Next week, Modern Languages and Cultures at Liverpool will be holding their Second Annual Lecture in Film Studies. Professor Laura Rascaroli (University College Cork), will be giving a talk entitled  “Decentering the European Gaze: Essay Film, the Speck of Irony, and the Ethnolandscape in Ruins”. The lecture takes place Wednesday 20 April at 5pm in
Rendall Building, Lecture Theatre 3  and is open to everyone.


Rascaroli poster

 Laura Rascaroli is Professor of Film and Screen Media at University College Cork, Ireland. Her many books include The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film (2009), Crossing New Europe: Postmodern Travel and the European Road Movie (2006, co-written with Ewa Mazierska) and Antonioni: Centenary Essays (2011, co-edited with John David Rhodes). Her work has been translated into several languages, including Chinese, Italian, Polish, and Spanish. Her new book, How the Essay Film Thinks, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2017. 


The argument of the essay film is also always an argument on genre. The taxonomic difficulties generated by the essay film are rooted in its in-between positioning, which allows for the subversion of generic conventions and their ideological underpinnings. While offering an insight into the discursive structures of the essay film, this paper asks questions about landscape as ethnographic construct and as framing device. It does so by focusing on a particular type of essayistic ethnofiction, here represented by Luis Buñuel’s Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan (Land Without Bread, Spain, 1933), Werner Herzog’s Fata Morgana (West Germany, 1971) and Ben Rivers’s Slow Action (UK, 2011). Located in-between documentary and fiction, surrealism and ethnography, science fiction and anthropology, these texts’ in-betweenness creates generic interstices from within which the project of ethnography is satirized and deconstructed—and discourses of otherness, nature, culture, power, imperialism, ecology and sustainability are both foregrounded and subverted. My claim is that landscape is strategic to these films’ statements on cinematic ethnography. On account of its profilmic material presence, nature is offered as an element of authenticity, which at once conceals and discloses the constructedness of the ethnographic film’s gaze. Framing the environment simultaneously as raw reality and as nonsensical impossibility, these films introduce an irony gap, from which they unveil the ethnolandscape as the Foucauldian product of a set of practices that are as much scientific, cultural and ideological as they are photographic and cinematic.