most fascinating then check out the Warren-Bachelder maps of the battle of Gettysburg here.

The best place to start is this introduction to a special issue of The Cartographic Journal.

Caquard S and Taylor F 2009 What is cinematic cartography?, The Cartographic Journal 46 (1): 5-8.

Maps are ubiquitous in movies. They appear constantly and in a variety of forms: hung on the wall of a classroom, framed in an office, and unfolded by gangsters on a table. In movies maps serve a variety of purposes: They serve as decoration, as a means of location, to aid narration, as metaphors as well as to increase the dramatic tension of a sequence. They can play a prominent role in the unfolding of the action or appear only for a split second behind a closing door. They can serve to address the audience or as a mean of interaction between characters. They can be classic and static, or unique and dynamic. This pervasive presence of diverse cartographic artifacts in films contrasts dramatically with the marginal impact that cinematographic techniques, concepts and artifacts have had on cartography over the course of the last century. There has been substantial use of cartography in cinema but this has had very limited impact on the theory and practice of cartography.

From the same issue we have Sébastien Caquard’s article on digital cartography and its relation to cinema.

Caquard S 2009 Foreshadowing contemporary digital cartography: a historical review of cinematic maps in films, The Cartographic Journal 46 (1): 46-55.

Through an historical review of cinematic maps – or ‘cinemaps’ – this paper argues that contemporary digital cartography was conceptualized in films. This argument is first developed through a discussion of the emergence of animated maps in docudramas of the 1910s. These early cinemaps were followed by more sophisticated examples that foreshadowed the structure and design principles of ‘modern’ cartography. The cinemap that appears in the movie M (Fritz Lang, 1931) can be considered the first ‘modern’ map as it prefigures many of the current functions of contemporary digital cartography such as the combination image/map, use of sound, shifts in perspective and spatial analysis. The remaining functions of digital cartography, including zooming and live data rendering, were conceptualized in cinema by the 1960s, as illustrated by examples from movies such as Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove and Goldfinger. When professional cartographers were creating their first animated maps, most of the functions of contemporary digital cartography had already been implemented in cinema. Building on these results, the paper anticipates the future incursion of mapping technologies into interpersonal, confidential and private spaces through the study of contemporary cinemaps.

From a leter issue in the same volume we also have an interesting dialogue between a catrographer (Caquard) and a filmmaker (Amelia Bryne).

Caquard S and Bryne A 2009 Mapping globalization: a conversation between a filmmaker and a cartographer, The Cartographic Journal 46 (4): 372-378.

This paper is an edited version of a written dialogue that took place between the fall of 2008 and the summer of 2009 between a filmmaker (Amelia Bryne) and a cartographer (Sébastien Caquard) around the issue of representing globalization. In these conversations we define some of the key means for representing globalization in both mapmaking and filmmaking discussing local/global, strategic/tactical, data/narrative, and unique/multiple perspectives. We conclude by emphasizing the potential impact of new media in ushering in hybrid digital products that merge means of representation traditional to filmmaking and cartography.

And now for some other papers:

Barnet M-C 2011 ‘Elles-Ils Islands:’ cartography of lives and deaths by Agnès Varda, L’Esprit Crateur 51 (1): 97-111.

My article will analyze some of [Agnès Varda’s] latest projects, the (nomadic, international) art installations that she invents, modulates, and thoughtfully adapts or alters, according to different spaces and cities. They follow therefore the location-scouting process of her films, driven by discovering places and people. I will focus on her relatively “new waves” and (mis)directions given in L’Île et Elle, her monumental efforts to recreate her world linked to the Île de Noir-moutier, if not to say the big expanse of the Atlantic ocean, around the twenty kilometre-long island, off the Western coast of France, which was her major exhibition at the Fondation Cartier in 2006, with echoes of her touring exhibitions of sea huts and portraits in Sète (2007) and Basel (2010).

Lukinbeal C 2010 Mobilizing the cartographic paradox: tracing the aspect of cartography and prospect of cinema, Digital Thematic Education 11 (2): 1-32.

Understanding the contrast and challenge of cinematic cartographies may lie in querying what John Pickles (2004, p.89) calls the “cartographic paradox.” The cartographic paradox is that linear perspective and projectionism inform cartographic practice. Yet, these two scopic regimes are both complementary and contradictory. The cartographic paradox has been mobilized by montage, animation and motion pictures. The penultimate technology of linear perspective is cinema, whereas the penultimate technology of projectionism is GIS and animated cartography. I argue that understanding the mobilization of these scopic regimes may lead to the production of affective geovisualizations.

