Digital Monochrome: World Cinema’s New Black and White

deadline for submissions: 
August 25, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Elif Sendur/ SCMS 2020
contact email: 

Digital Monochrome: World Cinema’s New Black and White


“It’s not a vintage black and white. It’s a contemporary black and white. Black and white was part of [Roma’s] DNA.”


~Alfonso Cuarón


“Movies in color seemed unrealistic because they were undramatic.”

~Stanley Cavell


With Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (Mexico, 2018) as its most recent laureate example, black and white films have made a surprising comeback in the global art cinema. Over the past decade, films that embrace the monochrome aesthetic range from Paweł Pawlikowski’s Ida (Poland, 2013) to Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left (Philippines, 2016) and from Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist (France, 2011) to Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (Iran/USA, 2014).


Rather than using black and white film stock, Roma, like most contemporary black and white films, was shot digitally and in color, then converted to black and white during post-production. The result is a new, monochrome aesthetic, whose qualities arguably differ at once from the black and white films of the past and from the aesthetics of contemporary digital cinema more broadly. If the historical, post-war turn from black and white to color invoked deep aesthetic, political and ontological reflections by the likes of Rudolph Arnheim, André Bazin, and Stanley Cavell, this panel probes whether what might be called The New Black and White can provoke similar controversies, or perhaps new ones. Digital Monochrome also invites critical and theoretical reflections on the use of color in film more generally, and of color editing in post-production in particular.


This CfP solicits papers on the use of black and white in specific films (of roughly the past decade) and/or in contemporary cinema more broadly. We are particularly, though not exclusively, interested in papers addressing any or some of the following questions:


  • Is digital monochrome merely a variation of color editing in post-production, or does it alter our experience of film more fundamentally?
  • Must the choice for black and white today be understood positively rather than negatively (opting out of color)? What values does it bring to the screen?
  • Can the contemporary monochrome aesthetic be understood as a return to the cinema of the past or does it form a break with it?
  • What, if any, are the political implication of the choice for black and white? How do they compare to those of Third Cinema or the new wave cinemas of the post-war decades?
  • (How) does the use of black and white impact our sense of reality in film?
  • Do the ontological ramifications of digital black and white differ from those of film before the advent of color?
  • What are the temporal/durational qualities of digital monochrome?
  • What black and white predecessors shed light on the recent tendency?
  • Can we make meaningful distinctions among contemporary black and white films?

Please submit a 300-350 word abstract, a short bibliography, and a 50-100 word bio to by August 25, 2019 . This year, Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference will take place between April 1-5, 2020 at the Sheraton Denver Dowtown Hotel.


co-chairs: Dr. Jeroen Gerrits and Elif Sendur

Binghamton University