Rethinking Political Cinema

deadline for submissions: 
September 23, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA 2017: Utrecht University, July 6-9 2017
contact email: 

Since its emergence, cinema has been preoccupied with the relationship between film and politics, and across its long history filmmakers have explored the relationship between film and social change. This history seemed to reach its apogee in the 1960s with the global explosion of radical filmmakers intent on exploring cinema’s revolutionary capacities. Of these movements, Godard’s political modernist cinema and Latin American third cinema are the most well-known and have since come to stand as both the height and limit of a politically committed film practice.

While the decades following the decline of so-called grand theory arguably witnessed a shift away from both political filmmaking and politically oriented film criticism, the events of the new millennium, coupled with new forms of digital cinema and shifts in distribution, have undoubtedly precipitated a reinvestment in political cinema. As such, radical film culture has expanded significantly in recent years, and various global networks dedicated to both the production and the study of political filmmaking have emerged. Both global politics and the nature of the film industry have changed dramatically, however, and the dominant paradigms of political filmmaking need to be rethought in order to take account of these shifting conditions.

Building on this emergent area of study, this seminar reprises the provocative discussions at last year’s conference to further examine what constitutes political filmmaking today and how previously dominant models of political cinema need to be rethought in the contemporary moment. It welcomes papers that develop new theorizations of emergent political film practices or that complicate, disrupt, or expand existing paradigms.

Possible areas for exploration may include:

  • New modes of political film practice that have emerged since the 1970s (new networks, filmmakers, movements, and organizations; militant versus subversive cinema; new theories of political aesthetics; returns to earlier political moments in contemporary cinema);
  • New technologies and modes of engagement (the impact of digital technology and new platforms for exhibition and distribution; new theories of spectatorship);
  • Innovative readings of earlier political films that offer new insights into canonical texts (new readings of third cinema, soviet montage, political modernism; reconsiderations of Brecht; discussions of lesser know political films/filmmakers that complicate received histories);
  • New politically oriented approaches to cinema (new methodologies and critical concepts; critiques of Rancière, Badiou, Deleuze, Jameson; explorations of neglected issues; interrogations of the very im/possibility of radical cinema altogether).

Papers that attempts to theorize what we mean by political cinema, its value and limits as a conceptual category, and its relationship to the larger state of left politics are also strongly encouraged.

Please submit 300 word abstracts via the ACLA website between September 1–23 (

Interested participants are encouraged to contact the seminar organizers Christina Gerhardt// //and Sarah Hamblin // // with any questions or possible ideas for presentations.