Panel 3: Global Politics & Narratives



Panel 3: Global Politics & Narratives

“Multi-species in an Emergency: Reshaping rural communities after the Argentinean 2001 Crisis in Albertina Carri’s film La Rabia

Valeria Meiller (Ph.D. candidate in Spanish and Portuguese, Georgetown University)

Still the Water: Tension Between Cinematic Animism and PostAnthropocentrism in Global Eco Art Cinema”

Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn (Ph.D. candidate in Film Studies, Queen Mary, University of London)

“Nature as Mystical Refuge in Reha Erdem Films”

Ekin Gündüz Ozdemirci (Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society; Faculty of Communication, Beykent University)

“Conceptualizing Speculative Aesthetics in Asian Ecocinema”

Kiu-wai Chu (Postdoctoral Fellow in Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Western Sydney University)

Q & A

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17 replies
  1. rlmurray50 says:

    Hi Valeria. Thank you for your insightful exploration of animal slaughtering in Argentina. We especially liked your alignment of the Argentinian meat industry with the political realities of Argentinian history. We also look forward to seeing Albertina Carri’s film La Rabia. Donna Haraway’s inter-species narrative translates in both positive and negative ways. You note the focus on “sharing of common suffering” that brings to mind animal rights vs. animal welfare arguments we’ve explored. Is there a space for environmentalism in an animal-rights driven ethic?

  2. rlmurray50 says:

    Thank you for introducing us (Robin and Joe) to “Still the Water” and director Naomi Kawase. Her close-ups with nonhuman subjects, including plants, opens up possibilities for organismic ecological readings of her works (like Aldo Leopold’s conceptions of “The Land Ethic” in *The Sand County Almanac*). Kawase’s “Post-Anthropocentric” vision seems to contrast with E.O. Wilson’s *Half Earth* view, which asserts that “The only solution to the Sixth Extinction is to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half the surface of the Earth or greater,” separating humans from the natural world. How might these conflicting perspectives be reconciled?

    • Graiwoot says:

      Thank you very much Robin and Joe. I just viewed your clip last night!
      I haven’t read both Leopold’s and Wilson’s work (and I’m very glad that you introduce these works to me). For Wilson’s proposal, what I m interested from your summary is that how can we humans increase those inviolable areas without owning, controlling, or managing it through the power of looking? Cinema, or media, is a double-edged sword here. Your suggestion of Wilson reminds me of two works which I m familiar with. One is an article by Anat Pick’s Why Not Look at Animals? which intentionally reverses John Berger’s argument and suggests that ‘not-seeing emerges as a progressive modality of relation to animals’ esp when contemporary system of looking associates closely with a surveillance culture. The other article which shares the same idea is an article by Brett Mills, “Television wildlife documentaries and animals’ right to privacy” which questions the advanced technology of wildlife doc (ex. Planet Earth) and its role to break the rights of privacy in animals (or in the natural world). I know that I didnt answer your question yet, but it’s what I am thinking too – to see or not to see.

  3. rlmurray50 says:

    Thank you, Ekin, for your enticing reading of five of Reha Erdem’s films. Your premise about these films presenting nature as mystical refuge is encouraging us to take a look at these films. Your screen captures emphasize the films’ attempts o highlight humans as part of nature. We’ll look forward to viewing and responding. The Turkish films we’ve been viewing primarily highlight urban settings.

    • EkinGunduz says:

      Dear Robin,
      Thank you for the comment. I have been recently working on reconsidering New Turkish Cinema from an ecocritical perspective. I observe a shift in ecological understandings in recent films compared to the early ones, in terms of human and non-human relations. Especially in art house films; most of them have qualities that can be defined as slow cinema; there is a prominent nature-based film aesthetic. On the other hand the urban-rural dichotomy is present in most films, which stimulate discussions on urban alienation and nature/society dualism. Some recent films with urban settings, mostly taking place in Istanbul, also highlight various aspects of urban alienation.

  4. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    HI Ekin:
    Robin and I really admire Dry Summer. It’s narrative fits into what we were doing with our book on Westerns and water and water diversion. We found it to be a really interesting work.

    • EkinGunduz says:

      Hi Joseph,

      Dry Summer is one of the most impressive films of early Turkish cinema, I also include that film into my current work. It is a good example to put forward the difference between early and recent films on environmental approaches. In Dry Summer, like in many early films, nature is important as a domicile, labor relations are foregrounded, but at the same time nature is important as a surrounding for human well-being, we don’t observe an aesthetic or narrative that support emotional and philosophical interrogations on human non-human interconnectedness etc. The director, Metin Erksan, has two other films on the issue of politics of ownership, they are sometimes considered as a trilogy. One of them, The Revenge of the Snakes, deals with land ownership, and the other one, Kuyu (The Well), is about claiming ownership over women’s body. He was an exceptional filmmaker and thinker for his time.

