1st Edition

Cinema of Exploration Essays on an Adventurous Film Practice

Edited By James Leo Cahill, Luca Caminati Copyright 2021
    348 Pages
    by Routledge

    348 Pages
    by Routledge

    Drawing together 18 contributions from leading international scholars, this book conceptualizes the history and theory of cinema’s century-long relationship to modes of exploration in its many forms, from colonialist expeditions to decolonial radical cinemas to the perceptual voyage of the senses made possible by the cinematic apparatus.

    This is the first anthology dedicated to analysing cinema’s relationship to exploration from a global, decolonial, and ecological perspective. Featuring leading scholars working with pathbreaking interdisciplinary methodologies (drawing on insights from science and technology studies, postcolonial theory, indigenous ways of knowing, and film theory and history), it theorizes not only cinema’s implication in imperial conquest but also its cutting-edge role in empirical expansion and experiments in sensual and critical perception. The collected essays consider filmmaking in cross-cultural contexts and films made in or about peoples in South America, Asia, Africa, Indigenous North America, as well as polar, outer space, and underwater exploration, with famous figures such as Jacques Yves Cousteau alongside amateur and scientific filmmakers.

    The essays in this collection are ideal for a broad range of scholars, graduate students, and advanced undergraduate students in cinema and media studies, cultural studies, and cognate fields.

    Chapter One: Cinema of Exploration: An Adventurous Film Practice and Theory

    James Leo Cahill and Luca Caminati

    Part I: Explorations in Perception

    Chapter Two: Chasing Bugs: Microbial Frontiers in American Epidemiological Documentaries, 1946-60

    Bishnupriya Ghosh

    Chapter Three: Through the Body with Laser Gun and Camera: Fantastic Voyage and the Cinema of Exploration

    Oliver Gaycken

    Chapter Four: Outer and Inner Space: Psychedelia and Selected Representations of Altered Consciousness in Experimental Cinema

    Juan Carlos Kase

    Chapter Five: Weird Loops: Climate Change, Drone Cinema, and the Work of Mourning

    Katherine Groo

    Part II: Cinema of Expedition

    Chapter Six: Chance Wrote the Screenplay, Reality Directed the Film: The Exploration Films of Hans Hass

    Vinzenz Hediger

    Chapter Seven: Environmental Aesthetics: Tracing a Latent Image from Early Safari Films to Contemporary Art Cinema

    Inga Pollmann

    Chapter Eight: Travelling the World with a Smile: James Fitzpatrick's Traveltalks

    Liz Czach

    Chapter Nine: Aquariums, Diving Equipment, and the Undersea Films of John Ernest Williamson

    Jonathan Crylen

    Chapter Ten: Sounding Travel Documentary in Wartime China: The Dual Journey of Long Live the Nation

    Ling Zhang

    Part III: Narratives of Exploration

    Chapter Eleven: Exploring Marker’s Cuba: Shivers and Rhythms

    Nora M. Alter

    Chapter Twelve: Like a Mobile, Living Archive: Antonioni the Traveler

    Marco Dalla Gassa

    Chapter Thirteen: Adventure Cinema in the Age of Austerity: The case of Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights (2015) Trilogy

    Malini Guha

    Chapter Fourteen: Amazon Cinema: Vegetal Storytelling

    Catherine Russell

    Part IV. Cinema of Exploitation

    Chapter Fifteen: Mondo Exotica: Ethnography, Eros, and Exploitation in Italian Cinema of the 1960s and 1970s

    Clarissa Clò

    Chapter Sixteen: From Pierre Perrault to Rolf De Heer: Auteur Cinema and the Poetic Exploration of Indigenous Lands and Identities

    Karine Bertrand

    Chapter Seventeen: Prospecting: Cinema and the Exploration of Extraction

    Brian R. Jacobson


    Chapter Eighteen: Speculations on Film/theory and the Trope of Exploration

    Bhaskar Sarkar


    James Leo Cahill is Director of the Cinema Studies Institute and Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and French at the University of Toronto. He is author of Zoological Surrealism: The Nonhuman Cinema of Jean Painlevé (2019) and general editor of Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture.

