Royal Holloway Conference
Monday 18th April 2016
Panel 1a) Education
“El niño nuevo? Childhood and nation in three recent Cuban films”, Dunja Fehimovic (University of Cambridge)
Echoing a wider trend within Latin American cinema, over the last decade Cuban films have highlighted the child as both a new protagonist in and target audience for the island’s production. Juan Carlos Cremata’s Viva Cuba (2005) seemed to mark the beginning of the tendency, and has certainly been the most internationally successful of these films, whilst Habanastation (Ian Padrón, 2011) was envisaged as an unofficial, indirect sequel. Most recently, Ernesto Daranas’ Conducta (2014) has sparked fervent debate about education, values and marginality in Cuba, sweeping up multiple awards along the way. In all of these films, the figure of the child is foregrounded in order to explore issues of morality and citizenship which, in Cuba’s political context, inevitably reflect on socialist codes of conduct and most specifically on Che Guevara’s model of the Hombre nuevo, or ‘new man’. By comparing the representations of the child protagonists in these three films, I will analyse how they establish the child as a model of moral conduct or good behaviour, and how this model subsequently reflects on the state of the nation as a whole. Recalling the symbolic weight of the figure of the child in Revolutionary Cuba and with specific reference to Guevara’s ‘new man’, I will suggest that these child protagonists represent a ‘niño nuevo’ – an updated model of citizenship for contemporary Cuba.
Dunja Fehimovic is an AHRC-funded PhD student at the University of Cambridge, working on the relationship of film to national identity in Cuba in the 21st century. Dunja recently co-convened the Branding Latin America conference at Cambridge with Dr. Rebecca Ogden. She has published in Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies and Bulletin of Latin American Research, and she has work forthcoming in Cuban Cinema Inside Out and The Routledge Companion to World Cinema.
“‘Kids on Spanish Film’: An assessment of the teaching and learning of child-centred Spanish films through the students’ eyes”, Mark Goodwin (University of Manchester)
Spanish films have now become a commonplace resource for hundreds of Spanish teachers across England, with advances in technology making the process increasingly easy and expectations to communicate the cultural identity of the target-language country and broader objective of teaching intercultural awareness featuring more dominantly in exam specifications and governmental statutory requirements. Child protagonists are recurrent in the Spanish films selected by teachers of GCSE and A-level Spanish, which at first glance, one may presume, allows for (English) students to identify more easily with the (Spanish) central characters and thus, be more deeply immersed in the narrative and broader learning experience. However, publications of recent times, from Karin Lesnik-Oberstein’s Children in Culture (1998) (‘Revisited’ 2011) and Rob Stone’s Spanish Cinema (2001) to Carolina Rocha and Georgia Seminet’s Representing History, Class and Gender in Spain and Latin America: Children and Adolescents in Film (2012) and, ultimately, Sarah Wright’s The Child in Spanish Cinema (2013), highlight much more profound implications for national and international audiences when considering reflections on Spain’s past, present and future as witnessed, explored and inadvertently critiqued by the nation’s youth on screen.
This paper aims to establish, analyse and review the perspective of English students in the Spanish classroom as they are exposed to child-centred films such as El laberinto del fauno (Del Toro 2006), El espinazo del diablo (Del Toro 2001) El orfanato (Bayona 2007) and El bola (Mañas 2000). Questionnaire responses and findings from focus-groups will be measured against current literature and theory surrounding transnationalism, connections to memory and trauma and film pedagogy, amongst other crucial areas, in a bid to answer the following questions:
1. How do students see Spain (at the time the film is set) through the eyes of a Spanish child?
2. To what extent are students able to identify with these characters and the environment/events surrounding them?
3. What effect(s) does all of this have on learning?
Mark Goodwin is approaching the third year of a part-time PhD in Spanish and Education at the University of Manchester, under the supervision of Prof. Chris Perriam (Spanish/Film Studies) and Dr. Alex Baratta (Education). He also works full-time as Teacher in charge of Spanish at a local independent grammar school. My research aims to, firstly, analyse the success of current practices in teaching Spanish through its national cinema at GCSE, A-level and undergraduate level in line with current specifications and programmes of study, and secondly, in light of forthcoming changes to the curriculum, project the future outcomes of the practice and develop an advanced guide for how to maximise the potential for teaching and learning in this regard.
