Issues

60.3 Spring 2021

Spotlights

Spotlight: The SCMS Latino/a Caucus

Vinodh Venkatesh, Arcelia Gutiérrez, Orquidea Morales, and Crystal Camargo

Given the state of US and global politics today (which includes a pandemic, deadly policing, rampant xenophobia, and racism that disproportionately marginalizes people of color), work done by members of the Latino/a Caucus has never been more relevant. Even though we work with media produced in a variety of languages and national contexts, our scholarship shares common ground in that it bridges cultures and academies, seeking points of contact between a multitude of mediums, productions, and epistemologies. We pride ourselves on the intersectional nature of our scholarship, as we routinely address diverse matrices of race, sex, gender, sexuality, social and economic class, language, colonialism, and national origin, to provide just a few examples.

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Spotlight: Q&A with Black Caucus Co-Chairs Nsenga Burton and Mark Cunningham

Interview by Samantha N. Sheppard

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Research Articles

Sporting Sensations: Béla Balázs and the Bergfilm Camera Operator

Katie Bird

Abstract: This article demonstrates how sport cinematography in the German Bergfilm (mountain film) genre stirred spectators’ embodied experiences by showcasing the athleticism of mountaineering camera operators. To explain these “sporting sensations,” I examine the Bergfilm through the Weimar writings of Béla Balázs. Balázs theorizes how technicians, in their work of camera setups and visual linkage, produced an “immediate presence” between their own consciousness and the experience of film spectators. The Bergfilm’s sporting cinematography epitomized Balázs’s writing on Weimar sport, body culture, and production consciousness, reflecting a broader international discourse about embodied production and spectatorship.

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Licking for the Nation: Auntie Genealogies in Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Rak ti Khon Kaen

Iggy Cortez

Abstract: This article examines “the auntie” as a vital allegorical trope for cinema and the nation in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Rak ti Khon Kaen (Cemetery of Splendor, 2015). Tracing the auntie’s association with oblique and culturally undervalued modes of kinship, I explore how her figuration in the film offers alternative channels through which to imagine the historical development of the nation-state as well as cinema’s institutional and technological parameters. As a heuristic lens, the auntie symbolizes how the intergenerational dialogue between newer and older media can provide alternative coordinates for national belonging, thus resisting the patrilinear logic of a resurgent nationalism in Thailand.

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Slower Cinema: Violence, Affect, and Spectatorship in Las elegidas

Olivia Cosentino

Abstract: Responding to a wider trend in Mexican cultural production that seeks creative approaches to violence, David Pablos’s Las elegidas (The Chosen Ones, 2015) treats sex trafficking through a strategy that I call slower cinema. This geopolitically situated category is characterized by affectively engaged spectatorship and a refusal of exploitative graphic violence. I trace how disjunctures of sound and image open affective circuits into what Brian Massumi and Gilles Deleuze term the virtual. In this space, spectators may gain embodied awareness of the lived paradoxes of Mexico’s objective and systemic violence where the lines blur between victim and victimizer, innocence and complicity.

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Pocahontas and Settler Colonialism in Early Film, 1907-1910

Agata Frymus

Abstract: This article examines promotional material linked to Pocahontas, Child of the Forest (Edwin S. Porter, 1907) and Pocahontas (director unknown, 1910), placing them in the wider debates about colonialism, film exhibition, authenticity, and the role of film as an educational medium in the early 1900s. Since its emergence, cinema played a pivotal role in promulgating the ideas of assimilation into dominant, white Protestant values. As American society was becoming increasingly heterogeneous, Pocahontas, an Indigenous woman central to the national mythologies of the United States, offered a problematic model of cultural integration.

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Unfinished Bodies: The Sticky Materiality of Prosthetic Effects

Kartik Nair

Abstract: How do we sense, and make sense of, disturbing traces of the material world of filmmaking when they appear onscreen? This article explores the felt presence of prosthetic effects in popular American and Indian horror films of the 1980s. I argue that the perceptible thereness of prosthetics can unexpectedly intensify the meaning and feeling of the film in which it appears. At the same time, prosthetic effects can also force an encounter with the non-signifying thingness of bodies, spaces, and accidents recorded in the profilmic event— an unmastered materiality that gives heft to and haunts contemporary digital visual effects.

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Reading the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Avengers' Intertextual Aesthetic

James C. Taylor

Abstract: This article argues that reading films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) requires attention to their various modes of intertextuality, which are derived from both Hollywood cinema and comic books. I examine the ways in which MCU films adapt narrative and stylistic strategies developed in superhero comic books to manage complex networks of texts. These adaptive practices produce an intertextual aesthetic that harnesses relations with other texts in an effort to make individual films and the wider fictional universe coherent. Close analysis of The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012) reveals how MCU films’ intertextual aesthetic shapes their sociopolitical meanings by carrying over and reconfiguring meanings from other texts.

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