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Screening Nature

Screening Nature: Cinema beyond the Human

Anat Pick
Guinevere Narraway
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Screening Nature
    Book Description:

    Environmentalism and ecology are areas of rapid growth in academia and society at large.Screening Natureis the first comprehensive work that groups together the wide range of concerns in the field of cinema and the environment, and what could be termed "posthuman cinema." It comprises key readings that highlight the centrality of nature and nonhuman animals to the cinematic medium, and to the language and institution of film. The book offers a fresh and timely intervention into contemporary film theory through a focus on the nonhuman environment as principal register in many filmic texts.Screening Natureoffers an extensive resource for teachers, undergraduate students, and more advanced scholars on the intersections between the natural world and the worlds of film. It emphasizes the cross-cultural and geographically diverse relevance of the topic of cinema ecology.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-227-0
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Introduction. Intersecting Ecology and Film
    (pp. 1-18)
    Anat Pick and Guinevere Narraway

    InThe Ecological Thought,Timothy Morton opens up reflection to an all-encompassing ecological dimension; the ecological thought is, in fact, contemporary thought proper, thought beyond narrow thematics, perspectives and disciplines:

    The ecological thought is a virus that infects all other areas of thinking. (Yet viruses, and virulence, are shunned in environmental ideology.) . . . ecology isn’t just about global warming, recycling, and solar power – and also not just to do with everyday relationships between humans and nonhumans. It has to do with love, loss, despair, and compassion. It has to do with depression and psychosis. It has to do...

  6. Part I. Eco-poetics:: Film, Form and the Natural World

    • 1 Three Worlds: Dwelling and Worldhood on Screen
      (pp. 21-36)
      Anat Pick

      Cinema cannot escape nature. In relation to nature, film is either placed or, if ‘the world is not enough’, displaced. But however fantastical, even non-photographic, film springs forth from the world to which it ultimately returns. When speaking of the worldhood (Weltlichkeit) of film, I am thinking of the ways in which films construct their own worlds and in so doing assert the ontological property of film’s ‘groundedness’ – its dwelling in the totality of its construction. This chapter examines films in which nature and conceptions of worldhood come together, not as mirror images or as overlapping copies, but by invoking...

    • 2 Ten Skies, 13 Lakes, 15 Pools – Structure, Immanence and Eco-aesthetics in The Swimmer And James Benning’ s Land Films
      (pp. 37-59)
      Silke Panse

      The following chapter develops the notion of eco-aesthetics with respect to moving images and argues that the connections between the world and the image – including the land and the landscape – are what make the documentaries of the experimental filmmaker James Benning eco-aesthetical. Focusing on a shot in Benning’s digital videoRuhr(2009), this chapter examines the film and video subgenre of planes behind-leaves-in-the-wind and asks who or what moves leaves in the wind in moving images. André Bazin, who endorses a transcendent continuity between the world and the cinematographic image (1967: 14), I suggest, sees film as part of nature...

    • 3 Land as Protagonist – An Interview with James Benning
      (pp. 60-70)
      Silke Panse and James Benning

      SP: Your films allow for numerous relations between nature, humans, machines and labour to develop. You have often said that landscape is a function of time. Would you also say that the subject is a function of landscape?

      JB: My first film where I really directly tried to address that wasLandscape Suicide[1986], where I thought that the subject really was a function of those events that happened in the landscape. It was a highly affluent community in California, where Bernadette lived and her family was poor, so there was this class isolation within that kind of social landscape...

  7. Part II. Zoē-tropes:: Envisioning the Nonhuman

    • 4 Anthropomorphism and Its Vicissitudes: Reflections on Homme-sick Cinema
      (pp. 73-90)
      James Leo Cahill

      In a 1973 television broadcast, subsequently published as the textTélévision(1974), Jacques Lacan responds to an offscreen question from Jacques-Alain Miller about the strangeness of the word ‘unconscious’. After stressing that the unconscious requires language and is proper to speaking beings alone, the psychoanalyst introduces two neologisms, ‘en mal d’homme’ and ‘d’hommestiques’, which he treats as synonyms. Lacan coins these terms to refer to animals, who are presumed to be outside of language, but who are nevertheless affected by the uncon scious through their intimacy with humans and thus their proximity to, and haunting by, human language (Lacan 1974:...

