A film critic and director of San Sebastián Film Festival for eight years, throughout his career Diego Galán (1946-2019) directed a huge number of documentaries about the history of Spanish cinema. One of his last works was Con la pata quebrada (Barefoot in the Kitchen, 2013), which is devoted to the filmic representation of women from the early 1930s to the present day.
The film explores female social roles in the country by using excerpts from 180 films, most of them popular features such as musicals, melodramas, and erotic comedies. Almost equating the history of women with their archetypal representation in the screens, Con la pata quebrada is narrated by a good-humoured voice over but refrains itself from making any specific criticism, thus letting the conservative ideology of the films to arise from the choice of specific sequences. Most interestingly, the film does not mention the relevance of the star system in constructing social archetypes and overlooks issues of class and race.
I want to analyse the ways in which Con la pata quebrada uses archival footage from the Spanish film history as a socio-political testimony. To that purpose, I will compare it with recent academic studies on the Spanish star system, as well as with other documentary works by Galán, such as his crucial TV series Memorias del cine español (1977-1981) and his last feature Manda huevos (2016), which used the same formula of Con la pata quebrada to explore masculine roles and archetypes.
Albert Elduque is Lecturer in Film Studies at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). His research areas are intermediality and film, political cinema, representations of national identities in film, and music documentaries, with a focus on Spanish and Brazilian cinema. He has published articles and book chapters on filmmakers such as Glauber Rocha, Júlio Bressane, Leon Hirszman, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Werner Herzog and Marta Rodríguez, as well as on Spanish censorship and folkloric actresses Estrellita Castro and Imperio Argentina. Since 2016 he is co-editor of the peer-reviewed academic journal Comparative Cinema, published by Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
One of the impacts of the growing access to non-linear editing platforms and HD camera technology in personal computers, smart phones and tablets is the diverse and rapid growth of video essay making, within academic settings and without. Experimentation in remix culture, striking formal invention in desktop documentary practices and investigation in new ways of conducting film history all contribute to an exciting and rapidly expanding field.
This presentation reflects on the relationships between audiovisual essays and some of the pre-existing forms from which they draw inspiration: the found footage film, the essay film and different forms of documentary practice. It will look at the possibility of the audiovisual essay for advancing new kinds of historiography in film studies; it will also engage in reflection on some of the differences and the continuities between different modes of videographic and documentary address.
Audiovisual essayists have plenty to learn from the established documentary field but equally there are fruitful departures and multiple inventions in the work of a new generation of video essay makers, as students – and their lecturers – seek to bring together critical thinking and creative impulses in videographic work, empowered by new access to technology and material.
John Gibbs is Professor of Film and Research Dean for Heritage and Creativity at the University of Reading. He is a member of the editorial board of Movie: A Journal of Film Criticism and series (co-)editor of Palgrave Close Readings in Film and Television. His publications include Mise-en-scène: Film Style and Interpretation (2002), Filmmakers’ Choices (2006, 2015), The Long Take: Critical Approaches (2017, co-edited with Douglas Pye), and a number of audiovisual essays.
The making of my documentary film Passages (co-directed by Samuel Paiva), focusing on Brazilian cinema from the 1990s to today, gave me the opportunity to reflect on the category of ‘film on films’ as an undertheorised genre. Metacinema has been the subject of voluminous scholarship, in particular with reference to American fiction film. Passages, however, is a documentary rather than fiction, based on the premise that the recourse to other media within the film medium opens up a passage to objective reality. It is composed of interviews, on-location footage and film excerpts, straddling the compilation and the essay film forms. My next project intends to go a step further by documenting metacinema on film.
Under the title “An Amorous Discourse,” it will look at film as ‘a lover’s discourse’ (Barthes), or a web of pre-existing artistic fragments of which the artist is nothing but an enamoured filter. It will aim to tell a ‘cinephilic’ history of cinema that brings filmmakers together through their love for each other’s films. I shall start by focusing on Wim Wenders’s The State of Things (1982), an iconic metafilm launched at a significant historical juncture that marks, on the one hand, the end of the European new waves and, on the other, Hollywood’s move into a self-styled postmodern era, dominated by ‘allusionism’ (Carroll), i.e. by self-reflexive remakes.
Travelling back and forth in history and geography, the project hopes to demonstrate the converging desire of filmmakers from the most disparate corners of the globe to combine their efforts into a ‘transartistic commons’ (Stam), or a realm without borders.
Lúcia Nagib is Professor of Film at the University of Reading. She is the author of many books, including Realist Cinema as World Cinema: Non-cinema, Intermedial Passages, Total Cinema (2020), World Cinema and the Ethics of Realism (2011) and Brazil on Screen: Cinema Novo, New Cinema, Utopia (2007). She is the editor, among others, of Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film (with Anne Jerslev, 2013), Theorizing World Cinema (with Chris Perriam and Rajinder Dudrah, 2011), Realism and the Audiovisual Media (with Cecília Mello, 2009) and The New Brazilian Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2003). She is the writer and director, with Samuel Paiva, of the award-winning documentary Passages.
Maria do Carmo Piçarra is researcher at ICNOVA (Universidade Nova de Lisboa), Assistant Professor at the Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, and film programmer. She is author of books on newsreels and documentary in Portuguese Estado Novo, about (anti)colonial propaganda and censorship and militant films. On these topics, she single-authored Salazar goes to the movies (2006, 2011, in Portuguese), Ultramarine Blues. Colonial propaganda and censorship on Estado Novo’s cinema (2015, in Portuguese) and she co-edited (with Teresa Castro) (Re)Imagining African Independence. Film, Visual Arts and the Fall of the Portuguese Empire (2017).