City Cinema and Media
The 8th Baltic Sea Region Film Conference
20–21 October 2023, Vilnius, Lithuania
A. Goštauto st. 2, Vilnius
Programme | 20 October
9:15 - 9:45 | Registration
9:45 - 10:00 | Welcome
10:00 - 10:45 | Opening presentation “Postcard from the future” by Ievgeniia Gubkina and Tatjana Kononenko
Screening of the film “You See, Time Becomes Space Here” (Ukraine, 2022) and conversation between the authors Ievgeniia Gubkina and Tatjana Kononenko
When we embarked on the creation process of our short documentary, our initial intention was to explore the phenomenon of power within and through urban space. The development of the film unfolded amidst the Covid-19 lockdown of 2020. Much of our work took place in a virtual and remote manner. Behind the entire process lay our methods, techniques, experiences, perspectives, and even family stories gathered from seemingly distinct fields, filmmaking and architecture. Nevertheless, everything inevitably sprang forth from our conversations and dialogues conducted behind the scenes. The result served as a reflection of who we were during that specific period in time.
Against the backdrop of a full-scale war in Ukraine, the film assumed a new dimension. To our mutual surprise, the words from our pre-war past began to resonate as if they had been uttered from the future. Seizing this opportunity to address the audience of the Baltic Sea Region Film Conference, we would like to pause in our state of wonder and embark on a fresh round of virtual discussions concerning urban space, time, and power.
Ievgeniia Gubkina is a Ukrainian architect, architectural and urban historian, and curator. Her work focuses on architecture and urban planning of the 20th century in Ukraine, with a multidisciplinary approach to heritage studies. She is a co-founder of Urban Forms Center, a leading Ukrainian non-governmental organisation that specialises in the study, preservation, and popularisation of architectural and cultural heritage. Ievgeniia is the author of the books Slavutych: Architectural Guide (2015) and Soviet Modernism. Brutalism. Post-Modernism. Buildings and Structures in Ukraine 1955–1991 (2019). In 2020–2021, Ievgeniia curated the Encyclopedia of Ukrainian Architecture, an online multimedia project that encompassed architecture, history, criticism, cinema, and visual arts. In 2022, after Russia started the war against Ukraine, she was compelled to leave her hometown, Kharkiv, and found asylum in the UK, becoming a Randolph Quirk Fellow at UCL. In 2023, DOM Publishers released her latest book, Being a Ukrainian Architect During Wartime, offering insights into her experiences against the backdrop of the war.
Tatjana Kononenko, born in 1980 in Kirovograd, Ukraine, currently lives and works between Nicosia, Kyiv, and Berlin. She graduated in Media and Communication at UDK Berlin. Until 2019, she took part in the film directing program of the German National Film and Television Academy (DFFB). She was a fellow of the Elsa Neumann Programme of the Berlin Senate for especially promising artists. Tatjana Kononenko has been working with video and photography in projects often dealing with the issues of memory and history. Her first short documentary, Keep Out, premiered at the 13th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in 2009. The Building is her first full-length and graduation film at the German National Film Academy (DFFB). Tatjana Kononenko has been working with film and as curator (Living Archive Arsenal, Docudays UA, CineDoc Tbilissi) in projects often dealing with the issues of memory and history. At the moment, she is working on her new feature film, 18° Below Horizon (WT), dealing with the question of transgenerational family trauma, rooted in horrible crime committed by Stalin and his government on Ukrainian people in 1933 – Holodomor. Besides her main activity as a filmmaker, Tatyana Kononenko is currently actively involved in volunteer projects to help Ukraine against the Russian war of aggression.
Keep Out (Essay film, 15min, UdK Berlin 2009) (DAAD Begabtenforderung, Premiere: 13th Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival 2009, Short Film festival Konstanz 2009)
Medea “Will We Be Free?”, She Asked Suddenly (Fiction, 45min, DFFB 2013)
The Building (Documentary on Soviet Architecture Constructivism, supported by Berlin Senate, 90min, 2019; Jihlava IDFF, Artdocfest, Cottbus Film Festival, Docudays UA, CineDoc Tbilisi)
10:45 - 11:45 | Panel 1. Cinematic Reclamation of Place
Chair: Ilona Jurkonytė (Vilnius University)
Nerijus Milerius (Vilnius University, Lithuania)
Cities in War and Everyday Warscapes
The main purpose of this presentation is to relate the concept of warscapes developed by Carolyn Nordstrom to the depiction of the war in Ukraine, especially through the interpretation of the documentary film Mariupolis 2 by Mantas Kvedaravičius and Hanna Bilobrova. When interpreting the concept of warscapes, it is extremely important to highlight how the space of power is organized in war conditions and how everyday people act in this space. It is useful to refer here to M. de Certeau's division between strategic and tactical spaces, often mentioned in the context of warscapes. The strategy envisages the warscape as a totality of power relations and inevitably includes the field of militaristic battles. Tactics, on the contrary, refer to local spaces and the situations occurring in them. Though tactics, without a doubt, can also describe the ways in which combatant groups and individual soldiers act in everyday war landscapes and situations, the concept of tactics more productively describes how war landscapes are practiced by the commoners trying to survive in war zones. War obviously disrupts the routine of everyday life. However, citizens living in war zones often are able to restore this routine even in the most extreme conditions.
Despite certain limitations implied by the polarity of the division between strategy and tactics, this division helps to take a closer look at the principle of how Mariupolis 2 was created. In “Mariupolis 2, warscapes are basically depicted through the prism of tactical practices, manifested by the position of the filming camera itself. The camera captures daily rituals that could represent the most ordinary routine of everyday life in peaceful conditions. Still, the constant roar of cannons and other weapons is a constant reminder of how fragile this supposed routine is. The temporality and fragility of everyday warscapes depicted in the film Mariupolis 2 are maximally emphasized by the death of director Kvedaravičius himself. Mariupolis 2, completed by co-director Hanna Bilobrova after the death of Kvedaravičius, becomes not only a chronicle of recorded daily warscapes but also a painful reconstruction of trauma.
Nerijus Milerius was born in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 1971. He graduated from Vilnius University with an MA in Philosophy in 1995, and in 1999, he received a Diploma of Advanced Studies from the Paris-Est Créteil University. In 2001, Nerijus earned his PhD at Vilnius University. Since then, he has taught film philosophy, aesthetics, philosophy of culture, and other disciplines in the Philosophy Department of Vilnius University. In 2009–2010, Nerijus carried out academic research at New York University on the Fulbright scholarship. Nerijus is the editor and co-author of the collective monograph Film and Philosophy (2013) as well as the author of individual monographs Apocalypse in Cinema: the Philosophical Presuppositions (2013) and Viewing the Viewer: Cinema and Violence (2018). In 2022, the book Everyday Representations of War in Late Modernity by Milerius and other co-authors will be published by Macmillan Publishers, London.
