Royal Holloway Conference Abstracts Monday 18th April 2016



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Giovanna De Luca is Associate Professor of Italian at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. Her research interests are Italian cinema, 20th and 21st century Italian literature, comparative literature, literary and film theory and cultural studies. Her articles have appeared in Filmcritica, Film Comment, Quaderni d’Italianistica, Forum Italicum, Italica, La Tribune International des Langues Vivantes and Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies. She is the author of the book Il punto di vista dell’ infanzia nel cinema italiano e francese: rivisioni on the role of children in Italian and French cinema and currently she is writing a book on the cinematic representations of the Mafia whose tentative title is: Harsh Spectacle: The Mafia in Italian and American Cinema.

Between Past and Future: Childhood and Nationhood in Taiwan New Cinema”, Kai-man Chang (Tulane University, New Orleans)


Like European New Cinemas of the 1950s and 1960s, Taiwan New Cinema of the 1980s and 1990s was born out of a need for an alternative mode of filmmaking, storytelling, and social engagement. New cinema directors often utilized their childhood memories to question the hegemonic formations of history, nationhood, modernity, and global capitalism. This paper explores how childhood narratives in Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live, a Time to Die (1985) and Wang Tung’s Red Persimmon (1995) can be viewed as counter-discourse to the official narrations of history and national identity. Through excavating the rhizomatic, quotidian childhood memories against a backdrop of China’s and Taiwan’s socio-political turmoil, both Hou’s and Wang’s films express an ambiguous national belonging or non-belonging that surfaces in transient moments of life and death rather than in the monumental events of national history. In addition to using episodic childhood memories to highlight the transition of the second-generation mainlander Chinese from a sense of rootlessness to having an intimate connection with the pastoral landscape of Taiwan, both films also exhibit an unbreakable and yet passing relationship with a Chinese homeland through the figure of grandmother. In contrast to the overly-politicized and antagonistic debates over Taiwan’s history and ethnic conflicts, both directors’ semi-autobiographical films exemplify the ways in which nationhood can be intimately reimagined not only in memories of childhood, but also in childhood’s critical latency elusiveness, futurity, and potentiality.

Kai-man Chang is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Tulane University (New Orleans, USA). His research areas include film theory, Sinophone cinema, modern Chinese literature, transnational feminism, queer theory, diasporic studies, postcolonialism, and childhood studies. His articles on the representations of gender and sexuality in Tsai Ming-liang’s cinema have appeared in journals such as Film Criticism and Post Script. He is currently working on two book manuscripts: the first one is entitled Queer Ordinary: Tsai Ming-liang’s Cinema of the Quiet Disquiet, which uses Tsai Ming-liang’s cinema as a vehicle to deliver an innovative critique of the contemporary heteronormative and homonormative cultures that engender over-determined, stereotyped displays of queerness. His second book has a tentative title: Geopolitics of Childhood: Home, Migration, and Alternative Modernities in Contemporary Sinophone Cinema. This book project investigates the mutual projections between childhood narratives and various discourses of kinship, homeland, nationhood, trauma, diaspora, modernity, pedagogy, biopolitics, and human rights in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China since 1980s. In light of the recent trend of decentering the study of cinema from the nation, this project accentuates the historical, socio-political, and aesthetic implications of childhood narratives in pan-Chinese geographies that not only debunk the simple dichotomies of innocence and corruption, self and other, tradition and modernity, reality and fantasy, but also conjure up a new understanding of humanity, environmentalism, and social justice beyond national borders.

Children in a nation(s): Pedro Costa’s O Sangue (1989) and Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s La Pivellina (2010)”, Loreta Gandolfi (University of Cambridge)