Patch AM 2010 Nicolas Roeg/Chromatic Cartography, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Exeter.

The aim of this thesis is to analyse the function of colour in film through three films by British director Nicolas Roeg. To this end, this thesis has the following three correspondent aims: first to consider the theoretical relationship between colour and film within film studies as a discipline. Second, to propose a means of discussing film colour outside the dominant approach of restoration and degradation. Third to explore how Roeg’s implements colour within three of his films Performance, Don’t Look Now, and finally Bad Timing, and the ideological and aesthetic questions that emerge through a consideration of colour in these works. By looking at colour and Nicolas Roeg this thesis will not only present a critical response to the research question but it will also fill a small gap in the current dearth of work that exists on both colour and British cinema in the 1970s.

The geographies of cinema II

This week some more links looking at geographies of film. The first post in this series with lots of other links, is here.

(As ever, the version of a paper linked to may not be the final published version).

But before we get to the papers, it is worth taking some time to visit Aether: The Journal of Media Geography, an open-access journal edited by Jim Craine, Jason Dittmer, and Chris Lukinbeal.

Aether offers a forum that examines the geography of media, including cinema, television, the Internet, music, art, advertising, newspapers and magazines, video and animation. It is our goal to provide a space for contributions to current issues surrounding these media, beginning with constructions of space & place, cultural landscapes, society, and identity.

The editorial from issue 1 can be accessed here: Lukinbeal C, Craine J, and Dittmer J 2007 Aether: A Prospectus, Aether: The Journal of Media Geography 1: 1-3.

Alderman DH and Popke EJ 2002 Humor and film in the geography classroom: learning from Michael Moore’s TV Nation, Journal of Geography 101: 228-239.

How can teachers use humour and film to convert geography classrooms into public spaces for thinking and talking about the world in a critical way? One useful resource for raising student consciousness and critical discussion is TV Nation-a satirical television newsmagazine show created, produced, and hosted by rebel filmmaker Michael Moore in the mid 1990s. TV Nation not only serves as a potential instructional resource for geographers but also provides teacher and student a springboard for re-thinking humor and television news as analytical/educational objects. Moore challenges the popular notion that humor should not be taken seriously. By combining laughter with harsh reality, he questions the legitimacy of established ways of seeing the world and provides a unique way of discussing the socially constructed and contested nature of space and place. TV Nation also challenges the value traditionally placed on claims of neutrality and objectivity in conventional television news narratives. By making his own perspectives clearly known, Moore exposes the positionality inherent in all media representations of place. Included in this paper is an annotated list of TV Nation segments available on video and a description of how one of these news segments was used in a college-level classroom to teach about the complexities and contradictions of free trade and globalization.

Aitken SC and Dixon DP 2006 Imagining geographies of film, Erdkunde 60 (4): 326-336.

To the extent that the geographic study of film has come of age, it is important to not only tie it to disciplinary issues but also to push theoretical boundaries. Geographic concern is often lacking a critical perspective, focusing primarily on the geographic realism of films rather than how they produce meaning. Geographers needed to elaborate insights through critical spatial theories, so that our studies are not only about filmic representations of space but are also about the material conditions of lived experience and everyday social practices. With this essay, we argue for more critical film geographies. In doing so, we note how a series of traditional and emergent geographic ‘primitives’ – landscapes, spaces/spatialities, mobilities, scales and networks – are reappraised and push disciplinary boundaries for geography and film studies in general.

Chanan M 1997 The changing geography of third cinema, Screen 38 (4): 372-388.

The next paper is not strictly relevant to film studies – it belongs firmly in the culture wars of the 1990s; but it adopts such an odd way of arguing about the relationship between science and postmodernism (via Mary Poppins as an allegory) that I thought it worth including.

Dixon DP and Jones JP 1996 For a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious scientific geography, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 86 (4): 767-779.