“Listening across difference and disadvantage through participatory video exchanges with children in Timor-Leste and Australia”, Kelly Royds (University of New South Wales)
In this paper, I discuss the use of ‘participatory video’ in research and development education with children in Timor-Leste and Australia. I outline how children’s creative and collaborative engagement with video enabled them to reflect, imagine and engage with national and international development narratives of difference and disadvantage. First, I discuss how the use of video created a bridge between children’s everyday experiences and more formal learning environments. Second, I explore children’s perceptions of ‘inequality’ and ‘privilege’ associated with viewing and exchanging participatory videos with a culturally, linguistically and geographically different group of children. And finally, I reflect on the role of validation, listening and the significance of a ‘real audience’ for children’s participatory video work. Drawing on the work of Dunphy (2013) and Waite and Conn (2011), this paper extends discussions about the role of creativity and participatory video in facilitating spaces for children and young people to engage with, and be heard within, international and community development practice.
Kelly Royds is a PhD Candidate at the University of New South Wales, Australia. Her work and research for the past eight years has focused on the use of participatory media for social justice and development education. Her doctoral study explores the intersections of childhood, participatory media and international development.
Panel 1b) The Child’s Gaze
“Where is My Friend’s Home?: Thirty Years Later”, Farshad Zahedi (University of Carlos III de Madrid)
Now, nearly 30 years after the release date of Kiarostami’s Where is my friend’s home? (1987), it is time and there are enough historical perspectives to come back and reanalyse the movie. The wide acknowledgment of Kiarostami as a global author, maybe, provides us with some kind of freedom to rethink one of the most local films of his filmography, and one of the most important representations of children in Iranian cinema. What makes the film interesting is an apparent pre-ideological space in which a little hero just moves from a village to another in order to find his friend’s home and turn back his homework’s notebook. Many of the scholars saw some metaphysical references in this simple action of a child out of home, and his poetic will to overcome the adult’s absurd obstacles. But any poetical reading of the film may close the way to observe the cognitive map that the movie offers us. In other words, and apropos of the hypothesis, Where is my friend’s home? discovers a microcosmic village and the dwellers of a system of social relations and power.
With regards to what was mentioned, the object of this study is the sequence of the encounters between little Ahmad and the male gathering of the village (including his own grandfather who is the first one trying to supress him), which sheds light on the kiarostamian idea of social conflicts and on the very materialistic way that his camera explores the ideological notion of national identity.
Farshad Zahedi received his Ph.D. in Film History in 2008. At present he is a senior lecturer teaches Moving Image History and Film Studies at Universidad Carlos III, Madrid. He is Associate Member of Centre for Iranian Studies at SOAS (University of London) and member of researcher database of the Childhood and Nation in World Cinema network. In recent years he has published widely about his research interests: Iranian cinema and cultural studies; aesthetic roots; gender representations; psychoanalytic criticism; film theories and history of Iranian independent cinema. Among his publishing stands out: “Myth of Bastoor and Children of Iranian Independent Cinema” Film International. vol. 12, n. 3. pp. 21-30 and “Los niños errantes del cine iraní: del mito a la historia” [The Wandering Children of Iranian Cinema: From Myth to History], Vivat Academia, XIV, Especial edition, pp. 1179-1193.
