Chris Lukinbeal and Stefan Zimmermann (eds.): The Geography of Cinema – A Cinematic world. Stuttgart 2008. 205 pp.
"The Geography of Cinema – A Cinematic World", edited by Lukinbeal and Zimmermann, is the first of a new series in Media Geography at the Franz Steiner Verlag. The present anthology is the outcome of an international symposium of the same name in Mainz 2004 and represents an increased interest and research within film geography. Although there have been several publications in recent years, this field of research does not have a long tradition.
Initial work dates back only to e.g. Aitken and Zonn's "Place, Power, Situation, and Spectacle – A Geography of Film" (1994) or Kennedy and Lukinbean's contribution in "Progress in Human Geography" (1997). In Germany the topic was first introduced in the years following 2000 with early examples by Escher and Zimmermann (2001) or Bollhöfer (2003). Film geography has only consistently followed the renaissance of (new) cultural geography and an increasing interest in topics like popular culture, media, and identity.
The current publication is all the more remarkable because it covers a great scope of film geography and includes contributions from several reputed international scholars. A set of 12 articles in the book represents a wide variety of approaches, too, that range from "humanistic, positivistic, and text-centred, to poststructural and psychoanalytic" (p.16). In their introductory chapter Lukinbean and Zimmermann give a brief overview on all chapters using Gillian Rose's three aspects of the visual (2003) to structure their own text with sections on "what is seen", "the form of seeing", and "the affect of what is seen". The sections of the book, however, are structured more conventionally along the discussion in Dixon, Zonn and Bascom's contribution. They provide a synopsis of several approaches used in film geography classifying them into author-centred, text-centred, and reader-centred – the subsequent sections of the book. Although Dixon, Zonn and Bascom apply different structural and poststructural approaches to the analysis of the documentary film "Powaqqatsi" by Godfrey Reggio they still limit their understanding of film to that of a social text. The use of only linguistic perspectives stands somewhat contrary to the editors' intention to extend geographic research on film beyond the visual (and the textual) and to understand film as an "assemblage of sight and sound, of texture and (e)motions, memory and experience" (p. 15).
Accordingly, the subsequent chapters do not follow this limitation on visual or linguistic perspectives. Phalis, for example, deals with political aspects. In his chapter on the Brazilian Cinema Novo with its "real-feel narrative" and the "cinematically unmapped people and places" (p. 52) he shows that cinema has the potential to bring people into (political) action. Becker in his chapter uses a positivistic approach within anthropology to "communicate knowledge about other cultures" (p. 59) using film as an academic tool and a visual representation of cultures in place. Like Phalis, Dixon addresses political aspects and uses a constructivist perspective to analyze how the independent" documentary in the U.S. is shaped and influenced by state sponsorship. Doel focuses in his contribution more on the medium, rather than the content, of film. He examines the transformation of "animated photography" into "film" in the early years of film history, thereby addressing the discussion on "reality" and "representation". In their research on films Clarke, as well as Moreno and Aitken apply post-structuralist and psychoanalytical thoughts. While Clarke, referring to Lacan's semiotic psychoanalysis, analyses hotels and motels as stopping places in films, Moreno and Aitken use Deleuzian theory and draw attention to socio-spatial relations in visual geographies that are connected to drug addiction. Referring to poststructuralist approaches the chapters of Mains and of Banerjee and Marx deal with questions on how cultural identities are produced and negotiated through film and media. Mains uses the example of a documentary film on the Caribbean Diaspora in Great Britain to contrast ordinary filmmaking and media reporting in which "migrants are frequently marginalized" (p. 152) and reduced to cultural stereotypes. Banerjee and Marx, in the same sense, address imaginative geographies and ethnic characters in German films and TV series. Zimmermann examines German films on "Heimat" and focuses on the constitution of a (new) national identity in post-war Germany in which the combination of rural landscapes and folkloristic clichés in films play an important role. Kennedy completes the book on film geography with a chapter including an autobiographical approach. The author shows how she was affected by films herself, and how films can trigger reactions, emotions, or even biographical impacts.
The anthology "The Geography of Cinema – A Cinematic World" is a winning composition of actual research and theoretical considerations in film geography. It contributes to the debate on the relation of "representation" and "reality" and motivates the reader to overcome such a kind of normative dichotomy. Although the anthology offers a wide field of research within film geography some of the aspects mentioned in the introductory chapter could have been more extensively represented in the book. This is especially true for the aspect of emotions – a topic which is still not well examined within human geography.
The publisher, Franz Steiner Verlag, and the editors of the series should be congratulated having realised the importance of media geography for the geographic discipline and the academic audience. The editors of the first volume should be credited for having captured the field of film geography. One has to explicitly recommend the reading of this anthology since it gives a good overview and will inspire further research in this field.
Quelle: Erdkunde, 64. Jahrgang, 2010, Heft 1, S. 85-86
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