Chair: Dr Jill Murphy (University College Cork)

Room: Mary Ryan Meeting Room, G27b, O’Rahilly Building (ORB), UCC

Alexandra-Maria Colta (Glasgow)

ABSTRACT: Between Cinephilia and Activism
Programming Human Rights Film Festivals

The exponential growth of film festivals is not seen only as a positive development. The abundance of films that are made and submitted to festivals, as well as the proliferation of festivals everywhere in the world leads some scholars believe that the world of film festivals is in crisis (Cousins 2012, Rastegar 2011). How does the fierce competition for films, resources, discoveries, audiences and funding influence programming? Are festivals becoming more similar to each other, promoting the same voices and cinematic techniques? In this paper, I will examine how Document Human Rights Film Festival, a specialised documentary festival operating in Glasgow, Scotland, constructs its programme and public image in the busiest festival month of October and how it challenges the curatorial crisis and the “bubble” formed by agreeing audiences. Drawing on fieldwork and autoethnography undertaken in the run up to the festival in 2016, I analyse the festival’s shift towards a curated content, driven by cinephilic concepts rather than by individual films, and the team’s course-adjusting effort to present a festival that is relevant and responsive to current issues.

Within this framework, the paper will address the programmers’ responsibility to filmmakers, audiences and the field, aiming to provide a clear understanding of the processes and negotiations involved in programming. As such, I will analyse the development of discourses of evaluation and criteria, fair selections ethos and the main argument or narrative of the festival, towards a poetics of documentary that invites critical reception. Finally, I argue that while foregrounding concepts over films distances viewers from the issue-based human rights discourse, this approach indicates the changing nature of festivals.


Cousins, M. (2012, September). Film Festival Form Manifesto. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

Rastegar, R. (2011). Difference, aesthetics and the curatorial crisis of film festivals. Screen, 53(3), 310-317.

Martin Carter (Sheffield Hallam)

ABSTRACT:  Establishing, Nurturing And Developing Film Culture

We live in a world where we can almost access and watch any film or television programme whenever and wherever we wish. The tyranny of choice grows ever more difficult to control; there are too many films available, too many platforms whith which to watch them; too many people giving their opinions.

Does this mean that cinema is dead? Or are things far more complex? Granted it is increasingly difficult to make the choice of what to watch but does that mean that we only ever watched good films before we had the internet and digital technology? We all used to have a number of reliable critics whose opinion we trusted and relied on; now we are bombarded lists, many of which seem to regurgitate the same fifty to a hundred films in a differing order depending on the criteria of said list. All they seem to produce is either blind adherence to a new ‘canon’ or extremely nasty arguments.

Over the past two years or so working for Sheffield Hallam University I have begun to set up what we hope will be a vibrant ‘film culture’ in Sheffield connecting cinemas (both arthouse and mainstream), film festivals, community cinema groups and local radio to make the increasingly disparate strands of our social fabric aware of what happens in the city and how to get involved. I will present a brief overview of what we have done in the past two years and how we have exploited our links with film-based events and organisations in the city. I hope that an exchange of ideas and practises can help make the delivery and study of such activities a new and exciting area not just for research but involving communities in enjoying and understanding cinema in this age of increasingly changing technology.

María A. Vélez-Serna (Stirling)

ABSTRACT: From the ashes of the old
Cinema without cinemas

Cinema is not dead, but its cadaver is rotting away on the high streets of towns and cities the world over. The old cinemas are the most visible casualties of the ubiquity of images that has decoupled film from its fancy brick boxes. Nostalgic elegies are ten-a-penny, and a desire to retain elements of a historical cinemagoing experience manifests itself in various forms of ‘relocation’ (Casetti 2012) or in heritage-driven campaigns. Even in cases where campaigning has kept the demolition crews at bay, however, the shift towards community control, crowdfunding, volunteer labour and subsidised operations reveals the crisis of ordinary cinemagoing as a commercial premise. The regularity of cinema attendance during the classical era sustained local commercial exhibition as a paying business offering a social experience in a purpose-build space, served by complex supply networks. Cinema exhibition as a part-time, volunteer, or civic operation thus needs to re-invent supply, space, and experience in the context of cinema as extra-ordinary event in a shared space.

This paper focuses on Scalarama, an annual decentralised screening event, which uses the premise of the festival as a catalyst for network-building amongst independent exhibitors. As part of a broader research project examining ephemeral exhibition spaces, the paper considers Scalarama as an emerging experiment which looks back at classical cinephilia but operates in a completely changed environment. I argue that Scalarama has developed specific strategies to support the emergence of new cinema cultures out of the debris of ordinary commercial exhibition. It acknowledges the precariousness of current exhibition practices while embracing the widespread appetite for communal cinemagoing, in the face of a dying cultural practice.


Casetti, Francesco. 2012. ‘The Relocation of Cinema’. NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, no. Autumn 2012 (November).