Narius Kairys (Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, Art History and Theory Department)
Film as a Testimony: The Cinematographic Representations of Mariupol
“Everything is destroyed. You can see it well from our room. Only ruins”, says one of the dwellers of Mariupol and a character in Mantas Kvedaravičius’ film Mariupolis 2. The city of Mariupol bore witness to immense destruction during the siege that began on February 24, 2022, and lasted until May 20. Assaulting Russians caused the destruction of approximately 95 percent of the city, burying layers of its rich multi-ethnic cultural history under piles of rubble. Among the victims of the war was filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius, who spent a week documenting the daily struggles of the local population seeking shelter in a church. The footage captured by Kvedaravičius, later edited into the film Mariupolis 2 (co-directed with Hanna Bilobrova), stands as one of the first deeply personal and extreme cinematographic accounts of the events that transpired in Mariupol. Subsequently, other films, such as Mstyslav Chernov's “20 Days in Mariupol, ” emerged, offering a first-person perspective on the early days of Russia's invasion. In my paper, I argue that Mariupolis 2 and 20 Days in Mariupol can be regarded as unique cinematographic testimonies within the broader context of the abundance of war-related images in the media, serving as a means of bearing witness to and documenting the experiences and events in Mariupol.
Narius Kairys, Ph.D, is a writer, film scholar, programmer of the human rights film festival “Inconvenient Films,” and lecturer at Vilnius Academy of Arts and Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. His research interests include visual anthropology, film history, and philosophy.
11:45 - 12:45 | Lunch break
12:45 - 14:15 | Panel 2. Time and City
Chair: Samantha Bodamer (University of Pittsburgh)
Teisi Ligi (Tallinn University, Estonia)
Concrete Across Time: An Exploration of Lévinasian Ethics in Poetic Documentary
This paper offers an exploration of how Valeria Anderson’s Stony Lullaby (“Kivine hällilaul,” 1964) and Maria Aua’s Thread of Iron (“Rauaniit,” 2021) reflect on urban transformation and continuity through their depictions of concrete across different eras. When looked at together, the films (produced nearly 60 years apart) open up a dialogue between the past and the present, the built environment and its decay, and between construction and destruction. Through their poetic documentary approach, these two films managed to position concrete as a witness to a historical and societal shift, also inviting a reflection on the continuous transformation of the urban landscape. The cold and inert material depicted in these films seems to possess its own agency and presence, existing independently of human subjectivity. Consequently, it starts to stand as an entity with its own physicality, durability, and temporality, bringing in the theme of a non-human.
Drawing then from Emmanuel Lévinas’ ethics of alterity, this paper explores how the industrial cityscape portrayed in these films serves as a site for an encounter with the non-human Other. When traditionally, the Other has been associated with human beings, Lévinas’ philosophy helps to challenge this perspective and opens a different avenue of exploration. Within this kind of phenomenological framework, Anderson’s and Aua’s poetical contemplations can be seen to evoke an idea of concrete as a living entity, as the Lévinasian Other. Therefore, this paper examines how these two films managed to transform the cold and lifeless material into an active participant in the documentary narrative and how they enabled this material to engage with the human subject on an equal plane of agency.
Teisi Ligi is a Cultural Studies PhD candidate at Tallinn University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of philosophy and documentary film studies. Her work is focused on Baltic poetic documentary, film-philosophy, and performativity theories, exploring how poetic documentaries engage with philosophy through style and non-verbal means.
Andrius Gudauskas (Vilnius University, Lithuania)
Cinematographical Time is Real
The world has changed since the first films were created by the Lumière brothers. Camera operators and film directors have learned to record the flow of life with the help of camera lenses. Since the start of cinematography, people have learned to preserve passing moments of time and return to the past, create dreams, visions, and future worlds, or relocate to non-existent lands. The history of cinematography has records of hundreds of prominent filmmakers capable of looking at world phenomena or events through the eyes of contemplative researchers and discoverers.
It is useful and beneficial to watch and analyse classical and modern time-tested films from today’s perspective, as we can get acquainted with the quest people embarked on in the last century and with the general evolution of civilization and culture of humankind. Paradoxically, the progress of the previous century is captured in films and other forms of audio-visual works (e.g., television broadcasts). Targeted / professional film shows where the content of films is analysed and discussed may be considered to be studies of humankind’s memory or past.
The paper presents the actualization of the cinematographic and visual contemplation in modern and postmodern cinema and video performances of both inhabited and deserted urban spaces. This analysis mainly focuses on selected works by Jonas Mekas, Deimantas Narkevičius, and Andrei Tarkovsky. The comparison gives rise to a new conception regarding cinematographic time when all things or events happen in time, and time itself is the main subject or actor in visual presentations.
Andrius Gudauskas graduated from Pontifical Gregorian University (Rome, Italy) with doctoral thesis “Lo stile cinematografico di Andrej Tarkovskij. Una strada verso l’esperienza della trascendenza” (2009). At present, he is an Associate Professor of Audio-visual Media and Ethics at the Faculty of Communication at Vilnius University. For several years before his academic career, he worked as a scriptwriter and editor of TV programs and documentary films at the Lithuanian National Television. In 2000, he was awarded the annual Lithuanian National Radio and Television prize for creativity as TV production author. In 2016-2017, he collaborated with the Lithuanian National Radio and Television in making the documentary film Alfonsas Svarinskas, later awarded by the National Audio-Visual Jury as The Best TV Documentary Project of 2017. He has published several scientific research articles and regularly presented his research at national and international conferences in the areas of cinema, new media, and journalism. He took part in a number of international media literacy projects.
Elina Reitere (Kino Raksti, Latvia)
The Decolonial Moment as a Factor of Relevance for the Reception of Dāvis Sīmanis’ Film D is for Division (“Mūris,” 2018)
February 24th, 2022 – the beginning of the full-fledged Russian invasion of Ukraine – has been regarded as a decolonial moment that reshaped the role of the Central and Eastern European states in intra-European politics (Mälksoo). By applying the Relevance Theory (Sperber, Wilson 1995), I claim that February 24th has also completely changed the reception of the documentary film “D is for Division”. When the film premiered in 2018, it was seen as a self-reflexive intellectual essay that ponders upon the issues of borders and those who have the courage to challenge different borders in different ways. In comparison, after February 24th, Sīmanis‘ film has acquired a completely different relevance. Now, aspects of the film that display imperial Russian propaganda distributed among the Russian-speaking minority in the Eastern part of Latvia – Latgalia – come to the foreground. It is the region where Russia might have played out the Crimean scenario in order to start the annexation of Latvia. Thus, the anxiety of existence – our own and that of our state – comes to the fore much more pressingly than five years ago. In my paper, I intend to analyse the viewer´s engagement with “D is for Division” as a space of communication (Roger Odin) as it is understood in the framework of semio-pragmatics, which states that the meaning of the text depends on the context in which it is perceived.
