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October 23 Seminar: Sharon Bhagwan

Sharon Bhagwan will present her paper, "Filming local, Thinking Global." on October 23rd, 2003

Daniel Cho Email DanielCho


Filming local, Thinking global.


One of the fears of a globalized informational culture is that it pays lip service to cultural diversity, but leads to homogenization (monoculture.)  A way of approaching this question is to ask another: What new art might emerge in this landscape?

From narratives to music, certain principles have been privileged: fusion, hybridity, remixing, remakes, pastiche, parody. There are two things that underly these principles. One is the confrontation between dominant (global) cultural forms and (local) artistic practice, or between reception/consumption and creation. Another underlying aspect is the problem of the heterogeneous.

This paper addresses these issues by looking back at the counter-cinema movements in France, the United States and India from the !950’s to 1970’s. With varying degrees of success, these movements are seen as challenging the dominant or mainstream film industries in place at the time. I argue that these works, seen from a global rather than merely national perspective, are generated by a filmic logic of distraction. That is to say that they arise from an a-perceptual experience linked to a mediatized environment. This distraction-experience is characterized  by multiple loci (too much info-bits demanding our attention) and disjointed foci (we can’t keep focused.)

Drawing on this, I explore two principal developments in counter-cinema. Firstly, I show that these works are not merely national or regional. Their structuring of character, story and image implicitly (and explicitly) engage the processes of a globalized, mediatized commodity-culture. Secondly these works can be seen as the exploration of heterogeneous compositions that resist easy fusion and privilege “layering”.

I  would suggest that an analysis of counter-cinema works from these perspectives might teach us a) how cultural and artistic practice might fundamentally (and not merely superficially) incorporate the heterogeneous, and b) how the local can address the global.

            More specifically, this paper looks at how vision and space work in relation to the questions above. I primarily discuss the following films: Satyajit Ray’s Song of the Little Road, and World of Apu, Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Shirley Clarke’s The  Connection, Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless, and Jacques Rivette’s Paris belongs to us.


You can view some of these films at the Media Center in the basement of Powell Library.





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