CfP POLLEN22: Political Ecology and Film: Cutting Away from Dominant Understandings and Aesthetics

Satya Ambasta; Moving Images India, Srishti Films

Paromita Bathija; Independent Scholar

Sanjay Barnela; Moving Images India, Srishti Films

Nitin Rai; Independent Scholar

Session Format: Exhibition Session

Abstract:

We propose to organise an Exhibition Session at POLLEN2022 to screen and discuss films built around interdisciplinary engagements between political ecology and environmental documentary.

Political ecology has for long analysed the intersections between dominant understandings of the environment and structures such as capitalism, colonialism and discrimination. Political ecologists have explored how popular media around the environment, such as films, TV shows, social media and advertisements, (re)produce dominant narratives and make use of dominant aesthetics. Spectacularised representations in mass-media can consolidate ideas such as a wilderness that needs to be saved, charismatic species, environmental decline, violence and conflict. The viewer is invited into the gaze of the (outsider’s) camera, projected as the wild explorer reaching and surveying the most inaccessible parts of nature; simultaneously, the camera aesthetically distances traditional inhabitants from the screen and thus, the landscape (Cronon, 1996; Clark et al., 2020; Geal, 2021). For example, the film Serengeti Shall Not Die, through its visual and discursive approaches, encourages the audience to identify with a colonial and paternalistic agenda (Boes, 2013). Dissemination of such imagery and spectacle has come to permeate reality, mediating the relationships of people and nature and legitimising structural injustice (Debord, 1995; Igoe, 2017).

Political ecologies – of nature, water, the urban, consumption, health, COVID-19 and beyond – could inform, critique and upend dominant imagery and narratives. In order to do this, the discipline needs to move beyond the ivory tower and towards producing collaborative, accessible and critical written material and media. This session aims to bring together work that has emerged from reflexive collaborations across critical and affective mediums that can subvert dominant processes, visual productions, epistemologies and environmental practices.

In the proposed session, a set of films will be screened, each followed by a panel discussion where the team that made the film, and potentially other invited political ecologists or film theorists, will discuss their interdisciplinary process and intent. Through these discussions, the sessions will explore how alternative media endeavours that engage with critical frameworks can move beyond agenda-driven aesthetic tropes such as ‘saving people’ or ‘saving nature’ to embrace complexity and problematise dominant understandings. The session will similarly explore how political ecology, as a framework that engages with other mediums and practices, can contribute further to public discourse in

environmental practice. The themes that emerge from these discussions will result in articles in film and political ecology journals that move the two areas of enquiry and practice towards an interdisciplinary engagement.

For the proposed session at POLLEN2022, we invite short films and videos (10-35 minutes) that enter into active political (ecological) engagement with the subject as well as the medium of film. Contributors can include experienced and experimenting film practitioners or researchers engaging with documentary practice. Please submit the film/video with the following details – film title, names of team members, film duration, an HD screener copy through YouTube, Vimeo or online file transfer and a 250-word abstract that describes the piece. In addition, for us to curate the discussions around each piece and to understand how contributors are approaching this session, we encourage you to briefly describe your interdisciplinary process, along these lines:

– What were some challenges, questions or reflections that emerged from your process of making this film/video?

– What do you believe are the kinds of possibilities and work that can emerge through further active interdisciplinary engagement between political ecologists and filmmakers?

– What are the ways in which you think/plan for/expect this work and process to give back to the contexts they draw on?

All submissions need to be made by 5th December to movingimagesindia@gmail.com. A maximum of 5 contributions will be included in our final proposal to the conference. Contact persons for each submission will be informed about the selection latest by 12th December.

Keywords: interdisciplinarity, environmental films, accessibility

References:

Boes, T. (2013). Political Animals: “Serengeti Shall Not Die” and the Cultural Heritage of Mankind. German Studies Review, 36(1), 41–59.

Clark, K., Hawkins, R., & Silver, J. J. (2020). Gender, nature and nation: Resource nationalism on primary sector reality TV. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space, 3(4), 1196–1214. https://doi.org/10.1177/2514848619899785

Cronon, W. (1996). The Trouble with Wilderness: Or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature. Environmental History, 1(1), 7–28.

Debord, G. (1994). The society of the spectacle. Zone Books.

Geal, R. (2021). Ecological film theory and psychoanalysis: Surviving the environmental apocalypse in cinema. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Igoe, J. (2017). The nature of spectacle: On images, money, and conserving capitalism. The University of Arizona Press.

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