Elīna Reitere, Ph.D, is an independent film scholar and critic, 2nd editor-in-chief of the Latvian film magazine kinoraksti.lv. She has studied audio-visual culture, film, media, and performance studies in Riga and Mainz (Germany). She wrote her dissertation on narration in slow cinema (published in 2018). Her latest academic publication – an article in the monograph Latvian Cinema: Recent History, 1990-2020 (2021) – deals with the careers of different generations of Latvian filmmakers after 1990. Now, she is developing it into a book on the social history of Latvian film. She has been nominated for the Normunds Naumanis Prize for Art Criticism in Latvia for her film reviews in 2019.
14:15 - 14:30 | Break
14:30 - 16:00 | Panel 3. Cinema Event and Culture
Chair: Zane Balčus (Latvian Academy of Culture)
Giorgia Rizzioli (Coventry University, UK)
Cinematic Placemaking: Curating and Examining Cinema in Urban Space
The following contribution illustrates the concept of cinematic placemaking and its practical application via the case study Screening Coventry: Past is Now, an experimental outdoor projection that I curated in Coventry in April 2022.
Although the entangled relationships between cinema and urban space have been extensively examined within the ‘spatial turn’ in film studies, a direct reference to placemaking is still an underexplored theme. Urban screens and outdoor projections are increasingly present in our urban experience, alongside elements incorporated into the media architecture design. Despite this, the effects generated by these presences are currently investigated within a restricted scope, focusing primarily on perception and the overall sense of place. Little attention is paid to the concrete transformation of the site-specificity when brought into contact with cinematic elements.
Through the lens of cinematic placemaking, a concept I have been theorising within my practice and my research, this paper intends to present an alternative way to approach the interplay between cinema and urban space. By adopting a post-human perspective, particularly influenced by the cluster of new materialism, this paper aims to demonstrate how cinematic placemaking encompasses both a dynamic process and a collection of results, where the cinematic dispositive acts as a catalyst in shaping - materially - a different urban setting.
Giorgia Rizzioli is a M4C-funded PhD candidate at the Centre for Postdigital Cultures at Coventry University, UK. Her doctoral project theoretically and practically investigates how film curation and exhibition can be employed as placemaking strategies. In her thesis, she is currently developing the concept of “cinematic placemaking,” arguing for a more post-human approach when curating cinema in the urban space. She has collaborated as an assistant curator with art galleries and cultural organisations in Venice and Coventry. Currently, she is a member of the ArtSpaceCity research group at Coventry University.
Her recent practice includes curating two experimental film projections, Screening Coventry: Past is Now (April 2022) and Moving Images and Placemaking: for an Environmental Semiology (June 2023). She contributed to the Coventry Biennial’s catalogue with “Archive. Creative Practice and Creative Placemaking” in Coventry Biennial 2021: Hyper-Possible, edited by Anneka French, Ryan Hughes, and Michael Pigott (60-69, Coventry Biennial Ltd, 2021).
Mantė Valiūnaitė (LMTA, Art History and Theory Department)
Regained Screens: Contemporary Documentary Film Culture in Lithuania
The focus of this presentation is the contemporary documentary film culture in Lithuania. With the help of a case study of the Vilnius Documentary Film Festival (VDFF), I would like to argue that documentary culture has been going through a hybridization process in recent years. First, I will show the context of the global situation of documentary cinema. Then, I will show the origin and importance of VDFF. I will use postcolonial studies and decoloniality to explain the process of contemporary documentary film culture in Lithuania. My research unfolds in the context of a relatively new field in film studies, film festival research. The presentation is based on a few semi-structured interviews, detailed analyses of catalogues of previous events in Lithuania and VDFF, and an analysis of festival research texts.
Mantė Valiūnaitė is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. Her research is focused on hybrid cinema. Mantė was an Artistic Director at Vilnius International Film Festival “Kino pavasaris.” She has worked as a programmer at the International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival “Inconvenient Films.” Mantė curated various projects in NGO “Meno avilys.” In addition, she regularly writes for the magazine “Kinas.”
Peter Vergas (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities)
Film cultures at the Transilvania International Film Festival
A spatialized understanding of film cultures in connection with film festival phenomena aims to trace first the significance of film images as those are reflected transiently on the surfaces of urban spaces. Similarly, festival participants also animate the urban space(s) and, through those, create different cultures. Thus, an inquiry into the emergence of film cultures in the particular ‘space-time complexes,’ constituted by film festival phenomena (deValck, Loist 2009), should also concern the substance of material relations thereby constituted, or materiality (Bruno 2014).
First, materiality should be understood here as depending on both producers and consumers, as well as considering an endlessly reverberating production output enabled by the possibilities of digital media. Therefore, ’virtual connectivity’ (Bruno 2014), as relayed through the surface of various media - where new media channels and/or formats are assigned different degrees of relevance on a spatio-temporal scale - complements an understanding of both materiality and the forming of collective film cultures.
Approaching the kinds of film cultures at the Transilvania International Film Festival (Transilvania IFF), which takes place in the city of Cluj-Napoca, one may find intersecting film cultures: a rather geospatially defined Romanian film culture as a culture of the majority should be obvious. Then, depending on the research focus, one could also make a case for various minority film cultures, the latter definable according to identity parameters (ethnicity, gender, etc.).
The inquiry, however, targets a cosmopolitan film culture, which, being relevant in the case of most film festivals, should be recognized in terms of attracting external movement (considering the increasing number of foreign guests who are mostly related to the film industry, e.g., film professionals, journalists, film critics) and voicing taste or using language to mediate particular aesthetics, thereby securing a position in the global film festival circuit.
Peter Virginás holds a PhD in Philosophy from Babes-Bolyai University, Romania, and an MA from Central European University, Hungary. His research interests lie in film festivals and contemporary cultures of consumption. He works as a researcher at the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities.
16:00 - 17:00 | Panel 4. Cinema Space and Society
Chair: Eva Näripea (Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia)
Derya Özkan and Ayşenur Onaran (Izmir University of Economics, Turkey)
“There used to be a movie theater here”: mapping movie theaters in Buca, Izmir
This paper traces the cultural history of movie theaters between 1950 and 1990 in the urban cultural heritage site in Buca, a district of İzmir, Turkey. I attempt to tell the stories of movie theaters as material and the movie-going experiences of the inhabitants of Buca as immaterial cultural heritage from the second half of the 20th century. A city district with a high potential for urban transformation, Buca has witnessed the metamorphosis of old movie theater buildings and locations into supermarkets, wedding halls, banks, and restaurants over the last three decades, losing most of its material heritage. Immaterial heritage, or inhabitants’ stories about these sites, though, help reconstruct the movie-going experience. Instead of subscribing to a discourse of “nostalgia for old movie theaters,” I address urban cultural memory as an immaterial and active part of the ongoing social production of material urban space.