    • 5 Animism and the Performative Realist Cinema of Apichatpong Weerasethakul
      (pp. 91-109)
      May Adadol Ingawanij

      Animism makes real the permeability of human and nonhuman worlds. As a structure of perception and framework of experience, the relevance of animism to the theme of cinema beyond the human lies in its conception of the self as porous with respect to a multiplicity of life forms. In the animistic universe, the movement ofanimacreates duration characterised by untimely appearances and the cyclical trajec tory of rebirths and returns. This chapter approaches the recent films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, primarilySat pralaat!/Tropical Malady(2004) andLung Boonmee raleuk chat/Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives(2010), as presentations...

    • 6 Was Blind But Now I See: Animal Liberation Documentaries’ Deconstruction of Barriers to Witnessing Injustice
      (pp. 110-126)
      Carrie Packwood Freeman and Scott Tulloch

      ‘You better hope the anti-vivisection people don’t get a hold of this film’, laughs a laboratory worker as she videotapes herself tormenting a scared monkey during shock treatments – a video that prophetically ends up in the activist documentaryBehind the Mask(2006). This is just one of dozens of examples of video footage that industries never meant to see the light of day, but which documentarians critically showcase for public scrutiny. While some footage in animal liberation documentaries was created by animal-exploitative industries as inhouse training or private research videos, most documentations must be filmed by activists themselves via covert...

    • 7 Filming the Frozen South: Animals in Early Antarctic Exploration Films
      (pp. 127-142)
      Elizabeth Leane and Stephen Nicol

      At the beginning of90° South(1933), Herbert Ponting appears on screen to introduce viewers to his visual narrative of Robert F. Scott’s second expedition (1910 to 1913):

      I would like to say just a word or two about the great white south. The Antarctic continent is the home of nature in her wildest and most relent less moods, and it is there that the hurricane and blizzard are born. Though much larger than Europe, that vast continent has never been inhabited by man. It is utterly devoid of vegetation, and no land animals of any kind exist there. The...

  8. Part III. Eco-politics:: Environment, Image, Ideology

    • 8 Dirty Pictures: Framing Pollution and Desire in ‘new New Queer Cinema’
      (pp. 145-161)
      Sophie Mayer

      In an interview to mark the release ofUncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives(2010), Apichatpong Weerasethakul told Steve Rose that:

      His next project involves his heroine, Tilda Swinton. It concerns the Mekong river, he explains, and will address the relationship between man and water, the catastrophic flooding which is blamed on Chinese dams and diseases spread by industrial-scale pig farming. None of which particularly brings to mind Tilda Swinton. ‘It’s definitely not going to be a film that will just have a foreign movie star for the sake of it. It’s going to be an exchange of...

    • 9 Utopia in the Mud: Nature and Landscape in the Soviet Science Fiction Film
      (pp. 162-176)
      Elana Gomel

      In Ivan Efremov’s utopian novelThe Hour of the Bull(1968), the heroine, a citizen of the perfect society of the future, declares: ‘Only man has the right to judge nature for the excessive suffering on the way to progress’ (Efremov 1988: 422). Nature is an enemy to be subjugated, mastered and ‘judged’. And yet the utopian world she inhabits is not a high-tech landscape of sterile towers but a pastoral of unspoiled greenery, a ‘marvellous garden’ (ibid.: 175). This strange duality encapsulates a problematic relation of nature with the ethics and aesthetics of socialist realism. On the one hand, nature...