“Watching the child watching the primal scene:
Gender features of the child in Spanish cinema after 1980”, Ralf Junkerjürgen (Universität Regensburg, Germany)
Though childhood is often regarded as a pre-sexual age, Spanish cinema has taken especial interest in the relationship between child and sexuality and has represented children according to traditional conceptions of gender. While in Franco times the girl was portrayed as a sexual object, like the child-star Marisol, after the democratization of the country there have been several prominent examples of successful films which confront boys with the Freudian primal scene. In contrast to Freud’s preoccupation with its possible traumatic impact, Spanish films show a rather different image and turn the primal scene into voyeuristic pleasure for both the boys in the film and the audience. In Secretos del corazón (1997), La lengua de las mariposas (19998) and Pan negro (2010) childhood seems to get replaced by boyhood, showing boys much more centered on sexual matters than girls. But things are only that simple at first glance. Indeed, the spectators are not only getting a glimpse of a coitus, they are at the same time watching the child watching it. In these moments the big eyes of the boys become the center of the observation and create an ambiguous mise en abyme where gendered images of childhood melt into the spectator’s self reflection. The paper analyzes the gendered vision of childhood in the above mentioned examples among others, taking a critical attitude towards the cinematic reception of scientific theories and their use in mass media. These aspects are especially important in Spain, where the redefinition of sexual identities after 1975 has been a central issue in film. The examples will illustrate how popular movies stick close to traditional representation of gender even when dealing with childhood.
Ralf Junkerjürgen, Professor of Romance Cultural Studies at the Universität Regensburg (Germany); publications on Spanish film: Alber Ponte, corto en las venas. Acercamiento a un cineasta español (2011; with Pedro Álvarez Olañeta), Spanische Filme des 20. Jahrhunderts in Einzeldarstellungen (ed.; 2012) among articles and reviews. Editor of the collection Aproximaciones a las culturas hispánicas (Vervuert) dedicated to media studies; curator of the film award „Premio cinEScultura“ (with Pedro Álvarez Olañeta) for contemporary Spanish short films.
“Through the eyes of a child: the child as witness”, Hannah Kilduff (University of Cambridge)
Lasting nearly eight years - from 1954 to 1962 - and costing nearly one and a half million lives, the Algerian War of Independence was a violently complicated conflict. However, the war remained in many ways, invisible, absent from French cinema screens throughout the years of the war, and plagued by a sort of representative invisibility afterwards, never entering, according to cultural historian Benjamin Stora, “la mémoire collective française” (Frodon 2004: 76). Mehdi Charef’s 2007 film Cartouches Gauloises explores the ‘summer of ’62’ - the exact date rendered explicit in the English-language title of the film - through the eyes of a young child: Ali. Telling the story of a community, from Harki soldiers to Jewish neighbours, Algerian prostitutes and those against decolonization, the film offers us access to the pre-Independence world of Algiers as seen and experienced by Ali through often larger-than-life characters underlining the heterogeneous and multifaceted nature of the debate. Ali goes about his life as a child all while infiltrating the world of the ‘adults’, spanning a liminal space of windows, doorways, and hidden spaces. An often silent figure, he hears but above all bearing visual witness to events: he sees, and through his gaze, makes seen. The film projects childhood experiences - den-building, game-building - on to the backdrop of historical events offering an understanding of the events of the period through the eyes of the child. Charef, the film-maker, was a child at the time that he depicts in this film and has spoken openly about the autobiographical and autofictional resonances. The double status of the child in Cartouches Gauloises - autobiographical avatar and liminal agent - allows us to question the role of the child as witness of trauma, a figure both of excavation and reparation.
Hannah Kilduff is the currently the Temporary Lecturer in French at Trinity College, Cambridge, where she contributes to teaching on Francophone literature and cinema. She is also completing her PhD on Francophone and North African cinema. Prior to this, she taught in Toulouse, and spent a year as a lectrice in the Université Paul Valéry - Montpellier III. She is interested in intimacy and the senses in French and Franco-Maghrebian films.