This presentation brings together the results of my field research in 2021 in the form of a digital interactive map that locates fourteen movie theaters in the Dumlupınar neighborhood. Accounts of inhabitants who once managed cinemas and worked as projectionists or simply watched movies at those locations, as well as archival research, inform the mapping. I documented the sites and remnants of former movie theaters with photographs and made them available online as extensions of the digital map. Moreover, as an intervention into the actual physical site, I put stickers on the walls of movie theater locations. The stickers feature a QR code that leads to the interactive map. The stickers thus function by making an invisible cultural heritage visible to passers-by and creating a publicly available open-access archive.
Derya Özkan received her Ph.D. in Visual and Cultural Studies in 2008 from the University of Rochester, USA. From 2008 to 2016, she worked at the Institute of European Ethnology at LMU University of Munich, first as a Postdoctoral Researcher and then as the Director of a DFG Emmy Noether research group. She has been working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cinema and Digital Media at Izmir University of Economics since 2015.
Ilona Jurkonytė (Vilnius University)
Cinema Culture and Heritage vs. Cinema Culture Heritage?
In this paper, I investigate how heritage is defined in relation to film culture. I also analyze how cinema heritage is described by Lithuanian, European Union, and international legislation.
I identify cinema rescue cases in Lithuania (2005–2020) as productive exposure of efforts to grapple with the notions of cinema heritage. For this research, I analyze legal documents in parallel with public communication around the cases of cinema rescues of “Lietuva,” “Romuva,” and “Garsas.”
My research focuses on how the cases of cinema rescues expose the legal, institutional, and sociocultural factors that define cinema-going and cinema space in Lithuania. In such context, I return to the notion of cinematic public space as offering potential not only in describing the cinema-going practices in the 20th century but also offering a function in understanding and production of the future screen cultures.
Ilona Jurkonytė is a film and media researcher at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University and a Vilnius University Fund Scholar. Previously, Ilona was a Vanier Scholar at Concordia University (2015-2019), where she defended her PhD in Film and Moving Image program. Her background is in philosophy, communication studies, and art theory. Besides her academic research, Ilona has extensive experience in film curation. Ilona’s academic research and curatorial practice inform each other. Her work critically examines tensions between notions of the national and transnational in moving image production and circulation, as well as their geo- and hydro-political implications. She is particularly interested in the potential of artists’ moving images and their participation in audiovisual cultures. Ilona is a Co-founder (2007), Managing Director (2007-2012), and Artistic Director (2007-2020) of the Kaunas International Film Festival (Lithuania), which was instrumental in rescuing “Romuva,” the oldest cinema theatre in Lithuania. Between 2012 and 2014, she worked as Film Program Curator at the Contemporary Art Centre Cinema (Vilnius, Lithuania).
17:00 - 17:15 | Break
17:15 - 18:15 | Keynote presentation Techno-Fragility and Hope: LED Screen Death and the Maidan by Chris Berry (King’s College London)
Hong Kong’s M+ Global Museum of Visual Culture boasts a media façade that covers the whole building, gazing over the city’s famous harbour. In September of 2022, 10% of the LED lights failed, and it had to be deactivated for several months. Why do I find fading, failing, and even dead LED screens in urban public spaces fascinating, even uplifting? Why do I imagine them as living things that can die? In this talk, I will investigate my perhaps strange emotional response with reference to LED screens in the city from Cairo to Shanghai. These urban screens represent an under-explored dimension of the transformation of image culture resulting from the digital revolution. As Francesco Casetti has argued in Eye of the Century, the digital era means images are in the air, passing through us, and made visible through screens that function almost like lightning rods. In other words, the digital revolution is not only a crisis of ontology but also one of location and control. Images are no longer confined to movie theatres or domestic television screens but are everywhere and invisible, and we are exposed to them rather than choosing when to access them. As we become more conscious of our loss of control, is the fragility of the screen a new form of modern re-enchantment? Is it falsely reassuring? Or does it offer hope?
Chris Berry is Professor of Film Studies at King’s College London. In the 1980s, he worked for China Film Import and Export Corporation in Beijing, and his academic research is grounded in work on audio-visual media of the Sinosphere. His books include Cinema and the National: China on Screen; Postsocialist Cinema in Post-Mao China: the Cultural Revolution after the Cultural Revolution; Chinese Film Festivals: Sites of Translation; Routledge Handbook of East Asian Popular Culture; Public Space, Media Space; The New Chinese Documentary Film Movement: For the Public Record; Electronic Elsewheres: Media, Technology, and Social Space; Cultural Studies and Cultural Industries in Northeast Asia: What a Difference a Region Makes; TV China; Chinese Films in Focus II; and Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After.
20:00 | Welcome dinner
Programme | 21 October
9:00 - 9:30 | Registration
9:30 - 10:30 | Keynote presentation Transnational Production Networks and Peripheral Media Capitals: Prague as a Global Film Set by Petr Szczepanik (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)
East-Central Europe has become one of the key growth markets for transnational streaming. With 40 million inhabitants, Poland has become the most important SVOD market in the region, with Warsaw production offices of Max, Netflix, Canal+, SkyShowtime, and Viaplay having already delivered or promised investment in numerous high-end local originals. From Prague and Budapest, the ongoing SVOD production boom looks quite different, though. Instead of local SVOD originals, both cities have become home to large volumes of US-based SVOD footloose production since around 2018 due to their financial incentives, well-developed infrastructure, and labor pool, including Amazon’s Carnival Row in Prague and Netflix’s The Witcher in Budapest. Warsaw, it seems, is becoming a regional media capital in terms of original local production, while Prague and Budapest compete for US-based mobile production spending. The “mobile” and “original local” production as two distinct “production technologies” create new kinds of relationships within and among peripheral industries that differ from traditional international production.
The paper draws on theories of platformization and platform imperialism, economic geography of global media, and media capitals to argue that streamers’ uneven investments not only reproduce traditional inequalities in the global market but also enforce new hierarchies among peripheral and semi-peripheral media capitals as well as among national and transnational production cultures. It also demonstrates that combining concepts of platform imperialism critique with micro-level production studies might help to increase sensitivity to the internal contradictions of peripheral industries and cultures and develop critical vocabularies for studying the on-the-ground impacts of globalization and platformization.
