Jesus/Montreal: The Cinema, the City, and the Sacred (SCMS 3/25-29, proposal deadline 7/31)

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Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference 2015

Jesus/Montreal: The Cinema, the City, and the Sacred

This panel will consider cinema's role in ongoing discussions about religion in cities. As the narrative of secularization proves more complicated than predicted, as cities serve as fertile ground for new religious constellations, and as cinema itself seems a less reliable ally to secularization than one might expect, we have reached an ideal moment to consider the knotty intersection of religious practice, urban life, and cinematic representation. To ripen the occasion further, next year's SCMS conference will take place in the city that provided the setting for one of the most well-known explorations of urban religious expression: Denys Arcand's 1989 film Jésus de Montréal. Though Arcand's film provides the panel's title, I welcome proposals that consider any religious tradition and encourage ones that engage non-western cinemas.

Possible topics include:
• How can cinema reflect, perform, and/or challenge city-dwellers' experiences of the loss that haunts secularization, whether they be migrants from places determined by religious tradition or urban "natives" seeking new kinds of authentic experience?

• Might narratives of the "death of cinema" meet the same fate as narratives of inevitable secularization? And if so, what role might movie theatres play in that derailment?

•What is the relationship between cinema-going (or other forms of spectatorship) and religious devotion in cities, and how has that relationship changed across the twentieth and twenty-first centuries?

• How do religious traditions and institutions provide new avenues for the distribution and consumption of moving images in urban space (for example, in East African Pentecostal video-films and American non-theatrical devotional films)?

• How have the various "ground zeroes" of religion-inflected political violence (Jerusalem, Manhattan, Belfast, Baghdad) appeared in films, and how have films deployed the iconic images associated with these sites?

• How have films addressed the hybrid or syncretic texture of urban religious experience in places like Mexico City, Paris, and Lagos, and how have these cinematic expressions intersected with other pop-cultural religious phenomena?

• How can cinematic representation sacralize or desacralize urban landscapes, and what are the theological implications of bringing cinema to bear on urban religious phenomena?

• How have particular films and/or filmmakers (Robert Bresson, Lucrecia Martel, Agnieszka Holland) engaged the theological implications of city life?

Submit abstract of 200-300 words, short bibliography, and 50-100 word bio to Sean Desilets, Associate Professor of Film Studies and English, Westminster College ( by July 31, 2014.