2021 – B1: Film Cities and Histories

Chair: Virginia Crisp

Film Studios and the Eternal City: Rome’s Political Governance and Spaces of Film Production
Carla Mereu Keating (University of Bristol)

Abstract: In the late 1920s Mussolini’s government openly favoured Rome as the centre from where to kickstart an intensive state-funded production programme. Italy’s capital city hosted pioneering film production facility Cines (1905-37), the first ever to be built and the first ever to produce sound films in Italy, and a number of silent film studios. Inspired by Lefebvre’s triadic conceptualisation of social space (c1991), I observe the tensions that exist between film studios’ spatiality and nationalistic policies, arguing for the importance of understanding that sites and practices of film production did not exist in a void, but dynamically in relation to other spatial representations and practices. Focusing on the history of the Cines studios, I locate their infrastructural growth in the context of Rome’s rapid urbanisation and shed light on the complex interaction among real estate investments, urban planning and innovations in the film industry. By considering the forces behind Cines’ unsustainable expansion I argue that we can better understand the genesis, and longevity, of its successor Cinecittà.

Bio: Carla Mereu Keating is a Research Associate in the Department of Film and Television of the University of Bristol, working on the European Research Council (ERC)-funded project STUDIOTEC: Infrastructure, Culture and Innovation in Britain, France, Italy and Germany (1930-60) (Principal Investigator Professor Sarah Street, University of Bristol). From 2016 to 2019, Carla was a British Academy Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the School of Modern Languages at the University of Bristol where she teaches translation and international film distribution. She has also been a visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Cultural Memory, University of London. Carla is the author of The Politics of Dubbing (Oxford, Peter Lang 2016) and has published articles and chapters on the history of film censorship, distribution and audiovisual translation. Her work looks at the industrial, political, aesthetic, spatial and material issues which underpin the production and circulation of film and media across language barriers. She is also interested in the transnational construction, circulation and reception of images of Italy and Italians, and particularly in the commercial and institutional agencies and policies that foster or hinder these exchanges.

Imposter Cities
Lawrence Bird (University of Manitoba)

Abstract: Today’s multiple modes of media, and globalized visual narrative production have eroded the “cinematic city” as a conceptual construct. Architecture is implicated in similar processes. Cities and their representation thus become, even more than originally noted by Dziga Vertov, Frankenstein spaces. Hence the focus of the Canadian pavilion of the 2020/2021 Venice Biennale in Architecture, “Impostor Cities”, on how regional cities come to stand in for cities elsewhere in film, television and streaming platforms. This paper takes the city of Winnipeg as a case study. Canada’s most central city is recognized as a centre of independent film production – Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg (2007) being just one example. But it is also the site of numerous international productions, for example film Flag Day (Sean Penn, in post-production), television’s The No End House (Steven Piet, 2017), and Amazon Prime’s production Tales from the Loop (Mark Romanek et. al., 2020). The city’s diverse and relatively compact urban fabric allows multiple locations and time periods to be shot in close proximity, and the city to be cast as generic with relative ease. But productions also frequently harvest the specificity of this urban fabric: the city’s grit, brokenness, and poignancy. That fabric inscribes a colonial, and capitalist, urban history that makes this environment representative of many other cities globally – and perhaps it is for this reason that it can so well stand in for them. The paper identifies specific spaces, genres and qualities of harvested space, placing them in the context of a colonial history shared with many “elsewheres”. It also ties this phenomenon to a contemporary reality in which international production of both architecture and moving images build on – and occasionally critique – a history of global colonization, industrialization and resource extraction.

Bio: Dr. Lawrence Bird is an architect and media artist. His artistic practice, which has been exhibited internationally, focuses on the image of space, particularly satellite images. Dr. Bird teaches as a sessional instructor in the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Manitoba. His teaching focuses on mediated spaces, most recently in the seminar Shadow Cities related to the subject of this paper. Lawrence also writes, including for Leonardo. He is currently co-editing a book on the Warming Huts, an annual pop-up art and architectural project that takes place on Winnipeg’s frozen rivers (Dalhousie Architectural Press, 2021). He practices architecture at Sputnik Architecture, which focuses on work between art and social practise. Lawrence’s dissertation (McGill, 2009) addressed versions of the Metropolis story in film, manga, and anime. He holds a professional degree in architecture (McGill, 1991), and a Master’s degree in City Design & Social Science (London, 2000). His research has been funded by SSHRC, FQRSC, the Canada Council for the Arts, Manitoba Arts Council, and Winnipeg Arts Council.