Petr Szczepanik is an associate professor at Charles University (Prague, Czech Republic), and his research focuses on East-Central European screen industries, their production cultures, and platformization. He co-edited Behind the Screen: Inside European Production Culture (Palgrave, 2013) and Digital Peripheries: The Online Circulation of Audiovisual Content from the Small Market Perspective (Springer, 2020). His latest book is Screen Industries in East-Central Europe (Bloomsbury, 2021). He is a member of the Global Media and Internet Concentration Project (https://gmicp.org). He has been engaged in public policy development and collaborated with various public institutions, including the Czech PSB and the Czech Film Fund.
10:30 - 12:00 | Panel 5. Audiences and Urban Culture
Chair: Lina Kaminskaitė (LMTA Art History and Theory Department, Lithuanian Culture Research Institute)
Jono Van Belle and Maria Jansson (Örebro University, Sweden)
Audience definitions in media policy
The public is the conceptual foundation of media policy, as it addresses “the conditions under which the public can actively engage in the production and reproduction of the society in which members of the public live” (Braman 2004:179). Audiences are constructed discursively, and it has a material outcome in both legal and regulatory principles and governance (Livingstone et al. 2011:185). How the audience is conceptualized in policy invariably influences the formulation of what problems are regulated. Topics such as rural audiences’ access to television and infrastructure to access the internet have been major topics in Swedish policy because of the territorial size and sparse population. Further, assuming that (certain) groups are more vulnerable than others regarding media exposure, they should be protected. Viewing the audience as citizens who need to be informed in order to participate in democracy motivates policies concerning the access and quality of such information. It includes assuring ownership transparency for the audience to be able to critically assess the sources of information. In policy documents, audiences are referred to as audiences, masses, publics, or crowds, but also individuals, citizens, users, viewers, or listeners. Audiences are important but often unsolicited stakeholders in policy-making. How are audiences constructed, and what work do these constructions perform in policy materials? Which groups of audiences are specifically mentioned, and how are they constructed? What agency are audiences assigned? This paper investigates the implied audiences in European and Swedish media policy related to the theoretical concepts of agency, power, and political legitimacy.
Jono Van Belle is a senior lecturer in Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University with a double PhD from Ghent University (Belgium) and Stockholm University (Sweden) in 2019. Her doctoral thesis compared memories of Ingmar Bergman as a persona and his films in Belgium and Sweden. Van Belle is currently working on the project “Digiscreens” (2022-2026) with Prof. Dr. Maria Jansson. The project focuses on identity and democracy on digital film and TV platforms in Europe and investigates distribution, reception, and representation. Forthcoming publications include articles on cinema-going in the 1950s and 1960s in Sweden (co-authored with Åsa Jernudd) and the edited volume Ingmar Bergman Out of Focus, dealing with the reception of Bergman around the world, co-edited with María Paz Peirano (Universidad de Chile, Chile) and Fernando Ramos Arenas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain).
Maria Jansson is a professor of Gender Studies at Örebro University, Sweden. She has a PhD in Political Science from Stockholm University. Her research interests are centred around women’s working conditions, democracy, and policy. She has recently finalized the project Gendering Swedish Film Culture (funded by Riksbankens jubileumsfond) and is currently PI of the Swedish part of the project DIGISCREENS, where she works with Ph.D. Jono van Belle. The project focuses on identity and democracy on digital film and TV platforms in Europe and investigates distribution, reception, and representation. Her recent publications include “Subverting technologies of gender in male-dominated gender regimes: (self) representations of Spanish and Swedish women filmmakers” (Feminist Media Studies, 2022, co-authored with Orianna Calderon-Sandoval) and “Who Cares? The Neoliberal Turn and Changes in the Articulations of Women’s Relation to the Swedish Welfare State” (NORA, 2022, co-authored with Malte Breiding Hansen).
Åsa Jernudd (Örebro University, Sweden)
What to make of a diary from the early 20th Century? Time-geography as a method for understanding cinemagoing as mediatization
From 1877 to 1962, Allan Holmström kept a diary recording his actions after work at the factory. Holmström was a clerk who contributed to the support of a wife and three children. The diary reveals Holmström’s passion for theatre, cinema, and film stars, press clippings of which were inserted in the bursting diary notebooks. His scrapbook practice has been explored as an early example of converging and consumer-participant media culture (Jarlbrink 2010). However, the notes of his daily activities after work have not been recognized and studied. Yet they provide unique insight into how cinema during its process of institutionalization (Gaudreault & Marion 2002) became an integrated part of a white-collar worker’s everyday life. I intend to test a method for analysis of Holmström’s cinema-going borrowed from geography, which focuses on time rather than space. The time geography method (Ellegård 2018) can disclose how cinema-going interacts with (and gradually replaces) other activities and events in Holmström’s life at the time during which cinema developed into a full-fledged, independent, and stable medium - its “second birth” in Gaudreault and Marion’s understanding (2002). Holmström’s cinemagoing habits are analyzed in relation to cinemas' institutionalization from 1914 to 1920. The unique audience perspective provides an opportunity to discuss cinema’s “second birth” through the concept of mediatization (Couldry & Hepp 2013).
Åsa Jernudd is an Associate Professor in Media and Communication Studies at the School of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences, Örebro University. She earned her PhD in Cinema Studies at Stockholm University in 2007. She was PI for the research project, “Swedish Cinema and Everyday Life: A study of cinema-going in its peak and decline,” funded by the Swedish Research Council (2019-2022). Recent publications include “Remembering television as a new medium: Conceptual boundaries and connection”. In: Journal of Scandinavian Cinema 30(1), 2023 (co-authored with Jono Van Belle) and “Managing constraints and stories of freedom: Comparing cinema memories from the 1950s and 60s in Sweden” (co-authored with Jono Van Belle). In: Treveri Gennari et.al (eds). The Palgrave Handbook of Comparative New Cinema Histories, 2023. With the work on the diary, Jernudd returns to the area of early cinema, which was the topic of her dissertation.
Łukasz Biskupski (University of Łódź, Poland)
City of Attractions: The Double Birth of Cinema and its Impact on Urban Culture in Łódź at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries
This paper investigates the transformative role of cinema in shaping the urban culture of Łódź, the largest industrial center in the Polish provinces of the Russian Empire, during the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The study is centered around the concept of the “double birth” of cinema and its implications for the city's entertainment landscape and urban space.
The first “birth” of cinema in the 1890s saw the cinematograph as a novel technology integrated into the existing culture of attractions, such as curiosity salons and vaudeville theaters. This phase represents the initial assimilation of cinema into the city’s entertainment system, contributing to the diversification of urban cultural practices. The second “birth” occurred around 1907 when cinema emerged as a distinct segment within the entertainment industry. It established its own venues, creating new urban spaces dedicated to film screenings, and cultivated a dedicated audience that regularly engaged in the cultural practice of “cinemania.” This paper will explore the socio-cultural and spatial dynamics of this ”double birth“ of cinema, examining how it transformed urban consumption spaces, influenced the city’s architectural landscape, and contributed to the modernization of the city’s cultural life. It will also discuss how films, as an “attribute of modernity,” shaped the imagined lifestyle of the city's inhabitants and provided a blueprint for being modern. The paper theme aligns with the conference's focus on the intersections of urban, cinema, and media studies, offering a unique perspective on the historical development of cinema and its impact on urban culture and space.