Contemporary geographic thought finds scientific approaches triangulated by critiques launched by various political economy, feminist, and poststructuralist positions. In aiming their conceptual arsenal at fixed understandings of scientific geography, however, such critiques run the danger of essentializing their intended target. Moreover, in the consequent stabilization of the trajectories taken by these critiques, the process of criticism itself becomes an unreflexive exercise. In this paper we deploy the resources of poststructuralism to achieve an antiessentialist reading of scientific geography that moves beyond mere repudiation and seeks instead to identify a redemptive moment within this constellation of ideas and practices. To do so, we draw upon a modern-day parable–Mary Poppins–whose film version we read as offering a panoramic on theoretical divisions in geography. Though ostensibly a story about an all-too-perfect nanny, the film’s key protagonists serve as allegorical figures animating our analysis. Fortunately for all concerned, the banker/patriarch comes to the realization that he too can countermand rather than reproduce the fixed spaces of everyday life.

Engert S and Spencer A 2009 International relations at the movies: teaching and learning about international politics through film, Perspectives 17 (1): 83-103.

For mainstream Political Science, ‘popular culture’ is still not considered worthy of serious investigation. Similarly, the idea of using movies as a pedagogical tool has remained at the margins. Nevertheless, film can be a valuable means of teaching university students about politics and international politics in particular. This paper identifies four distinct ways of using movies as a teaching tool: the first approach uses film to portray historical events such as the Cold War, and the second utilizes film to debate specific issues in international politics such as terrorism or genocide. The third approach examines movies as cultural narratives– e.g. anti-Americanism in Turkey –, while the fourth uses film to explain and criticize IR theories (here, for example, Post-Modernism is discussed with the help of the movie Pulp Fiction). The article examines the strengths and weaknesses of using film in the IR classroom in general and illustrates each of the four approaches by using examples from movies.

Kennedy C and Lukinbeal C 1997 Towards a holistic approach to geographic research on film, Progress in Human Geography 21 (1): 33-50.

Geographers’ interest in film has increased during the last 20 years. Methodological and theoretical perspectives tend, however, to be bipolar and reflect either cognitive or social approaches. Work reflecting these approaches is reviewed with geographic research grounded in transactionalism and postmodernism as examples. A geographic view of film that recognizes the importance of more than one theoretical framework, positions the cognitive and social in a continuum reaching from the individual to the societal, and makes traditional notions of scale antiquated is recommended. Research by geographers contesting the assumed objectivity in documentaries is reviewed as are geographers’ contributions to understanding the construction of meaning of urban and natural settings in films. Suggestions for future directions in film research are made.

Schlottman A and Miggelbrink J 2009 Visual geographies – an editorial, Social Geography 4 (1): 1-11.

This paper is about the relationship between the visual and geography in lots of different ways and does not focus specifically on film, but its concerns are relevant to geographies of cinema and its list of references is useful.

Weissbrod R 2008 Israeli literature and cinema in a web of intercultural relations: the reconciliation of conflicts on screen, Borderlands 7 (1):

One way of establishing intercultural contacts is to produce a cinematic adaptation of a literary work originating in another country. The present article examines three adaptations in which Israeli culture is involved: Lost Lover, directed by Roberto Faenza (1999), which is based on Avraham B. Yehoshua’s The Lover (1977); The Island on Bird Street, directed by Søren Kragh-Jacobsen (1997), which is based on a novel by Uri Orlev (1981); and Saint Clara, directed by Ari Folman and Ori Sivan (1996), which is based on The Ideas of Saint Clara (1986 [1981]) by the Czechs Jelena Masínová and Pavel Kohout. Films usually re-shape their literary sources, seeking to adapt them to new circumstances and to a new audience. A significant modification of the source is likely to take place when the transfer from literature to cinema is also an intercultural one. In the era of trans-national media, account should also be taken of the possibility that the filmmakers might endeavor to make the film universally acceptable rather than adapting it to a specific target culture. Against this background, the article examines how the films under consideration depoliticize (in the terminology of Barthes) historical, ideological and political issues referred to in the novels, replacing controversial stands with widely accepted values such as peace and love, probably in order to increase their appeal to diverse audiences. This applies especially to the treatment of Zionist ideology and history which the films prefer to marginalize or evade rather than criticize or endorse.

Finally, Cinema City was a course aimed at postgraduates run by Majilis, Max Mueller, and SNDT Women’s University in October 2010. The website for the course is here, and by going to ‘course infromation’ and then clicking on ‘resource materials,’ you can access lots of online papers on the cinema in urban space, Wim Wenders, spectatorial rights, Hindi cinema, and many other things.