    • 10 Animals, Avatars and the Gendering of Nature
      (pp. 177-193)
      Claire Molloy

      During a climactic battle scene in the 2009 science fantasy blockbusterAvatar,nonhumanoid animal beings on the exoplanetary moon Pandora unite in an attack against corporate security forces which threaten to decimate the land in the search for a valuable mineral, unobtanium. The animals fight alongside the Na’vi, indigenous blue humanoids who are able to connect via neural bonding with other Pandoran organisms. In these battle scenes,Avatardepicts an imagined alliance between animals and humanoids in the face of an impending ecological threat precipitated by capitalistic motives and the unrelenting exploitation of natural resources for reasons of corporate greed....

    • 11 Buried Land: Filming the Bosnian Pyramids
      (pp. 194-210)
      Steven Eastwood and Geoffrey Alan Rhodes

      In 2005, the small Bosnian town of Visoko underwent a huge trans formation following the public proclamation that ancient pyramids lay buried beneath the surrounding hills. At the behest of amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagich, and in spite of widespread scientific rejection of the claims, the local community formed a pyramid foundation and began digging. After several small excavations on the slopes of Visociča – the large and unusually triangular hill which has become the emblem of the project – Osmanagich published his bookThe Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun,hosting an international press event at which he claimed Visociča and several other...

  9. Part IV. Eco-praxis:: Film as Environmental Practice

    • 12 Strange Seeing: Re-viewing Nature in the Films of Rose Lowder
      (pp. 213-224)
      Guinevere Narraway

      InOn Photography,Susan Sontag (1978: 68–69) complains that the ‘true modernism is not austerity but a garbage-strewn plenitude’. This plenitude is the domain, according to Sontag, of photography and film.¹ Sontag concludes that reality – or more precisely, our experience of it – is being depleted by an overconsumption (through an overproduction) of images of that reality. She (ibid.: 180) thus calls for ‘an ecology not only of real things but of images as well’.

      The photographic representation of nature features prominently in Sontag’s argument. She (ibid.: 97) asserts, ‘the habit of photographic seeing – of looking at reality as an...

    • 13 The Art of Self-emptying and Ecological Integration: Bae Yong-kyun’s Why Has Bodhidharma Left for the East?
      (pp. 225-240)
      Chia-ju Chang

      The alienation and objectification of the environment – seeing the external world outside of our skins as separate from ourselves and therefore subject to limitless domination and exploitation – is one of the major causes of environmental injustice, species mass extinctions, pollution and other ecological crises. Deconstructing the very notion of the self, a notion referred to by Gregory Bateson (Macy 1990: 53) as ‘the epistemological error of Occidental civilisation’, and the healing of the self–other divide have become a moral imperative across a number of academic disciplines. Despite their differences, the schools or movements within the humanities in the West,...

    • 14 An Inconvenient Truth: Science and Argumentation in the Expository Documentary Film
      (pp. 241-256)
      David Ingram

      As the fifth most commercially successful documentary in the history of cinema,An Inconvenient Truth(2006) raises important questions about the role of screen media in the development of public discourses about the science and politics of global warming, and also about how cinema can represent such a complex and elusive subject. Stephen Rust has shown how the film employed ‘melodramatic affect to present a persuasive argument on global warming’, and thereby made a significant intervention in debates over climate change in the United States (Rust 2013: 202). Rust’s emphasis on the emotional appeal of the film has rightly been...

    • 15 Planet in Focus: Environmental Film Festivals
      (pp. 257-274)
      Kay Armatage

      On opening night, 13 October 2010, Planet in Focus (Toronto) kicked off its eleventh environmental film and video festival with an unprecedented splash.¹ The opening film,In the Wake of the Flood(2010) was accompanied by its director, documentary stalwart Ron Mann, as well as its subject, Margaret Atwood – a Canadian literary star of international magnitude. Atwood and her husband Graeme Gibson, known for their long dedication to the environment and particularly the protection of birds, were there in person to receive the festival’s 2010 Eco Hero award. After tumultuous applause for the film, The Echo Choir performed songs from...

  10. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 275-280)
  11. Index
    (pp. 281-295)