Łukasz Biskupski, Ph.D is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cultural Research at the University of Łódź. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Gdańsk under the National Science Center’s “Fuga” program. His research focuses on visual culture, cinema history, and popular culture. He has authored several works in Polish, including Straight from the Street: Visual Arts in the Age of Social Media and Participatory Culture - Street Art, City of Attractions: The Birth of Mass Culture at the Turn of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Cinema in the Entertainment System of Łódź, and Engaged Cinephilia: The Artistic Film Lovers’ Association “Start” and the Dissemination of Film Culture in the 1930s. Additionally, he co-edited the Polish anthology Paper Bandits: Excerpts from the Novel of the Pulp Circuit until 1939 with Monika Rawska. His work has been recognized by the Foundation for Polish Science and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, earning him the Inka Brodzka-Wald Award for his doctoral dissertation.
12:00 - 12:15 | Coffee Break
12:15 - 13:45 | Panel 6. Audiovisual Culture and Environmental Concerns
Chair: Åsa Jernudd (Örebro University, Sweden)
Zane Balčus (Latvian Academy of Culture)
On the Lookout for Saving the City
The educational films made at the Riga Film Studio about the training in the situation of various disasters offer an engaging insight into the geopolitics of the Cold War, the idea of an engaged society, and the methods of public education. Works commissioned by institutions such as the USSR Civil Defence Headquarters, the Executive Committee of the Union of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the USSR, and others reveal the ideological beliefs of the era and means of their cinematic communication.
In this paper, I will look at several films produced at the Riga Film Studio during the 1970s and the 1980s that focus on preventive measures and actions to be taken in the urban environment in case of atomic attacks, chemical weapons attacks, or natural disasters. Combining current footage with archival images, animated scenes, and textual layers, these films demonstrate the would-be scenarios and the fighting of their consequences. The cityscape becomes a backdrop, and its elements turn into specific tools to be used in case of a catastrophe. Apart from the production context, it is necessary to look at “the situation or constellation that the film produces” (Hediger, Vonderau 2009). Combining film analysis with archive material research, press materials, and publications of the topic published at the time, I will focus on the underlying themes of these films and their correlation with their representation in society at the time.
Zane Balčus, Ph.D., is a research assistant at the Institute of Arts and Cultural Studies of the Latvian Academy of Culture. Balčus is a co-author of several books on Latvian cinema (Inscenējumu realitāte. Latvijas aktierkino vēsture (Reality of Fiction. History of Latvian Fiction Film, Riga: 2011), Rolanda Kalniņa telpa (Cinematic Space of Rolands Kalniņš, Riga: 2018), Latvijas kino: jaunie laiki. 1990-2020 (Latvian Cinema: Recent History, 1990-2020, Riga: 2021)), she writes academic articles and is a freelance film critic for various publications. She is also a project manager of the industry event Baltic Sea Forum for Documentaries in Riga, Latvia. Her main research interests are documentary cinema and audience studies.
Erik Florin Persson and Per Vesterlund (Linnaeus University; Stockholm University & University of Gävle; Uppsala University)
Utopia, Nightmare and Nostalgia. Audiovisual representations of the changes in the Cityscape of Gothenburg during the 1960s and 1970s
The 1960s and 1970s meant profound changes in Swedish urban landscapes. In the political housing project ‘Miljonprogrammet’ [The million program], launched in 1964, one million new dwellings were to be built in Sweden during a ten-year period, with a major part of them placed in new modernistic-style suburbs. Simultaneously, Swedish city centers and old working-class districts were renewed in a rapid and often brutal manner. These architectural transformations left traces not only in the experienced cityscapes but also in a broad range of audio-visual representations from this period. As studies on ‘The Cinematic City’ often have focused on a rather standardized set of genres, cities, and canonic films (Brunsdon 2012; 2018), we will in this paper analyze the changes in the Swedish urban landscape in types of audio-visual material which seldom been in focus for such studies: commissioned films, short documentaries, and television drama. This paper focuses on Gothenburg, Sweden’s second-largest city, which, in contrast to the country’s capital, seldom has been in focus for film historical studies (Cf. Florin Persson 2012; 2021). In Gothenburg, a number of audio-visual productions, such as socially committed TV-drama, commissioned films, and short documentaries, were produced during 1960 and 1970 when the ongoing changes, including the new emerging suburbs as well as the threatened old parts of the city, were thematized. In the paper, we trace how the changes in the urban landscape in these representations are connected to broader economic, cultural, and social questions. In this, the new suburbs were often used as settings for stories on social, economic, and cultural poverty, whereas the old working-class districts were used in different ways – as a preserved idyll, as a refuge for radicals suffering from cultural fatigue, or as an even more precarious place for social insecurities than the suburbs.
Erik Florin Persson holds a Ph. D. in Film studies and teaches Film Studies at Stockholm University and Linnaeus University. His research interest includes commissioned films/useful cinema, local film history, and issues related to audio-visual archives.
Selected publications: “Film i stadens tjänst: Göteborg 1938–2015” (Lund: Mediehistoriskt arkiv, 2021), “A Deceptive Return to Welfare State Rhetoric in the Marketing Initiatives of Gothenburg,” (with Helena Holgersson), Mediapolis, nr. 3, vol. 1, 2018, “Useful Cinema and the Dynamic Film History Beyond the National Archive: Locating Municipally Sponsored Swedish City Films in Local Archives,” Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, nr. 7:2, 2017. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Per Vesterlund is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies at the University of Gävle and a Researcher in Cinema Studies at Uppsala University. Research topics: Social issues in Swedish TV-drama; Audio-visual representations of the welfare state; Swedish film and media policy. Recent publications: Books: Ur Harry Scheins arkiv: Nedslag i 1900-talets svenska mediehistoria (2019); Harry Schein: En biografi (2018). Articles: “The Case of the Lost Sobriety: TV Documentaries and Society in Sweden in the Twenty-First Century” in Populism, democracy, and the humanities: interdisciplinary explorations and critical enquiries (ed. Cananau & Thalén, 2022); ”Uses of Vulnerability: Two Eras of Social Commitment in Swedish TV Drama?”, in Vulnerability in Scandinavian Art and Culture (ed. Dancus, Hyvönen & Karlsson 2020). Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Anna Estera Mrozewicz (Lund University, Sweden)
Transnational cinemas of the Baltic Sea. A sustainable regioscape in the making
The vast Baltic Sea region is defined by substantial social and economic inequalities resulting from the different political histories of the nine countries surrounding the sea. As the results of my previous research show (Mrozewicz 2018; 2020), the Eastern European neighbors, marked by ecological devastation resulting from Soviet militarization, industrialization, and man-induced disasters such as Chernobyl (1986), embody the great ecological ‘Other’ in Scandinavian cultural – including cinematic and audiovisual – imagination. Nordic countries, on the contrary, perceive themselves and are globally perceived as environmental forerunners. In 2022, Swedish regional production funds launched a digital tool to guide the filming in their respective regions and thus comply with the UN’s global sustainability targets. But are these standards met when Scandinavian screen productions are outsourced to Baltic neighbors? In Lithuania and its capital city, Vilnius, the number of foreign screen productions has been rapidly growing since 2014, when the country’s parliament introduced a generous tax incentive scheme. Most of these productions are Scandinavian. In my talk, I will present the early stages of my current research project, focusing on the concept of the cinemas of the Baltic Sea as an imagined sustainable ‘regioscape’ (Chow 2021), and discuss some of the environmental aspects of the runaway productions of Scandinavian films and TV series in Lithuania, primarily Vilnius.