As the study of the portrayal of children on screen has been gaining momentum, several studies about the analysis of children in world cinema have pointed out meaningful links between the figure of the child and the idea of nation, showing how they mutually inform one other. Following this thread, the paper looks at two films from three European filmmakers, Pedro Costa’s O Sangue (1989) and Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s La Pivellina (2010). I will consider how the two child protagonists, Nino (in O Sangue) and Asia (in La Pivellina), first apparently embody the notion of national identity clear and fixed, yet then soon ‘dis-embody’ it. Nino and Asia are children in motion, who, further to a violent expulsion from their original family nucleus (arguably, the microcosmic symbol of the nation), transfer their unexpected and suddenly anonymous and a-national identity onto a new land where they inscribe a self anew, freed from the rules of the unquestioning identification with the ‘safe’ known; Nino and Asia are the inhabitants of A-nations. In both films the children’s path suggests a broad definition of humanity, regardless of origin, transcending the borders of national belonging, through an incessant process of self-definition. This process is one of motion, engaged in the constant performance of selfhood that defines and re­defines itself, as highlighted in the children’s encounters with others, whether they are rejected or embraced.
Dr Loreta Gandolfi has supervised and taught on film topics at the University of Cambridge and is a programme assistant at the Cambridge Film Festival. She is completing a book based on her doctoral thesis about the representation of infidelity in French cinema, in particular in the films of François Truffaut and Eric Rohmer. Her other research interests include Italian-Austrian cinematic relations, and the onscreen representation of childhood and adolescence. She is currently preparing a documentary about the impact of Pasolini’s documentary practice. She freelances as a film critic and has published reviews, interviews and festival reports in a variety of international film journals.

Keynote: Karen Lury (University of Glasgow) Children, objects and motion... balloons, bikes, kites and tethered flight
Balloons, bikes and kites provide pervasive instances of tethered flight and accelerated motion in films made for and about children. Famously, in The Wizard of Oz Dorothy does not get to return home via the Wizard’s balloon but finds that the answer is on her feet; and in E.T. Elliott rescues his alien friend in an iconic flight that features his bicycle and the moon; whereas Mr. Banks’ hard won recognition of what it takes be a ‘good father’ is secured by his willingness to fly kites with his children at the end of Mary Poppins. Yet the motif of tethered flight and the significance of the accelerated motion made possible by the bicycle are not restricted to Anglo-American films – films such as The Blue Kite, Gattu, La Ballon Rouge, Likes Stars on Earth, The White Balloon, The Kite Runner, Wadjda, The Kid with a Bike, Kiki’s Delivery Service and Like Father, Like Son, all demonstrate the significance of the forces of ‘lift’, motion and flight within the representation of childhood. I want to use this opportunity within the context of a conference dedicated to the child and nation, to think about lift, motion and tethered flight as peculiarly affective forces in childhood’s imaginative world(s). Balloons, bicycles and kites offer opportunities to explore key themes in childhood relating to an emotional as well as a physical geography: separation anxiety; escape; or possession, desire and the ephemeral aspects of childhood.
Karen Lury is Professor of Film & Television Studies (Theatre, Film and Television Studies) at the University of Glasgow. Karen's most recent monograph is The Child in Film: Tears, Fears and Fairytales, published in 2010 by I. B. Tauris (and Rutgers University Press) and she is currently editing a new anthology, The Child in Cinema, for BFI/Palgrave due to be published in 2013. Her own research in to questions of the representation of childhood and children on screen is now primarily related to her AHRC funded project 'Children and Amateur Media in Scotland' where she is working in collaboration with Dr Ryan Shand and the Scottish Screen Archive.