  5. Christy Tidwell, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology says:

    Hi Kiu-wai – thanks for your talk! I’ve added all the films you mentioned to my (very long) list of films to watch (hopefully they’re available to an English-speaking audience). Given your point about the deterritorialized spaces of some of these films, I wonder what you think of the setting of Snowpiercer. Would you say that the train and its global wanderings do something similar? Or is something different happening here? Snowpiercer also notably crosses cultural lines in its production (South Korean director, French original text, English language release, etc.), so I wonder how you would address its production as compared to the other Asian speculative cinema you discuss here.

    Your third point about solastalgia and ecological grief in speculative cinema is really interesting, too. Have you read E. Ann Kaplan’s Climate Trauma? She talks about something she calls pretraumatic stress syndrome (PreTSS) that might contribute interestingly to your argument.

    • kiuwaichu says:

      Hi Christy!
      Thanks for your suggestions and questions! Snowpiercer is indeed worth discussing. As a transnational coproduction, Snowpiercer does seem even more culturally diluted than the Chinese and Vietnamese films I discussed. Its setting on a moving train in a post-apocalyptic future where national and geopolitical boundaries no longer exist seems to have pushed that deterritorialized and cosmopolitan imagination of the future we see in speculative films to an extreme. What seem to be commonly reflected in all these speculative films, is perhaps the fact that filmmakers today are all imagining human beings in the future with more global, cosmopolitan identities, as a way to emphasize that environmental crises being a collective, shared experience faced and suffered by human of all races and ethnicities.

      That said, I feel that we can still see in these films (esp. in Snowpiercer) how some cultures are being more visible than others, and how they continue to define the different social classes in the deterritorialized future (e.g. consuming sashimi in a Japanese restaurant; drinking in a fancy Victorian style wine bar, etc.), while we see little that reflects cultures of the Global South.
      Thanks for reminding me of Kaplan’s Climate Trauma. Her concept does seem very relevant, have added it to my reading list and will definitely look into it!

  6. Joseph Heumann, Eastern Illinois University says:

    Hi Kiu-wai:
    We (Robin and I) really liked your presentation. It’s going to be a really cool book. We are big fans of Under the Dome and use it in our conclusion for EcoCinema and the City. We really were taken by the introduction to some of these new Vietnamese films as well as the way you tied both novels, docs and fictional films into a seamless web. We’ve done work on The Scent of Green Papaya and have seen some Thai films on the tsunami disaster (which are far better than the western ones that examine the heroic survival of white tourists…..ugh). But you will be the “go to man” for deep knowledge in this area. We are really happy to see all your hard work coming into the public eye.

    • kiuwaichu says:

      Hi Joseph and Robin,

      Thanks for your comments and recommendations! I look forward to reading Ecocinema and the City! The Scent of Green Papaya and Tran Ahn Hung’s earlier works are great. I wish he would return to make more films about Vietnam. And yes, there are some far more insightful and impactful Asian productions on the subject of post-eco-disaster rebuilding (or the inability to rebuild) as compared to western ones. I have recently submitted an article for the journal Asian Cinema on “The Imagination of Eco-disaster: Post-disaster Rebuilding in Asian Cinema”, in which I’ve discussed Brillante Mendoza’s Trap/Taklub (The Phillippines), Aditya Assarat’s Wonderful Town (Thailand) and Feng Xiaogang’s Aftershock (China), and talk about post-disaster realism in contemporary Asian films. It often gives me this mixed feeling, knowing that these films are so powerful only because they are based on what has happened/is still happening in real life situations, to real people and the environment.

  7. Graiwoot says:

    Hi Kiu-wai,

    I’ve just finished watching your clip. Thank you for the amazing presentation. I love how you conceptualize the project as well as pointing out key works. I also love the term ‘environmental subalterns’ in which I think I will surely quote you in the future. Also love the solastalgia and ecological grief (it matches very well with Trương minh quý’s work). I also love how you dance between the appraoch of regional cinemas and the sense of post-naitionalism.

    I think your concept will work very well as it fits with certain characteristic in arthouse asian cinema. I mean, many arthouse films in the region borrow an element from sci-fi films/novels eventhough these films are not strictly a sci-fi films. This may or may not come from the influence of Apichatpong+Jia Zhangke, but we can see this trope of aesthetics/narratives in many works of the younger filmmakers, such as Diamond Island (a coming of age Cambodian film which uses a futuristic tone to reflect the radical change and the sense of alienation in the country). Thanks again for the talk.

    • kiuwaichu says:

      Hi Graiwoot, thanks so much for your fascinating presentation too. Your focus on animals, animism, postanthropocentrism in Asian arthouse cinema is intriguing, and well supported by your reference to Berger and Burt’s discussion.