Research on the British film industry

This week a collection of works on the British film industry from an economic perspective. It is easy to find articles by economists on the Hollywood film industry, but there appears to much less available if you want to look at the film industry in the UK. What analysis of filmmaking in the UK there is rarely makes it into film studies publications, and so hopefully this list will get people to cross over and to take ideas and data from one arena into the other. It is worth taking a moment to reflect for a moment that so much research is focused on the analysis of film production, which does not make much sense in a distribution-led industry. This is also a problem for film policy in the UK, which focuses almost exclusively on production measures (tax incentives, subsidies for filmmakers) without addressing the issue of distribution. But then for policy makers, like film scholars, production is sexy and distribution isn’t.

As ever, the version available on line may be a pre-print of a finished article so make sure you check before citing anything.

First, Robin MacPherson at Napier University has recently made his latest research available here. (This can also apparently be accessed through Napier’s research respository, but it didn’t work when I tried it).

MacPherson R 2010 Is bigger better? Film success in small countries – the case of Scotland, Ireland and Denmark.


Small European countries with low levels of film production might be expected to suffer from diseconomies of scale and other structural disadvantages that would tend to produce a lower ratio of ‘hits’ to ‘flops’ than larger countries. Analysis of Scottish, Irish and Danish data suggests that, despite significantly different levels of production, the distribution of ‘hits’ is in fact very similar and consistent with the Paretian distribution of audiences and revenues in major markets such as the United States and others. The skewed distribution of cinema audiences in Scotland, Ireland and Denmark appears to confirm the ‘scale independent’ importance of a small number of unpredictable highperforming ‘outliers’ in determining total and average audience/revenues. Analysis of overall production levels and aggregate audience share for domestic films in several small countries reveals a correlation that emerges once production exceeds a critical level. A predictive model of how revenues are distributed as production levels increase is tested. The implications of a consistent pattern of film success for film funding policy in small countries are discussed and avenues for further research suggested.

Blair H 2003 Winning and losing in flexible labour markets: the formation and operation of networks of interdependence in the UK film industry, Sociology 37 (4): 677-694.

Elliot C and Simmons R 2008 Determinants of UK box office success: the impact of quality signals, Review of Industrial Organisation, 33 (2): 93-111.

This paper analyses the roles of various quality signals in the demand for cinema attendance in the United Kingdom. Estimation of a three-stage least squares model with data for 527 films released in the United Kingdom shows that the impacts of advertising and critical reviews on box office revenues vary both in channels and magnitudes of impact. Our model treats total advertising as endogenous, alongside the number of opening screens and total box office revenues, while critical reviews are considered exogenous. Our results show that total advertising affects total box office revenue while responding endogenously to critical reviews.

Gornostaeva G 2008 The film and television industry in London’s suburbs: lifestyle of the rich or losers’ retreat?, Creative Industries Journal 1 (1): 47-71.

Nachum L and Keeble D 1999 A Marshallian approach to the eclectic paradigm of foreign investment: the clustering of film TNCS in central London, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 119. (This seems to take a long time to download, and being impatient I right-clicked and and downloaded the file using ‘Save link as …’ This may also be the case for other papers from the ESRC centre at Cambridge).

Nachum L and Keeble D 2000 Foreign and indigenous firms in the media cluster of central London, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 154.

Pratt AC 2007 ‘Imagination can be a damned curse in this country:’ material geographies of filmmaking and the rural, in R Fish (ed.) Cinematic Countrysides. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 127-46.

Pratten S and Deakin S 1999 Competitiveness policy and economic organisation: the case of the British film industry, ESRC Centre for Business Research, Working Paper 127.

Tirtaine C 2007 Évolution des relations entre État et cinéma au Royaume-Uni (1979-2005), Revue LISA/LISA e-journal 5 (1): (NB: this article is in French).

A government can adopt two different stances regarding its domestic film industry. It may choose to support and protect it because of its cultural remit – or it may treat it like any other industry and adopt a laissez-faire attitude and let market forces determine its fate. The latter stance was adopted by the Thatcher government, which abolished the support system and protectionist measures from which British film had benefited for decades and granted it only few subsidies. The government severed almost all the existing links between the film industry and the State. These non-interventionist policies undoubtedly contributed to the dramatic drop in the number of British films produced and the chronic difficulties which the film industry experienced in the 1980s. The relationships between the government and the film industry have since changed considerably. The creation of the Film Council and the existence of a Film Minister within the government have definitely contributed to reinstating a dialogue between the industry and the government. State support in favour of film has increased dramatically in the past decade, with the introduction of tax incentives and new subsidies, which mostly derive from National Lottery revenues. The State’s investment in film is thus mainly indirect and it is clear that the government, by supporting British cinema, has in mind not only its contribution to the country’s culture but also to its economy. By changing the legal definition of a British film in order to entice into the UK foreign investors who want to benefit from attractive tax incentives, the government triggered an increase in the number of co-productions and foreign films shot in the UK – at the risk of undermining the identity of British cinema, and thus, the country’s culture.

