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Film and Television 'Under Construction' Seminar Series

2009 Seminar Series

March 2

Dr Adrian Martin

Trash/Dumb/Slacker/Stoner Contemporary American Film Comedy (with a Gender Twist)

Image: Smiley face

A short presentation and very rare Australian screening of Gregg Araki’s Smiley Face (2007), starring the immortal Anna Faris! (For an analysis of her unique performance style and career, see Zachary Campbell’s article in the March issue of Rouge.

March 16

Dr Con Verevis and Alexia Kannas present a B for BAD film screening

Image: Movie poster

Death Laid an Egg - La Morte ha fatto l’uovo (Giulio Questi, 1968)


March 30

Michael Honig presents a B for BAD film screening

Visitor Q - Bijitâ Q (Takashi Miike, 2001)

Coming from the low budget world of Japan’s V-cinema a prime example of controversial film maker Takashi Miike’s tool of exaggeration. Disturbing, funny, heartwarming.

Warning: This film contains content and themes that may offend some viewers. Audience discretion is advised.

May 4

Dianne Daley

Apichatpong Weerasethakul: Making the Ordinary Extraordinary

In Europe, 2009 has been dubbed the ‘Year of Apichatpong’, with a series of new installation and film commissions, in addition to retrospectives and publications by and about the master contemporary Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul. The multi-platform project titled Primitive premieres at the renowned contemporary art museum and exhibition centre, Haus der Kunst, in Munich from February 20 – May 17. This presentation will discuss Apichatpong’s ability to make the ordinary extraordinary in his highly personal films. It will focus on (and include a screening of) his new short online film Phantoms of Nabua (2009), which coincides with the Primitive installation. In Phantoms of Nabua, the filmmaker pays homage to a fluorescent light in a swamp and teens kick a ball raging with fire, in what is his most political film to-date.

Dianne Daley is doing a PhD thesis on the films of Apichatpong in FTV Monash, and is a teacher at RMIT.

May 18

Dr Belinda Smaill

Subjectivity and Emotion in Documentary Film

In the past documentary has been popularly perceived in ways that align it with education, science, history and other ‘discourses of sobriety’. This frame has never been adequate for conceptualising the stylistic and thematic breadth of documentary culture. In part, documentary is compelling because it frames subjectivity in distinct ways. This paper proposes a refocusing of debates and a renewed methodology to deal with documentary. This methodology will account for how emotionality marries with the social project of documentary in ways that make the non-fiction genre a compelling site for perceiving how fantasies of self and other circulate through specific textual practices in the public sphere. This is an investigation into how individuals are positioned by documentary representation as subjects that are entrenched in the emotions, whether it is pleasure, hope, pain, empathy or disgust. I will draw on a number of salient examples but will pay particular attention to the Brazilian documentary, Bus 174 (2002).

Dr. Belinda Smaill works in the Film and Television Studies section of Monash University. Her book on issues of subjectivity and emotion in documentary film will appear by the end of the year.

Download a recording of this paper here

May 25

Professor Phillippe Met

Films That Never Were – Films That Could Never Be? Towards a Theory of Ghost Cinema

Despite a plethora of world encyclopedias of film and dictionaries of national cinemas, one particular history or archaeology of cinematic art remains to be told or written – that of the non-films or off-films which have literally filled filmic annals almost since the invention of the medium and make up what I propose to call ‘ghost cinema’. Films that never came to completion or fruition, films that were inherently or constitutively unfilmable, elusive films that haunt us as film enthusiasts, abortive films that go on to covertly inspire and fertilise the latter opuses of their unsuccessful originators. I will look at specific instances and possible paradigms (French and non-French, filmic and literary) in an effort to delineate this unchartered territory and examine the mythical, fetishistic aura that these mirage-films tend to acquire over time.

Professor Philippe Met is Visiting Fellow from the University of Pennsylvania, at University of Melbourne. He has written extensively on literature and cinema, and is Editor of the French Forum.

Download a recording of this seminar here

June 1

Phillippa Hawker (The Age film critic)

Text and Image: Sylvia Plath and Cinema

This presentation will offer an account of ongoing work concerning the multiple, complex relationships between the life and work of writer Sylvia Plath, and various forms of cinema: biographical, narrative, experimental. Some rare films and videos will be screened.

Philippa Hawker is film critic for The Age, has taught Arts at the University of Melbourne, and is completing her PhD there on Sylvia Plath. She has been the editor of Cinema Papers, and Co-Editor of Actor: Leslie Cheung (ACMI, 2003). Her work on Plath was been presented at conferences both in Australia and abroad.

August 20

Dr Simon Sellars

Crashing the Car: Impossible Ballardian Adaptations

The writing of J.G. Ballard displays a highly developed visual ¬– indeed filmic – sensibility, and has been the subject of numerous attempts to adapt it into cinematic form. Almost all of his 18 novels have been optioned at one stage or another, and there have been four feature films made from his work as well as a substantial amount of short films. This paper will initially focus on three of these adaptations: the short film Crash! (1970), directed by Harley Cokliss; the feature film Crash (1996), directed by David Cronenberg; and Jonathan Weiss’s The Atrocity Exhibition (2000). All three draw on material from a distinct period of Ballard’s career – 1968 to 1973 – and share striking similarities, notably across sound design, mise en scène and key narrative tropes such as the symbolism of crash-test dummies and the posthumanism of the automobile. This apparent fidelity is a testimony to the precise filmic nature of the original material, yet these films also convey the nagging sense that the ultimate Ballardian work has yet to be realised.