Panel 2a) Children, Death and War
“Who Can Kill a Child?: Childhood (and) Death in Contemporary Spanish Cinema”, Fiona Noble (Durham University)
Since the early 1970s, the figure of the child and the concept of childhood have proved fertile terrain for Spanish filmmakers, who demonstrate a particular preoccupation with the relationship between childhood and death. While some works position the child either as witness to, or victim of, unlawful killing (El espinazo del diablo/The Devil’s Backbone, 2001; Pa negre/Black Bread, 2010), other films conversely explore the murderous impulses of children (¿Quién puede matar a un niño?/Who Can Kill a Child?, 1976; Dictado/Childish Games, 2012). Depictions of the child constitute an emerging interest in the field of Spanish cinema scholarship, exemplified by the work of Sarah Wright (2013), Eric Thau (2011), Jorge Pérez (2011) and Santiago Fouz Hernández (2007). However, the cinematic intersection of childhood and death has to date received scant attention. Addressing this critical void, this paper explores the ethics and aesthetics of Spanish cinematic representations of childhood (and) death. Through close analysis of a selection of case studies, I interrogate the local and global politics of portraits of childhood (and) death. Within the geopolitical circumstances of post-Franco Spain, the dead child haunts Spanish cinema as a Francoist legacy, evoking the lives lost during and beyond the Civil War. More broadly, death queers the child, compromising contemporary conceptualisations of childhood as a linear trajectory towards adulthood (Kathryn Bond Stockton, 2009). By asking who can kill a child, Spanish cinema demands an ethical interrogation of intersections of childhood and death in which the politically evocative image of the dead child is at stake.
Fiona Noble is a Researcher in Hispanic Studies and Film and Visual Culture. She completed her PhD, which explores cinematic depictions of childhood, performance and immigration in post-Franco Spain, at the University of Aberdeen in August 2015. Her current research involves a book project on the interrelations of performance and politics in contemporary Spanish cinema. She has published on intercultural relationships between immigrants and lesbians in contemporary Spanish cinema, on depictions of the body in the work of Salvador Dalí and on cinematic representations of children in post-Franco Spain.
“Girlhood in a Warzone: African Child Soldiers on Film”, Kate Taylor-Jones (Bangor University)
Since early 2000, UN edicts and NGO awareness-raising campaigns have resulted in the increasing global visibility of child soldiers. Their lives have been presented in both fictional and documentary formats in films such as Blood Diamond (Zwick, 2006), Innocent Voices (Mandoki, 2004), Soldier Child (Abramson, 1998), Ezra (Aduaka, 2007), War Child (Chrobog, 2008) and Kassim the Dream (Davidson, 2008). However, in the act of making visible the realities of the child soldier, what has too frequently happened is that the life and experiences of the girl has been ignored in favour of her male counterparts. Girls constitute as many as 40% of all child soldiers, yet they are infrequent focal points, with a large majority of films centring on the male experience. This paper will examine how these complex female figures have been inflected in the cinematic space and debate why the presentation of the girl soldier has, to date, been limited and constrained by dominant gender narratives related to girlhood, childhood and the global North’s engagement with Africa. Engaging specifically with the film texts Rebelle/War Witch (Nguyun, 2012), Johnny Mad Dog (Sauvaire, 2008) and Grace, Milly, Lucy: Child Soldiers (Provencher, 2010), this paper will examine the contact between male and female representation, and how film format (specifically documentary versus fiction) plays a key role in the effectiveness of telling the female child solider tale.
Kate Taylor-Jones is currently Senior Lecturer in Visual Culture at Bangor University and is in the process of relocating to take up the post of Senior Lecture in East Asian Studies at the University of Sheffield. She is the editor of the forthcoming collected edition (with Fiona Handyside) International Cinema and the Girl (Palgrave McMillian, 2015) and has published widely in a variety of fields. She is currently completing Divine Work: Japanese Colonial Cinema and its Legacy forthcoming with Bloomsbury Press.