Finally, to turn to Hollywood W.D. Walls’ list of publications of his research, much of it co-authoured with Andy De Vany and most of it freely available, can be accessed here, and is an example of an economic approach to distribution that is sadly lacking when we turn to British cinema.

The geographies of cinema

This week some interesting papers on the subject of the geography of cinema, which covers a wide range of topic from the political economy of film industries to the representation of space in cinema. As ever, this list is not comprehensive, but has a selection of interesting papers I have come across.

For each paper I give the reference of the published version, but the version linked to may be a pre-print, a web version, working paper, or a technical report and so page references, formatting, etc., may be different and this should be kept in mind if you want to quote from this research. Most of the files are pdfs.

You can access my papers on British film and geography here (on Manchester in 24 Hour Party People) and here (on London in Notting Hill and South West 9). Other references are given on the page about me.

Alanen A 2008 The structure of Finnish film production at the enterprise level, Tieto & Trendit Journal of Statistics Finland 3/2008.

Alanen A 2008 In Hollywood or in the backwood?, Tieto & Trendit Journal of Statistics Finland 5/2008.

Arrowsmith C, Verhoeven D, and Davidson A (n.d.) A method for detecting geographical cinema circuits using Markov Chains.

Curti GH 2008 The ghost in the city and a landscape of life: a reading of difference in Shirow and Oshii’s Ghost in the Shell, Environment and Planning D 28: 87-106.

Dell’agnese E 2005 The US–Mexico border in American movies: a political geography perspective, Geopolitics 10: 204-221.

Escher A 2006 The geography of cinema – a cinematic world, Erdkunde 60 (4): 307-314.

Eliashberg J, Elberse A, and Leendera MAAM (2006) The motion picture industry: critical issues in practice,current research, and new research directions, Marketing Science 25 (6): 638-661. [The link to this article appears to have been broken, and so it has been removed].

Falicov TL 2002 Film policy under MERCOSUR: the case of Uruguay, Canadian Journal of Communication 27 (1).

Gamir A and Manuel C 2007 Cinema and geography: geographic space, landscape and territory in the film industry, Boletin de la asociacion de geografos españoles 45: 407-410.

Lorenzen M 2008 Creativity at Work: On the Globalization of the Film Industry, Creative Encounters Working Papers 8.

Lukinbeal C 2002 Teaching historical geographies of American film production, Journal of Geography 101: 250-260.

Lukinbeal C 2004 The map that precedes the territory: an introduction to essays in cinematic geography, GeoJournal 59 (4): 247-251.

Lukinbeal C 2005 Cinematic landscapes, Journal of Cultural Geography 23 (1): 3-22.

Lukinbeal C 2006 Runaway Hollywood: Cold Mountain, Romania, Erkunde 60 (4): 337-345.

Lukinbeal C and Zimmermann S 2006 Film geography: a new subfield, Erkunde 60 (4): 315-326.

Mezias JM and Mezias SJ 2000 Resource partioning, the founding of specialist firms, and innovation: the American feature film industry, 1912-1929, Organization Science 11 (3): 306-322.

Mould O 2008 Moving images: world cities, connections and projects in Sydney’s TV production industry, Global Networks 8 (4): 474-495.

Richardson S 2005 Welcome to the cheap seats: cinemas, sex and landscape, Industrial Archaeology Review 27: 145-152.

Scott AJ 2002 A new map of Hollywood: the production and distribution of American motion pictures, Regional Studies 36 (9): 957-975.

Scott AJ (n.d.) A new map of Hollywood and the World.

Turok I 2003 Cities, clusters, and creative industries: the case of film and TV in Scotland, European Planning Studies 11 (5): 549-565.

Vang J and Chaminade C 2007 Global-local linkages, spillovers, and cultural clusters: theoretical and empirical insights from an exploratory study of Toronto’s film cluster, Industry and Innovation 14 (4): 401-420.