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the art + science of seeing

issue 9 Cinema

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the art + science of seeing TM

GLIMPSE issue 9 investigates our personal, collective and technological relationships to moving image art, both historically and in the present moment.

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C O N T E N T S issue 9

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RETROSPECT: 1868 The Myriopticon Lauren B. Hewes


Opening W i d e: Film festivals and fan communities Kevin Corbett


TAHRIR CINEMA Film activism in Egypt’s revolution Eshter Howe

summer 2012

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Norman Holland

Maureen Eckert


Silver screen society New posters for old movies


Pancakes with Darth Shifting images of villain from death stars to department stores Tony Pacitti

(Re)view INSIDE THE DEAD MATTER Natalia Almada’s The Night Watchman Courtney Sheehan




Cinema issue playlist the GLIMPSE blog

Be My Projector So I Can Fail Differently Arto Vaun

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(front cover) Tahrir Square cinema Cairo, Egypt, 2011 Image courtesy of Lara Baladi



Barry Blankenship is a designer and illustrator. His work can be found online at www.


Kevin Corbett is a Professor in the School of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts at Central Michigan University. He holds a PhD in Mass Communication from Bowling Green State University and Masters and undergraduate degrees from Western Kentucky University. His research and creative interests include film history– including documentary, and film as social/cultural practice– and screenwriting.


Maureen Eckert is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. Her research areas include Ancient Greek Philosophy, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Mind. She is the editor of Theories of Mind: Introductory Readings, co-editor of Fate, Logic, and Language: David Foster Wallace’s Essay on Free Will, and Knowledge and Reality: Classic and Contemporary Readings. She thanks her students who have inspired and taught her over many years.

Image courtesy of Michael Glasgow




Alex Griendling is a designer/ illustrator working for Google in California where he focuses on improving Google’s visual standards and the cohesiveness of its brand. Outside of Google, he develops his own design projects and lends his efforts to other designers’ collaborative projects, such as

The Momentus Project, Beast Every Week and Silver Screen Society. His website is www.


Norman Holland is the author of fifteen books of criticism and theory, the latest being Literature and the Brain (2009), available at He collects his essays on films at and he blogs for Psychology Today at “This Is Your Brain on Culture.” He is Eminent Scholar Emeritus at the University of Florida.


Timo Meyer is a graphic artist and illustrator, living and working in Bonn, Germany. His website is


Brandon Schaefer is a graphic designer, illustrator, and selfdescribed “thing maker.” He co-curates and maintains Silver Screen Society, an organization that invites designers, illustrators, and graphic artists to create new poster designs for old movies. Schaefer has created designs for the Brattle Theatre, The New York Times, Sony, WIRED, and other organizations. His website is www.


Eren Blanquet Unten is an illustrator, wife, mother, and nerd. She regularly posts her illustration projects on her blog at www.eblanquet.



Tony Pacitti lives in Providence, Rhode Island with his fiancé. As a kid he was obsessed with Star Wars and assumed that it was the beginning and end of all science fiction. As a grown up who knows better, he is playing catch up on all of the genre fiction he neglected during his years of folly as a skittish, gawky teen. He is the author of My Best Friend is a Wookiee: One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy. He has also written for Forces of Geek and is slated to have a short story appear in the post-apocalyptic cyberpunk noir anthology The Tobacco Stained Sky.

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Lauren B. Hewes is the Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts. She has responsibility for the Society’s outstanding collection of prints, drawings, photographs and ephemera, as well as painted portraits and decorative arts. She has written widely on American art, including topics such as portrait painting, Currier & Ives lithographs, and reproductive engraving. Her work at the Society includes interacting with scholars, authors, students and K-12 teachers. One of her primary goals is to increase access to the complex graphic arts holdings of the institution, including the creation of inventories and finding aides.