Contextualising AIDS Orphans on Screen: Toward a child-centred AIDS filmography in South Africa
Jenny Doubt (University of Oxford) and Monica Eileen Patterson (Carleton University)
HIV/AIDS is one of the worst health epidemics in the world, and it has struck the nation of South Africa particularly hard. With one of the largest AIDS orphan populations in the world (over 2.5 million), and the largest number of people living with HIV in the world (more than 6 million) (UNAIDS, 2013), it has been the defining crisis of the country since the end of apartheid. Affecting every aspect of the nation from its infrastructure to its struggle to form a new and inclusive national identity, the HIV/AIDS epidemic has also increasingly impacted the nation’s children. Since the early 2000s, dozens of mainstream and independent films have been released depicting South Africans’ struggles in the face of this crisis, and children have been increasingly central characters in these works. This paper will provide a critical analysis of four of these films: Beat the Drum (2003), Yesterday (2004), Life, Above All (2010), and Themba: A Boy Called Hope (2010), paying special attention to the growing emphasis on children's agency as it considers the shifting historical and cultural context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in South Africa. As HIV/AIDS enters its fourth decade, we consider what these cultural texts tell us about the experience of AIDS-affected children in South Africa in 2015. We conclude by considering the problem of self-expression in the context of a highly stigmatized health epidemic, examining one example of children’s involvement in their own representation on screen.
Dr. Jenny Suzanne Doubt is a Post-Doctoral Research Officer in the Department of Social Policy and Intervention at the University of Oxford, where she has helped develop and implement the Sinovuyo Teen Study, a culturally-adaptable child-abuse prevention programme for HIV/AIDS-affected children in Eastern Cape South Africa. She is currently working in partnership with UNICEF’s Office of Research in Florence, as a co-Investigator evaluating the Sinovuyo programme. She received her doctorate from the Open University (UK) for her study on the interventionist capacities of South African cultural texts during the HIV epidemic. She continues to be interested in cultural production and AIDS-related interventions in South Africa, and in February 2015 co-curated ‘A Global Pandemic? Problematizing Universal Strategies through Localized Experiences of HIV/AIDS’ a multi-media exhibition at Concordia University (Canada).
Dr. Monica Eileen Patterson is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada where she teaches in Child Studies. She received her doctorate in Anthropology and History and a certificate in Museum Studies from the University of Michigan. Patterson is coeditor of Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) and Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline (University of Michigan Press, 2011). As a scholar, curator, and activist, she is particularly interested in the intersections of memory, childhood, and violence in postcolonial Africa, and the ways in which they are represented and engaged in contemporary popular culture and public spheres.
Panel 2b) Historical Nationalisms
“Caterina in the Big City (2003) and Italy’s Arrested Development”, Giovanna De Luca (College of Charleston, South Carolina)
Federico Fellini spoke with an interviewer of the reference to fascism in his movie Amarcord, explaining that contemporary Italy maintains certain psychological remnants of fascism, namely a sort of perennial adolescence. “The province of Amarcord is one in which we are all recognizable, the director first of all, in the ignorance that confounded us all—a great ignorance and a great confusion. Not that I wish to minimize the economic and social causes of fascism. I only wish to say that today what is still most interesting is the psychological, emotional manner of being a fascist. What is this manner? It is a sort of blockage, an arrested development during the phase of adolescence.... I do not wish to say that we Italians have not yet gone beyond adolescence and fascism.... And yet, Italy, mentally, is still much the same. Fellini’s comments indirectly refer to the provincial aspect of Italianita’, a topic recently explored by the scholars Susanne Stewart-Steinberg and Silvana Patriarca. In my paper, I analyze Paolo Virzi’s movie Caterina in the Big City, arguing how Italian cultural identity includes an inherent immaturity and provincialism, one consequence of which is a tendency to deflect responsibility, as Fellini observed. This cultural behavior is made especially emphatic by Virzi through the portrayal of children in his movie.