Dr Simon Sellars teaches in the School of English, Communications & Performance Studies at Monash University. He is the author of several academic articles on the work of J.G. Ballard, as well as a forthcoming book on ‘Ballardian’ philosophy, due to be published by Zer0 Books in late 2009. He publishes and edits the website Ballardian ( and in 2009 he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Monash University for his thesis, ‘The Yes or No of the Borderzone: J.G. Ballard’s Affirmative Dystopias’.

Download a recording of this seminar here

September 17

Dr Claire Perkins

The Joker: Heath Ledger as Star

In 1998, Cinema Papers ran a goofy photo of an 18 year old Heath Ledger alongside a short blurb naming him as a talent “worth looking out for” in the future. Based principally on some local television work, the prediction was substantively and unpredictably fulfilled in the 2000s, where Ledger’s roles led to the production of a diverse star text that subverted the standard trajectory of an Australian soap star in Hollywood. Across a series of historical roles including A Knight’s Tale (2001), The Four Feathers (2002), Ned Kelly (2003) and The Brothers Grimm (2005), Ledger developed a style of ironic masculine toughness that came to epitomize the popular desire for a certain brand of “history” during this decade. This paper will discuss Ledger’s gruff stardom as an image strategically mobilised in the later films Brokeback Mountain (2005), I’m Not There (2007) and The Dark Knight (2008) and expanded by the fanatical speculation surrounding his sudden death in 2008.

Dr. Claire Perkins is Assistant Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at Monash University, Melbourne. Her writing has appeared in The Velvet Light Trap and CinemaScope and her book on American Smart Cinema is forthcoming from Edinburgh University Press.

Download a recording of this seminar here

October 4

Lisa Gye and Darren Tofts

Out of Florida: Creative Criticism

One of the key schools in criticism today is the loose grouping that comes ‘out of Florida’, inspired by the work of Gregory Ulmer (Heuretics, Internet Invention, Teletheory, Electronic Monumentality, etc) at Department of English, University of Florida. Writers influenced by his open, creative, playful, anti-hermeneutic approach to criticism include the USA film scholar Robert B. Ray (How a Film Theory Got Lost, The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy). In Australia, two ‘branch Floridians’ are Lisa Gye and Darren Tofts, both of whom teach in Media and Communications at Swinburne University of Technology, and gave stunning speeches at the Monash B for Bad Cinema conference earlier this year. Their work mixes passions for pop culture and avant-garde alike with an investigation into the creative possibilities of new media … plus a good, hard dose of Australian sensibility. Together, Lisa and Darren edited the e-book Illogic of Sense: The Gregory L. Ulmer Remix (2007), downloadable from Under Construction invites Lisa and Darren to reflect upon – and demonstrate – the unique, liberatory methods of the ‘Florida School’ as remixed within a cosmopolitan-Australian ethos.

Download a recording of this seminar here

October 15

André Dias

A Reality in Exile: On the Cinephile Pedagogy of Hartmut Bitomsky

Why teach film? Unlike the work of other filmmakers who also engage in a pedagogic activity, most of the films of German documentarist Hartmut Bitomsky are actually a reflection on that condition, and constitute a powerful confluence between the seemingly different gestures of film criticism, film pedagogy and film directing. This unified expression of his work cannot be detached from the acute and mournful cinephilia that became possible only after modern cinema. Oscillating between a particular form of film criticism as practised between 1975 and 1985 in "Filmkritik" magazine and the production of documentaries on some of the most demanding subjects of German history, and especially an enriching pedagogical practice at dffb (a Berlin film academy) or as dean of CalArts in the U.S.A., Bitomsky had noticeable effects on new generations of filmmakers, especially on the so-called New Berlin School. Alongside fellow critic and documentarist Harun Farocki, Bitomsky emerged from the turmoils of May ‘68, with its extreme politicisation of all matters (including the production of images), but remained faithful to a practice of distanciation in order to deal with the overwhelming proliferation of images. Although all his films deal in some way with found footage, whether previously existing or of his own making as materials to quote from, they should not be interpreted merely as ideological disclosures of images. The specific audiovisual archive that now constitutes film and its history has been dealt with in detail in a series of films on film that Bitomsky has called his Cinema Anthology. The ambition of the series is to grasp what is buried in film, the singular invisibility of what is visible, “a reality in exile”, and it is particularly relevant for our understanding of how contemporary culture can relate film and thought.

The lecture will be followed by a screening of The Cinema and the Wind and Photography – Seven Chapters about Documentary Films (Germany, Hartmut Bitomsky, 1991, 56’).

Past and Present Conferences and Seminars

Visit our archives of conferences and seminars - recordings of many papers are available for download: