[pro-player width='480' height='253' type='video']youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMIGxs1GVCg[/pro-player]
Above: Two instances of wind from Tarkovsky’s* “Zerkalo” (Mirror), spliced together
“Most academic film studies professionals don’t take nature film seriously, either historically or theoretically. Indeed, there are few better indications of the educationally counterproductive gap between the humanities and the sciences,” Scott Macdonald, Adventures of Perception (2009) p. 156.
A new academic book, published by the leading academic publisher Routledge is due out soon and will add considerably to texts available on ecocinema (the small field in which I’m working). I’m still surprised that so few publications to date have arisen on this topic considering how influential cinema is in how we perceive, or not, the living world around us, so this is welcome news.
Two of the author/editors, Stephen Rust and Salma Monani are part of the US led ecomediastudies.org site, an interesting site for articles, conference calls and reviews of works in this area. This upcoming title will join Paula Willoquet-Maricondi’s important and ground-breaking 2010 book Framing the World: explorations in ecocriticism and film, probably the most comprehensive book to date on the area, although Scott MacDonald, a leading film theorist with a literary background, had signaled attention needed to be paid to nature films in several articles in mid 2000s; he also coined the word “ecocinema” in 2004.
My own area, investigating the much smaller field of experimental artists cinema, is a subset again of this new field. So I expect most of the texts in the new book will examine feature length documentary or mainstream films. Nevertheless, it’s encouraging that more work is being done in this area. It’s of note that key ideas of ecocriticism are coming from literary theory and only recently have been taken up by other cultural disciplines such as film/media theory.
Ecocinema Theory and Practice (2012) is described as the first of its kind, and will be “an anthology that offers a comprehensive introduction to the rapidly growing field of eco-film criticism, a branch of critical scholarship that investigates cinema’s intersections with environmental understandings. It references seminal readings through cutting edge research and is designed as an introduction to the field as well as a sourcebook. It defines ecocinema studies, sketches its development over the past twenty years, provides theoretical frameworks for moving forward, and presents eloquent examples of the practice of eco-film criticism through essays written by the field’s leading and emerging scholars. From explicitly environmental films such as Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow to less obvious examples like Errol Morris’s Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the pieces in this collection comprehensively interrogate the breadth of ecocinema. Ecocinema Theory and Practice also directs readers to further study through lists of recommended readings, professional organizations, and relevant periodicals.”
* Note the image on the cover is from Andrei Tartovsky’s feature length film Stalker. I’ve always loved how Tartovsky has moments where natural phenomena have such a central role in his films, as seen in the wind clips above from his film Mirror. Andrei Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, and is widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century.
Cathy Fitzgerald is a rural-based experimental filmmaker / visual artist with a background in research biology. Born in New Zealand she has lived in Ireland for 16 years. She is presently a Visual Culture PhD Scholar at the National College of Art & Design (NCAD), Dublin, Ireland. She is looking at experimental film (practice and theory) and ecology in this age of biospheric crisis. Her research work can be seen at www.ecoartflm.com