Yogyakarta as a 1946-1949 Indonesia Film Capital
Dyna Herlina Suwarto (University of Nottingham)

Abstract: This essay examines the role of Yogyakarta’s prominent position in the 1946-1949 Indonesia media landscape by analyzing the transformation of the film capital from Jakarta to Yogyakarta because of the revolutionary war. In the short period, four leading film stakeholders such as the Ministry of Information, Berita Film Indonesia (Indonesian Film Newsreel/BFI), Cinedrama Institute and Stiching Hiburan Mataram/Kino Drama Atelier attracted talent pool, accumulated capital and weaved industrial infrastructure to produce and distribute documentary films as well as assemble as much as possible knowledge about the feature film industry. According to official and newspaper archives analysis, it is revealed the state played the most crucial part to provide film production equipment, built domestic and foreign distribution channel and established the film institute. Instead of financial benefit, the state would like to grab the political advantage as domestic and foreign legitimation of Indonesia independence over the Dutch. This paper point out the significant contribution of Yogyakarta during the turbulent years to provide a stable sanctuary for the nationalist filmmakers to help the state gain Indonesia sovereignty as well as to cumulate financial, equipment, skill and knowledge capital for and their future carrier.

Bio: Dyna Herlina Suwarto is a PhD student of the Film and Television Program, University of Nottingham. She is the founder of some film organizations in Indonesia such as Rumah Sinema (Cinema House), Jogja Netpac Asian Film Festival, KAFEIN (Kajian Film Indonesian/Indonesian Film Researcher Association). Her research interest is related to media industries and audience studies. Her current project is about Yogyakarta film culture.

Positioning Cinema in Tokyo’s Urban Cultural Policies in the 1980s – “cinema as culture” at meta-policy and practical levels
Hao Wen (Warwick /Nagoya)

Abstract: This paper looks at cinema’s intersection with Tokyo’s urban cultural policies in the 1980s by looking at both the constitution of “cinema as culture” in political discourse at a meta-policy level and the implementation of “cinema as culture” in cultural institutions and film festivals at a practical level. This paper enters the topic by scrutinizing the changing conception of “culture” in Tokyo’s urban planning throughout the city’s post-war history. The emergence of “bunka toshi” (city of culture) as political discourse in the 1980s implies a cultural turn of Tokyo’s official urban planning. This paper elaborates on how cinema was conceived by the government officials and urban planners of Tokyo to facilitate the city’s cultural transition of the period by examining the official documents and news reports. This paper takes 1) the establishment and development of official cultural institutions like the Tokyo International Film Culture Promotion Committee and the Japan Foundation; 2) the launch of the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF) as two central sites to investigate how cinema (as an embodiment of Tokyo’s urban cultural policies) was officially practiced under the bandwagon of urban culture in the 1980s’ Tokyo by adopting a qualitative analysis of these institutions’ official documents (i.e. catalogs). This research proposes the necessity of situating the phenomenon back to capitalist societies’ general condition concerning the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s. While the tension within and in-between actors on different geopolitical scales, namely the officials of Tokyo (the municipal), the Japanese government (the national), and the film festival circle (the international), will also be taken into consideration. Combining the analysis of both meta-policy and practical levels, this paper aims to configure the intricate relationship between urban policy and cinema and reconsider Tokyo’s position in film culture and vice versa.

Bio: Hao Wen is a Ph.D. student at the University of Warwick-Nagoya University Co-Tutelle Ph.D. Programme in Global Screen Studies. His research interests include independent film culture and film festivals in Japan and the dynamic relationship between city and cinema. His current project explores cultural policy, film practice, and representation regarding the city of Tokyo in the 1980s and 1990s. Hao is also active in film programming, film festival reports, film criticism, film reviews, and film interviews. Hao has curated the Chinese-Japanese Women’s Film Exhibition series in Shanghai (sponsored by The Japan Foundation, Beijing and DEEPFOCUS) and the Approaching Japanese Cinema through Independent Filmmaking in Asia screening online (sponsored by Nagoya University). Hao’s wired personality “Methy” composes film reviews and criticism on Chinese media like DEEPFOCUS, and World Screen.