Panel 3a) Sensuality and Queer/Female Sexuality
Reframing the figure of the sexual child and teenager in Argentine Cinema: from ‘abnormality’ and victimhood to ‘difference’”, Guillermo Olivera (University of Stirling)
This paper seeks to explore how contemporary on-screen representations of queer childhoods/adolescence are capable of rendering visible the constitution of ‘the queer self’ as both shameful or injured and antagonistic, but capable as well of triggering processes of peer solidarity. The analysis will thus focus on the processes of ‘queer child/teenage self’ as (a) shameful (Sedgwick) or injured (Butler) selves but able to bring about child or teenage performativity; (b) early queer antagonism and negativity associated with experiences of heterotopias and heterocronies, in which the ‘closet space’ plays a constitutive and configurative role. Thirdly, I will also address (c) emerging processes of child/child and teen/teen solidarity and alliances, processes that allow for a political reading in terms of equivalence. The paper will provide a historical angle to the topic by drawing on various examples from an array of post-2000 films in which the figure of the child as a sexual subject –in its specific junctions and intersections with gender– is central: Glue (Dos Santos, 2006), XXY (Puenzo, 2007), El último verano de la Boyita (Solomonoff, 2009) and Miss Tacuarembó (Sastre, 2010). Although antecedents from the 1990s will be considered, this is an important shift in Argentine cinema because the three characteristics outlined above seem to have become central to a wider corpus of post-2000 Argentine movies in which child sexuality is the focus: the on-screen sexual(ised) child/teenager is now a ‘queer child/adolescent’ that gains in agency and identity/subjectivisation processes. This will be contrasted with previous representations of the sexualised child as mere victim (marginalised and/or institutionalised, i.e. usually abandoned, socially destitute, victims of rape, etc.) in films such as El secuestrador (Torre Nilsson, 1958), Crónica de un niño solo (Favio, 1965) or El polaquito (Desanzo, 2003).
Guillermo Olivera is Lecturer in Visual Cultures and Latin American Studies at the University of Stirling (Scotland). He has also taught at the University of Nottingham and Queen Mary (University of London). He had a previous academic career in Argentina as a Research Fellow, Lecturer and Profesor Adjunto of Semiotics (National University of Córdoba). As a trained semiotician and cultural critic, he has published articles, translations, annotations and interviews on Argentine Film, Television and Visual Culture, queer cinema, semiotic theory, political discourse and LGBT identity politics. His most recent publications include the book Laboratorios de la mediatización (Bern: Peter Lang, 2011), and the co-edited volumes Estudios queer. Semióticas y políticas de la sexualidad (Buenos Aires: La Crujía, 2013) and The 2001 Argentinazo: The Boom of the Film Documentary As Political Action and Reconstruction (Nottingham: CCCP, forthcoming).

Her Skin Against the Rocks, The Rocks Against the Sky: Revisiting Weir's ‘Picnic At Hanging Rock’ (1975) after Morley’s ‘The Falling’ (2014), and the Fable of Female Hysteria”, Davina Quinlivan (Kingston University)


Picnic at Hanging Rock is Peter Weir’s stunning 1975 adaption of Joan Lindsay’s classic novel which follows the mysterious disappearance of a group of school girls after a Valentine’s Day picnic in the Australian Outback. Weir’s film is lush, evocative and elliptical, as oneiric and shimmering as the sun-bleached day itself in which the girls vanish from existence. More recently, the filmmaker Carol Morley has directed a similarly sensuous tale, The Falling (2014), in which a group of British girls are experiencing a wave of hysterical exhaustion, fainting during a dizzying spell of eerie contagion. Fainting, is for Morley, a manifestation of denied or displaced sexuality, inspired by ‘the explanation traditionally offered for hysterical outbreaks – particularly in late 17th-century Salem’.  My paper will consider the concordances and rich correspondences between Morley’s film and ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’, tracing a cinematic genealogy of girlhood, of the mystical and mythic, and the questions surrounding embodied experience and sensuality which both films invite.
Davina Quinlivan is a Senior Lecturer in Performance and Screen Studies at Kingston University. She is the author of The Place of Breath in Cinema (EUP, 2012) and Filming the Body in Crisis: Trauma, Healing and Hopefulness (Palgrave, 2015). She has published in Screen (OUP) and is the winner of the Studies in French Cinema Best Article Prize. She writes on theories of embodiment, sound and trauma in a range of films, especially the French cinema of the body, Female Directors and Girlhood on screen.