      One question I have is about the animal sacrifice in ancient Asian traditions. As you convincingly point out, the slaughtering is seen as the Islanders’ animistic tradition which you suggest Kawase depicts as a way to revitalize ancient (Shinto?) beliefs, but accidentally reasserted the anthropocentric values of animal sacrifice. I somehow feel that the same is happening to Chinese philosophical beliefs, particularly Daoism and Confucianism, which many are quick to draw conclusions that Chinese people in the past had closer proximity with nature because of their Confucian or Daoist beliefs. I do see a lot of contradictions between ideals and practices in everyday life, which I see applicable to both people now and then. I believe it is a good time we re-evaluate the extent in which these ancient beliefs and practices are ecocentric/ non-anthropocentric.

      In other words, instead of being a conflict between ecocentric beliefs in the past and anthropocentric ones at present, could we see it more as an ideological clash between contemporary animal rights advocacy with the more complex indigenous beliefs that are not easily definable as ecocentric or anthropocentric?
      Thanks for your recommendation of Diamond Island, one I’d definitely add to my to-see list. I’ll need a lot more help and advice from your concerning Southeast Asian arthouse and indie cinema! On another note, I’ve been trying hard to get hold of 3.11 Sense of Home, but without much luck. Do you know where can I find it still?

      Congratulations to your fellowship at the University of Westminster. I look forward to reading more of your work on Apichatpong, Lav Diaz and other Southeast Asian filmmakers’ films in relationship to the Anthropocene.

  8. Inez says:

    Hi members of Panel 3, all your talks have been very informative and inspiring to me. Thank you all for your wonderful jobs!

    Valeria, I’m also interested in the slaughterhouse theme in general, and find Argentina as a particularly interesting case. Slaughterhouse itself could be, more than its metaphorical sense, a great topic in political philosophy. I wonder if you would consider exploring the relation between the two further from a more theoretical perspective?

    Graiwoot, again I was struck by your discussion of animal slaughter, especially that close-up scene of the girl’s face, in Kawase’s film, which I’d look forward to watching soon. Without further knowledge of the film, I was thinking about the role of ritual sacrifice here. Would that make a difference between the primitive killing (however anthropocentric it still is) and our modern senseless slaughtering and ever-increasing appetite?

    Ekin, your presentation of Erdem’s films are very compelling. I like how you analyze the natural elements as potential actants in the film whose presence and movements are given cinematic attention and are perhaps in interaction with the human characters. The gender and children questions are also very good!

    Kiu-wai, what a great job you’ve done in conceiving the speculative eco-cinema in relation to the temporal complexity of solastalgia, such a subtle and fascinating feeling! I admired both the courageous Under the Dome and the poetical Behemoth. I also can’t wait to watch The City of Mirrors. I don’t have an immediate recommendation of other Asian speculative eco-film that fits exactly into your criteria here, but I’ll think more about it. Also, thank you for the information on the facebook group. I’ve added myself to it and it’s just terrific! Look forward to exchanging more ideas with you later.

    Thanks again,

    • Graiwoot says:

      Thank you very much Inez for your question. It hits at the right point and it makes me know the point that I need to elaborate more when I turn this clip into a paper.
      To answer your question, in the context of the animistic practice on the island (that the film was set) , there is a strong difference between a ritual sacrifice and the senseless mass slaughtering. For example, the islanders always pay a respect/ show their gratitude towards the goats (that they slaughtered) by using every parts of the goats for cooking. This gesture is presented with a killing practice in which the villagers will not let goat’s blood dropping on a ground. There is a bowl used to contain the goat’s blood as a way to suggest that every drop, every tiny piece of this animal is important to them. So, this practice has a very different mindset from the modern ever increase appetite (in which a good dish is a selection of some parts of animals because they are tasteful than other parts).

      However, the film goes only half a way in presenting the meaning in this practice. By this I mean, the film ‘shows’ the practice of saving the goat’s blood, but does not elaborate the meaning behind it. Probably it is an artistic license, and the film is not a documentary, so the film just shows the image of blood dropping from the goat’s body into a bowl and lets the audience thinking by themselves. Personally I think that the film should address the meaning in this practice a little bit more to the viewers. Instead of addressing the meaning behind the goat slaughtering from the ritual perspective, the film just uses this killing scene to support the narrative and to solve the protagonist’s conflict – that’s the issue that I have with the film.

      By the way, Inez, I will see your clip tonight and will share my idea with you. I really love The Ornithologist so I am looking forward to your work.

  9. vcoleman says:

    Hi Valeria, thank you for your fascinating talk on the relationship between animal slaughter and national crises in El matadero and La rabia. I especially enjoyed your nuanced analysis of some of the key scenes in the film. I was wondering if, in these cultural artifacts, you see a connection between the treatment of animals and dynamics of gender and sexuality (sexual violence, in particular). For example, in El matadero the unitario’s torture involves a form of rape, and in La rabia there are multiple scenes depicting gender-based violence involving the young protagonist’s mother. How might you see these scenes potentially working alongside your argument here?

    Finally, I couldn’t help but noticing that in your still of the pig slaughter scene in La rabia, the girl’s mother is wearing a sweatshirt with a World Wildlife Fund logo–how terribly ironic! Thanks again for your wonderful presentation.

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