Category Archives: Visual Geographies

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.