Life through the Lens: The British Biopic in Focus (31st May 2014, deadline for proposals 7th March 2014)

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University of the West of England (Bristol, UK)

Life through the Lens: The British Biopic in Focus
31st May 2014 at Watershed, Bristol
Keynote speaker: Belén Vidal, King's College London
Symposium fee: £20 salaried; £10 student/unsalaried (includes tea/coffee)
Deadline for proposals: Friday 7th March 2014
Organised by the UWE Film and Television Studies Research Group

The Execution of Mary Stuart (1895) tells us that the desire to represent historical lives has been present since the inception of cinema, while the continued commercial and critical success of biopics, from The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) to The King's Speech (2010), indicates that the genre has long been important to the British film industry. The funding for 'British' biopics such as 12 Years a Slave (2013, UK/US) and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013, UK/South Africa) exemplifies the globalisation of an industry and problematises the conflation of production context, subject matter and claims to national specificity. The Iron Lady (2011) and Diana (2013) provide contemporary examples of the biopic's sometimes contentious place in the shaping of history and the development of discourses around public figures. The diversity of the genre is illustrated through the different forms and approaches the biopic has taken: historical epics and intimate character studies, larger-budgeted productions and experimental works. However, while biopics made in Britain and about British subjects continue to proliferate, scholarly work in this area is limited.
This symposium therefore seeks to place the British biopic under the spotlight and to consider appropriate paradigms which reflect the specificities of British production. It welcomes new angles on canonical texts and introductions to films that are less familiar. The symposium will highlight the genre's sustained and continuing influence on British filmmaking, and its commercial and critical success - both domestically and internationally.
Topics may include, but are not restricted to:
- Biopics and stardom, significant actors and the intersection of star personae and casting.
- Industry-focused papers focusing on the specificities of production, promotion, distribution and exhibition. Specific producers/directors of biopics.
- Genre based papers examining cycles, conventions, themes and subject matter. Papers could address different approaches to subjects (celebratory, reverential, critical and interrogative).
- The biopic's ties to documentary, truth claims, techniques and styles.
- Lesser known and marginalised texts.
- The colonial, gendered, racial and ageing discourse that circulate within the genre.
- The notion of 'prestige' in relation to production, casting and awards.
- Genre and technology – the connection between text and contemporary cinematic technologies.
- Issues regarding adaption, and the intersection between written and visual media.
Please submit a 250-word abstract for a twenty-minute paper to by Friday 7th March.