    Luca Caminati is Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal. He is the author of Orientalismo eretico. Pier Paolo Pasolini e il cinema del Terzo Mondo (2007), Il cinema come happening: Pasolini's Primitivism and the Sixties Italian Art Scene (2010), and Roberto Rossellini documentarista. Una cultura della realtà (2012), along with many articles and book chapters on Italian cinema and media. He is currently serving as associate editor for the journal Italica.

    Through an expansive optic and re-imagining of film’s deep imbrication with exploration, this rich collection views cinema and exploration as mutually informing and vital allies in understanding twentieth century human history and our current crisis in the age of the Anthropocene. The authors productively take up the charge of discerning cinema in diverse contexts of exploration and critically engage with how adventure itself has long been a driving force and useful metaphor for cinema and/as epistemological practice.

    Alison Griffiths, Distinguised Professor, The City University of New York

    A remarkable transdisciplinary anthology exploring cinematic image-work in relation to issues of exploration, travel, colonial visual culture, experimental ethnographic film, and more broadly in relation to human encounters with intensive natural phenomena that confounds those who observe and participate in them. This collection will inspire and be useful to scholars in the human sciences, particularly media and visual anthropologists, who are willing to experiment with the new capacities of the cinematic. 

    Tarek Elhaik, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Davis and author of The Incurable-Image: Curating Post-Mexican Film and Media Arts. 

    In this intellectually rich set of essays, cinematic practices and ideologies of exploration are brought into illuminating contact. The authors in this collection read the spectacles of the spectacular that lie at the heart of 'cinemas of exploration' through the material circumstances and exploitations of their production. In so doing, the politics of 'exploration' are laid bare and placed in productive tension with the promises of enlightenment or adventure that such films tend to offer.

    Lisa Messeri, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale University

    Exploration is cinema’s greatest, its most singular and enduring attribute, and so there is no overstating the importance of this stunning anthology. It takes a Fantastic Voyage through astonishing episodes that illuminate cinema’s ‘Copernican vocation’ to displace humans by exploring the befuddling world in which we co-exist. Cahill and Caminati lay out a shrewd itinerary leading into the ‘body’ of the book where, chapter after chapter, we discover how cinema has evolved to bring within its purview unimaginable inner and outer worlds. As the probing coda proclaims, cinema is still mid-journey. Explore this book and you will explore a medium and an art that is as alive today as it was for Lumière and Mélies.

    Dudley Andrew, author of What Cinema Is!

    What an adventure! Cinema of Exploration productively unsettles any claim that the world pictured is a world known much less mastered. This volume offers surprising readings of a range of genres and terrains, from "pith-hat" safari movies to the microscopic, psychedelic, and atmospheric cinema of cosmonauts, aquanauts and even "psychonauts." A critique of the imperial projects underwriting exploration and environmental degradation, the essays collected here unfold a history and theory of cinema that is curious about the remote, unseen, overlooked, and as-yet unknown possibilities of both cinema and our marvelous, fragile world.  

    Jennifer Fay, author of Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene 

    Cinema studies once overlooked such primary material, but this collection’s assembly of a roster of films formerly considered “minor” exemplifies a welcome opening up of the field to media in its fuller range of influence... The book joins together questions that cut across the often separate philosophical domains of ideology and ontology: Does exploration in cinema always embody a power dynamic, and is it a description of an attitude inscribed by the apparatus itself?… Cinema of Exploration sifts through the utopian promises, challenges, and dead ends of the medium’s eventful first century and a quarter. In taking on this job, the book scouts out new paths for envisioning the role of the moving image as we pivot toward uncertain futures.

    Jennifer Lynn Peterson for Critical Inquiry, July 2021

    ... a stimulating assortment of essays that expand conversations about art and instructional films, experimental “psychonauts” and scuba documentarists, aestheticanalysis, and reception studies... Editors James Leo Cahill and Luca Caminati bring an expansive approach to this perennial topic by taking adventurous media practices... and looking at them in an array of contexts, through varied, interdisciplinary methodologies.

    Mariana Johnson for Film Quarterly, 2021