"Into the Black: Vietnam, Out of the Blue, and the End of Childhood", Ara Osterweil (McGill University)
I am currently writing a book entitled The Pedophilic Imagination: Children, Sex, Movies, which argues that the representation of pedophilic relationships structures American cinema from its emergence in the late nineteenth century to the present. By examining key films from every decade, I interrogate how and why the cinematic figuration of pedophilia is so often called upon to negotiate anxieties about race, gender, sexuality, class, labor, immigration, and war during moments of crisis during the industry and the nation. As I argue, American cinema has capitalized upon American ambivalence towards child sexuality in order to both incite and assuage cultural anxieties about the transgression of racial, sexual, and generational boundaries. For this conference, I would like to present an excerpt from my chapter on Vietnam-era cinema that focuses on Dennis Hopper's 1980 film Out of the Blue. Directed by Hopper in Canada after he was blacklisted from making films in the United States, Out of the Blue offers a searing portrait of the incestuous relationship between an alcoholic father, played by Hopper, who has just been released from prison for drunkenly killing a school bus full of children and his punk teenaged daughter, played by Linda Manz. Although the film never explicitly references Vietnam, I approach it as an allegory for the war and the subsequent transformation of American conceptions of childhood and masculinity. For not only does Out of the Blue radically subvert the "redemption through violence" narrative that characterizes American cinema, but through its portrayal of an empowered, androgynous, and ultimately suicidal queer child, it refutes all claims to the political and erotic innocence of both children and the nation.
Ara Osterweil is a writer, film scholar, and painter who lives in Montreal and New York. She teaches world cinema and cultural studies in the English department at McGill University, where she is an Associate Professor. Her book, Flesh Cinema: The Corporeal Turn in American Avant-Garde Film (Manchester University Press, 2014), examines the representation of sexuality in experimental film of the 1960s and 1970s. She has also published numerous essays in journals such as Camera Obscura, Film Quarterly, Frameworks, The Brooklyn Rail, and Millennium Film Journal, as well as in anthologies such as Porn Studies, Warhol in Ten Takes, and Women's Experimental Cinema. She has received an ArtsWriters Grant from Creative Capital/ The Warhol Foundation, as well as a SSHRC Insight Grant. She is currently working on a book entitled The Pedophilic Imagination: Children, Sex, Movies.

Panel 3b) Class, the Father and the Family
Little Lord Fauntleroy Goes to Spain: A Case Study of Adaptation and Appropriation in Spanish Child-starred Cinemas”, Erin H. Hogan (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
A resounding and perennial success, Anglo-American Francis Hodgson Burnett’s children’s literature classic Little Lord Fauntleroy has been adapted many times to the screen. This paper will examine the analogue and transposition, per Deborah Cartmell’s and Julie Sanders’ adaptation terminology, of Little Lord Fauntleroy in the Spanish films Un rayo de luz (Luis Lucía 1960) and El viaje de Carol (Imanol Uribe 2002). Common to all three texts is the child’s journey to the country of his or her parents’ origin and the revelation then hierarchized reconciliation of cultural differences therein. The triptych I propose here spans the United States and England of the 1880s, Spain and Italy of the early 1960s, and Spain of 1938 and 2002. Although these features share Hodgson Burnett’s literary intertext, each offers exceptional insight into the utilization of the child protagonist during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries for opposing ideals of family, nation, class, and gender. The mothers of the twelve-year-old protagonists are not accepted either for reasons of nationality and class in Un rayo and Little Lord or for politics in El viaje. Spain’s problematic relationship with the memory of its Civil War and Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939-75) sheds light on how each film barters with the national symbolism of the child protagonist in the literary intertext in order to serve the ideologies of Franco’s Spain of the early 1960s and Constitutional Spain of the early 2000s.

Erin K. Hogan is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her research focuses on the representations of children in contemporary Spain and Latin America. She is preparing a book manuscript that approaches narratives of appropriation of the child and the Spanish cine con niño film genre through the metaphorical and theoretical lenses of ventriloquism and biopolitics. One of her most recent publications, on the Catalan film Black Bread (Villaronga 2010), appeared in the February (2016) Screen Arts issue of Hispanic Research Journal.

“‘Iniquity of the Fathers’: Masculinity, Class and Childhood in Scottish cinema”, Robert Munro (Queen Margaret University)


The films of directors Bill Douglas (Childhood Trilogy, 1972-78) and Bill Forsyth (That Sinking Feeling, 1979; Gregory’s Girl, 1981) begun an enduring focus with childhood and adolescence within the Scottish Cinema, which can be seen in recent years through films such as: Ratcatcher (Ramsay, 1999), Sweet Sixteen (Loach, 2002), Neds (Mullan, 2010), Shell (Graham, 2012), Iona (Graham, 2015) and Sunset Song (Davies, 2015). Many feature a troubling father-child relationship, most frequently between father and son; however the three most recent films listed above also probe the relationship between father and daughter. These films interrogate notions of class (in doing so validating particular modes of experiencing) by filtering their portrayals of poverty in Scotland through the eyes of the child. This paper will analyse three of these films in close detail (Ratcatcher, Neds and Shell), drawing upon previous work on Scottish cinema which has frequently, and sometimes problematically, focused primarily on film and national identity. Do these films position Scotland as the poor child in the family of the United Kingdom; or is such political allegorising too neat when textual analysis of the films is rounded out with a study of their production, and the motives of their ‘auteurist’ directors? Scottish cinema has ‘grown up’ alongside processes of political and arguably cultural devolution from the British state since the 1970s, and this paper will locate its analysis of the role of the child in the aforementioned films within this socio-political context.
Robert Munro is a third year PhD student, whose research examines contemporary film adaptations of Scottish literature, and the relationships between cultural policy, national identity and screen production in Scotland.  