Anna Estera Mrozewicz, Ph.D, is a Scandinavianist and associate professor of film studies at Lund University. She has authored articles on Nordic films, television series, and literature, as well as the monograph Beyond Eastern Noir. Reimagining Russia and Eastern Europe in Nordic Cinemas (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). During the academic year of 2021–22, she was a visiting Fulbright scholar and associate professor at the Department of Scandinavian Studies, University of Washington. Between 2009 and 2023, she taught film and television studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.
13:45 - 14:45 | Lunch Break
14:45 - 16:15 | Panel 7. Identities and Changing Urban Spaces
Chair: Eva Näripea (Film Archive of the National Archives of Estonia)
Samantha Bodamer (University of Pittsburgh)
Spaces of Otherness: Heterotopian Logic in Early Films of The Riga School of Poetic Documentary
In the decade of the 1960s, the brief conditions of the Thaw allowed Latvian filmmakers Uldis Brauns, Ivars Seleksis, Aivars Freimanis, Herz Frank, Armīns Lejiņš, and Ivars Kraulītis to return from training at VGIK in Moscow and to join Riga Film Studio. Known by Soviet film critics as the Riga School of Poetic Documentary, they navigated the boundary between cooperating with the Soviet state, which funded their work, and carving out a distinct new style that rejected Soviet narratives. In 1960s films, such as Gada reportāža (Report of the Year, 1965), Kuldīgas freskas (Kuldiga Frescoes, 1966), Sākums (The Beginning, 1961), The Coast (Krasts, 1963) and Vasara (The Summer, 1963) the Riga School moved between both public and private; rural and urban spaces. Their subtle emphasis on Latvian tradition and culture within the Soviet cultural framework allows for a separate national identity to be nurtured both in the cinema space and the audience’s consciousness. This research will use Michel Foucault’s concept of heterotopia to analyze how poetic documentaries that emerged during the Thaw simultaneously depicted and created a space of otherness in Latvia under Soviet occupation.
Samantha Bodamer is a recent graduate of CUNY Hunter College in New York City. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Russian and Film Studies. As a Mellon Public Humanities Scholar, she has conducted archival film research in Latvia. She was recently awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Latvia. In Fall 2023, she will continue her work as a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh (Film Studies, with a concentration in Slavic). She is interested in exploring artistic subversion in Soviet cinema and 1960s Thaw-era poetic documentary films in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
Violeta Davoliūtė (Lithuanian culture research institute, Lithuania)
Representations of the post-genocidal shtetl in Soviet Lithuanian cinema
This presentation investigates the somatic memory of the Holocaust in the cinema of the USSR, with a focus on feature films produced in Soviet Lithuania, specifically - Du mažame miestelyje (dir. Balys Bratkauskas, 1965) and Birželis, vasaros pradžia (dir. Raimundas Vabalas, 1969). While the Holocaust is not directly thematized or represented in either film, they are both set in former shtetls. By foregrounding the landscape and built environment of the towns, films establish an indexical bond between the action in the present and the ghostly signifiers of the past.
Vitalij Binevič (Lithuanian Culture Research Institute)
The Erotization of City Spaces in the Cinema of Soviet Lithuania
From the beginning of the Thaw period, Soviet cities went through an immense process of urbanization and modernization. These urban transformations were portrayed in the narrative cinema of that time. From the second half of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, city spaces were becoming a common cinematic image and a recurring topic. Cities play a major role in well-known Thaw movies, such as Walking the Streets of Moscow (1964), I Am Twenty (1965) or July Rain (1967). Similar cinematic trends can be noticed in the cinema of Soviet Lithuania. Main heroes of such movies as Gražuolė (1969), Kai aš mažas buvau (1968), or Ave, Vita (1969) stroll through the streets of Vilnius, the capital of Soviet Lithuania. These urban landscapes unexpectedly intertwine with the portrayal of the erotic body. For example, a broadly discussed scene of “Gražuolė” demonstrates how a well-dressed woman walks through the beauty salon. “Kai aš mažas buvau” includes a scene where a nude picture is shown. And “Ave, Vita” is famous for its portrayal of a femme fatale, Victoria, who imposingly smokes a cigarette. This connection between the cinematic city and the erotic body sparked extensive discussions among cinema critics at the time, who even explored different forms of eroticism, including sound. Although the cinematic cities would usually be associated with philistinism, consumerism, or moral depravity (Vitkauskaitė, 2019: 112-120), the city space became a topos where the erotic body could function. In this context, a general question can be raised – are cinematic cities inevitably related to the erotic contact of the body (Bruno, 1997: 8-24)?
Vitalij Binevič was born in Vilnius in 1990, on the verge of two eras (the Soviet and the independent Lithuania). He holds a Master’s in Politics and Media from Vilnius University, where his research focused on the depiction of violence in the films of Danish director N. W. Refn. Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. at the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute (LKTI), where he is writing a dissertation, ”The Erotic Body in Soviet Lithuanian Cinema.” Alongside his academic pursuits, Vitalij is a cinema critic whose work is regularly published in various Lithuanian cinematic journals. His cinematic interests span through the questions of genre cinema, pornography, violence, and erotics.
