CFP: Visible Evidence Panel 2010 (Istanbul, Turkey); "Toward a Social Cinema: The Left Bank Group & the Political Documentary"

full name / name of organization: 
Ryan Watson/ University of Iowa
contact email: 

Visible Evidence XVII
August 9-12, 2010
Bogazici University
Istanbul, Turkey

Panel: "Toward a Social Cinema: The Left Bank Group & the Political Documentary"

This panel explores the phenomenon Richard Roud famously called the "Left Bank Cinema." in documentaries by Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Agnès Varda, Georges Franju, Jean Rouch, Edgar Morin and lesser-known contemporaries Eli Lotar and Nicole Védrès. In addition, we will trace antecedents as far back as Jean Vigo's A propos de Nice , Vigo's 1930 manifesto, "Towards a Social Cinema," and interwar films by Joris Ivens and Henri Storck,. While Vigo was canonized by the directors and critics associated with the Nouvelle Vague such François Truffaut and André Bazin, this adulation remained more a cult of personality than a rigorous engagement with Vigo's ideas. Fortunately, his commitment to social issues was taken up by the Left Bank group, who had broader cultural ambitions than the Cahiers group. Rather than concentrating on cinephilia and auteurs, the members of the Left Bank group engaged social and political issues with a humanist sensibility and personal points of view. This panel seeks to explore this engagement between 1945 and 1967, especially as it addresses the aftermath of World War II, decolonization, global societies in transition, and the Viet-Nam war. Through this line of interrogation, we hope to account critically for the origins, development, and efficacy of a social cinema within an international context.

Chair's Biographies:
Steven Ungar, Professor of French & Comparative Literature at The University of Iowa, is the author of books on Roland Barthes and Maurice Blanchot. His recent work in film includes Popular Front Paris & the Poetics of Cultures (Harvard, 2005, co-authored with Dudley Andrew) & Cléo de 5 à 7 (BFI, 2008) and an article on Jean Vigo's notion of social cinema. His current project is Making Waves, a book-length study of early postwar French documentary (circa 1945-1967) linked to and around Left Bank filmmakers.

Ryan Watson is a Ph.D. candidate in Film Studies at the University of Iowa. His writing on documentary films and videos has appeared in the Journal of Film and Video and Afterimage. He has presented his work on documentary films and videos at Visible Evidence, the British Association of American Studies and the US Cultural Studies Association.

Please send proposals to Steve Ungar ( or Ryan Watson ( by MARCH 12th.