Gramsci, Pasolini and the Girl: Analyzing Alice Rohrwacher’s Le meraviglie”, Stefano Guerini Rocco (University of Bergamo)


Twelve-year-old Gelsomina and her younger sister secretly sing a commercial pop hit in the barn of their farm. Suddenly their father calls them: he is a stern, patriarchal beekeeper who wants them to take part in all the phases of his apiarist work. This brief scene perfectly embodies the double heart of Alice Rohrwacher’s The Wonders (Le meraviglie, 2014). On one hand, the movie depicts the coming of age of a young girl in mid-90s Italy: Gelsomina’s conflict between belonging to or escaping from her rigid, archaic family is the plot’s backbone. On the other hand, Rohrwacher wants to portray the progressive and irreversible end of an entire traditional cultural system – what Antonio Gramsci called “folklore” – while the commercial song and the crew that arrives in the Tuscan countryside to shoot a TV program represent what Pier Paolo Pasolini defined as a kind of “sviluppo senza progresso” (“development without progression”). Thus The Wonders depicts a crucial moment of the Italian recent history, but Rohrwacher overlaps this passage with a typical coming of age narrative: it is a double transition. The rural life and the TV program represent for Gelsomina two opposite ways of growing up and becoming a woman, two antithetical views of the world and the future. However, Gelsomina will find out that both of them are ghost worlds, which lead only to a dream of shadows dancing on the walls of a cave.
Stefano Guerini Rocco is a PhD student in Studi Umanistici Interculturali (Intercultural Humanistic Studies) at the University of Bergamo. His research project concerns the representation of girlhood in contemporary American cinema, focusing on the teen movie genre. In 2010 he earned a BA in Cultural Heritage Studies and in 2013 a MA in Cinema Studies at the University of Milan with a thesis on the relationship between Peter Bogdanovich’s work as a filmmaker and as a film critic. He also received a Diploma in Film Production at the Scuola Civica di Cinema, Televisione e Nuovi Media of Milan in 2011. In 2007 he started a collaboration with Il Morandini – Dizionario dei Film and since then he writes as a film critic for several periodicals, online magazines and academic journals like Cineforum. He occasionally takes part in the production of short movies, documentaries, TV commercials, and feature films. Currently he is part of the Scientific Committee of F.A.T.F., an Italian association that promotes the educational role of theatre during childhood and adolescence.

Keynote: David Martin Jones (University of Glasgow)

Telling the Story of History with (to, or by) the Child: Non-National, National, and Transnational Takes”

The size, complexity and richness of a world of cinemas make it extremely difficult to chart how the child is depicted, globally, in any all-encompassing way. Yet by focusing on clusters of films which feature the child, as a way of sorting or taxonomising, we can better understand the different ways in which the story of history (its cinematic manifestation so famously explored by Hayden White, Robert Rosenstone, Marcia Landy, Robert Burgoyne et al.) is told in such films. This paper will explore three such clusters, focusing on recent representative examples: national (the Brazilian film The Year My Parents went on Vacation (2006)), non-national (the Scottish-Gaelic film Seachd: The Inaccessible Pinnacle (2007)), and transnational (the Uruguayan horror La Casa Muda/The Silent House (2010)). Such an approach to sorting a world of cinemas should not suggest that the topic of the child is not in itself of key importance. In fact, what is evident across such difference is that the story of history being told through the child often has a relationship to generational difference (the story of history is often also being told to the child, at other times by the child), which can help explain why many such films foreground temporality (above and beyond the association of childhood with a less structured sense of time than that of adulthood). When viewed together, “across borders”, can this generational relationship help explain why, in their engagement with history, these various clusters challenge any too neat an association of childhood and nation in world cinemas?

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