16:15 - 16:30 | Break
16:30 - 18:00 | Panel 8. Urban Experiences
Chair: Jono Van Belle (Örebro University, Sweden)
Kamil Lipiński (an independent researcher, Poland)
On the verge of reality and dream in Piotr Dumała's surreal vision of the city "Ederly"
This paper presents the vision of Polish folk culture, moving from the convention of oneiric animation towards feature cinema in the film Ederly, directed by Piotr Dumała. This specific tendency is one of the elements of the work of such recognized animators as Jan Lenica and Jan Švankmajer. Dumała moves from using the technique of working on plaster plates to directing in parallel to his animations maintained in the aesthetics of the black and white glow of the depicted world. This picture tells a fictional story from the borderline of reality and dream, black humor and grotesque. This different perspective is due to Piotr Dumała, who returns with the feature story Ederly after his debut feature film Forest, made seven years earlier, born as “a necessary confession and is a niche work in the literal sense.” The latter of his feature stories adopts the black-and-white aesthetics of his earlier animations, made using the technique of painting and scratching plasterboards with a scalpel or needle. Ederly is the name of a town set in an undetermined time in winter scenery, where one returns to what is ancient and restores or lives what appears to be hope but turns out to be fiction. The story told by Dumała is filled with places of indefiniteness. It stimulates the viewer’s imagination to consider the intricate nooks and crannies of the plot covered with the glow of oblivion. The uniqueness of this story lies in the fact that the story is loosely based on the parable of the prodigal son and shows the changing reactions of people to his appearance in the town shot in Bodzianowice, Lasowice Wielkie, and Pasym.
Kamil Lipiński is a Doctor of Humanities in Philosophy. He defended his thesis at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Lipiński is an Assistant Professor at the University of Bialystok and an author of the monograph entitled Mapowanie obrazu. Między estetyczną teorią a praktyką (Image mapping. Between aesthetic theory and practice). He published, among others in SubStance. A review of theory and literary criticism, Film-Philosophy, Kultura Współczesna, Przegląd Kulturoznawczy, Journal of Aesthetics and Culture, French Cultural Studies, Cinéma & Cie, Iluminace: Journal for Film Theory, History, and Aesthetics, Images. The International Journal of European Film, Performing Arts and Audiovisual Communication. Runner-up in Postcolonial Studies Association/Journal of Postcolonial Writing PG Essay Prize 2019. Co-Chair of NECS Film-Philosophy Workgroup. Currently, Lipiński is working on the collective volume (edited with Andrzej Marzec) entitled Derrida and Film Studies for Brill Publishing House and Sensitive Aesthetics of Jean-Luc Nancy and the Moving Images (edited with Zsolt Gyenge) for Edinburgh University Press.
Gabrielė Radzevičiūtė (Vilnius Academy of Arts)
Stasys Ušinskas' animated film The Dream of the Fatty (1938): a satirical look at the modern urban experience
Stasys Ušinskas (1905-1974) was one of the most prominent figures on the Lithuanian modern art scene, leaving an important mark in the fields of visual arts, theatre, and cinematography. His animated film The Dream of the Fatty (“Storulio sapnas,” 1938) is considered the first Lithuanian puppet-animated sound film. During the interwar period, it attracted great local and international interest, and in 2019, this film was recognised as a heritage of national importance. Despite growing interest among scholars in Lithuanian cinema and theatre history, this film has not been consistently studied in the context of Ušinskas’s overall artistic legacy and the development of modern Lithuanian visual culture.
Ušinskas’s comedy tells the story of the dream of an elderly man, Fatty, in which he tries to lure the girl of his dreams away from her boyfriend. After a failed attempt, Fatty ends up in a local bar, where everyday life of the city unfolds with its characteristic types – local drunks, priests, and townspeople in search of refreshment. These reflections on modern urban life were an important part of Lithuanian culture in the 1930s. In art, literature, and popular culture, the city emerged as a complex field of symbolic urban meanings, often inseparable from the reflection of Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania and the only Lithuanian ‘metropolis’ at the time.
The conference presentation will, therefore, focus on how the urban space of a city and its experiences are constructed in this film, looking for links with the author’s artistic legacy and the particularities of Lithuanian satirical culture. At the same time, it is important to show how it interacted with the Lithuanian socio-cultural field and what perspectives on social problems, social clichés, and stereotypes of Lithuanian society between the wars emerged in this work.
Gabrielė Radzevičiūtė is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at the Vilnius Academy of Arts and a curator at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius. Her main research interests are Lithuanian social art history of the 20th century, modernism and the avant-garde, social criticism, art, and politics. For the past three years, she has curated exhibitions at the Vilnius Graphic Art Centre Gallery “Kairė-dešinė,” the MO Museum, and the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius. Author of texts and compiler of catalogues, including Margins and Boundaries: Social Criticism in Interwar Lithuania (eds. Norbertas Černiauskas and Gabrielė Radzevičiūtė, Vilnius: Lithuanian National Museum of Art, 2022) and Vytautas Jurkūnas (1910-1993): a Graphic Artist with a Camera (Vilnius: Vilnius Graphic Art Centre, 2021).
Gintarė Bidlauskienė (Vilnius University)
Representing Urban Change: Dialogue about Vilnius between the Films of A. Grikevičius and E. Doškus
This paper examines the cinematographic images of Vilnius in two documentaries on the city from different stages: Time Walks Through the City, made by Almantas Grikevičius in the late ‘60s, and Once Upon a Vilnius, made by Eitvydas Doškus, just recently. It aims to explore technological and artistic strategies employed in films applying a geocritical approach combined with urban studies and the notion of intertextual dialogue. Referring to the idea of film as a third space (Soja, 1993) as well as considering urban space as produced and productive (Lefebvre, 1974), the paper offers to examine geographic space through cinematic texts (Westphal, 2007). Therefore, methodological tools also incorporate the concepts from urban studies: analogy between text and the city, the distinction between strategies and tactics (de Certeau, 1980), the notions of the image of the city (Lynch, 1960), rhythmanalysis (Lefebvre, 1974) discussing, how these models correlate with the repertoire of film narratology in the close reading of the films. The interdisciplinary analysis delivers diverse examples of their application in a comparative perspective both on the levels of structure and content. While engaging with various Vilnius spatial, placial, and temporal modules reflected in films, on the one hand, this analysis grasps the shift in depicting Vilnius and changes in its everyday rhythms, routes, and urban rituals. On the other hand, this analysis captures similar representational strategies as the dialogue between the films.
Gintarė Bidlauskienė (born in Vilnius) works at Vilnius University. Her main fields of academic interest involve geocriticism, urban studies, urban representations, and Vilnius City representations in art. Lately, she has defended her Ph.D. thesis, “The Text & the City: Spaces of Vilnius in Lithuanian Literature and Poetical Documentary Film of the Second Half of the 20th Century.” Before, Gintarė Bidlauskienė was awarded the Master’s degree in literature science in 2016 and the Bachelor’s degree in political science at Vilnius University in 2010. She is living, studying, working, and raising her offspring in Vilnius City.
18:00 | Farewell drinks and snacks!