GLIMPSE Team Megan Hurst Founder, Editor Carolyn Arcabascio Acquisitions Editor Rachel Sapin Editorial Assistant Esther Howe Editorial Intern, Staff Writer Vic Leeds Editorial Researcher, Staff Writer Connie Wang Intern Meghan O’Reilly Intern Myya McGregory Intern Adjunct + Alumni Christine Madsen Cofounder, Editor (Europe)


Arto Vaun Staff Poet Ivy Moylan Contributor, Film Reviews Courtney Sheehan Contributor, Film Reviews Anthony Owens Photographer Matthew Steven Carlos Editorial Advisor Nicholas Munyan Consulting Designer Jamie Ahlstedt Logo Design

GLIMPSE PO Box 44 Salem, MA 01970 USA ISSN 1945-3906



technology can now enable people to literally watch a movie anywhere, why are so many of them choosing to watch them in groups?” asks GLIMPSE Cinema issue contributor, Dr. Kevin Corbett. We learn in these pages that the reasons are many, but that cinema has evolved from a more individualized experience, to a collective experience, and now, in this century, to both—an optionally individualized, or collective experience. Innovation in science and technology drives the changes in cinematic experience, and in turn, drives changes in the artistic practice of movie-making. But perhaps cinematic science and technology are driven by deeper human impulses. We like cinema. It affects our brains. As Dr. Norman Holland explains, when we choose a movie, we are choosing a neurochemical experience. We are captivated by increasingly spectacular images, from the first innovations in color film, to Panavision, to 3D, to IMAX, to breathtakingly real-looking computer animation. Perhaps the evolving technologies of cinema are really driven by our neurochemical need for new spectacles? Cinema’s symbiosis of art and science and neurochemistry has deeply human, social, and political implications, as evidenced in Esther Howe’s article on the role of citizen video and projection during Egypt’s 2011 revolution. Perhaps this marriage of cinema and political revolution is not so unusual. Cinemas are one of our last remaining physical commons—a locus of collective experience shared among strangers—surpassed only in the West by sports arenas and shopping malls. In Egypt, the public commons of Tahrir Square and that of the Cinema became one. Also in these pages, we examine: Vic Leeds’ timeline of selected dates in the art, science and technology of cinema; Lauren B. Hewes’ article on the Myriopticon, an American parlor precursor to cinema; Dr. Maureen Eckert’s analysis of Plato’s Cave for its analogies to cinema; Silver Screen Society designers’ reinterpretations of movie posters; Tony Pacitti’s essay on the centrality of Star Wars to his view of the world; Courtney Sheehan’s account of filmmaker Natalia Almada’s delicate artistic process of documenting Mexico’s horrific drug wars, by focusing her camera on the daily lives of the cemetery keepers, in The Night Watchman. And we conclude with Arto Vaun’s poem placing us on the drive home, after a movie date. We hope you enjoy the show. Please silence your cell phones.

GLIMPSE journal is an independent, periodical of contemporary research,

Megan Hurst

thinking and expression from leading

and emerging scholars, scientists and artists about vision, “the visual” and perception.

Cinema Music to read this issue by...

Astronomic Club (from the cinematic score for Le Voyage Dans La Lune), Air Man with a Movie Camera, The Cinematic Orchestra The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye, Morrissey

Cinema Tonight, Low vs. Diamond

Cigarettes in the Theatre, Two Door Cinema Club Lights, Camera, Action! (Instrumental) Remix, Mr. Cheeks Clint Eastwood, Gorillaz

The Camera, Lemongrass

Image courtesy of Michael Glasgow

Drive-in Show, Eddie Cochran Movie Magg, Paul McCartney Saturday Night at the Movies, The Drifters I Turn My Camera On, Spoon Cinema, Benny Benassi


Drive In Saturday, David Bowie

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by Vic Leeds

Selected Dates in Cinema Art, Science, and Technology

PERSISTENCE OF VISION The phenomenon of the eye by which an afterimage is thought to persist for approximately one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina.


FIRST PHOTOGRAPH The world’s first permanent photograph is created by French inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Eight hours are required to expose the image.


ZOETROPE, PHENAKISTOSCOPE, STROBOSCOPE William George Horner introduces the Zoetrope, a drum like device combining pictures and slots. When spun and viewed through the slots, the device produces the illusion of continuous movement. Similar devices, known as the phenakistoscope and the stroboscope, are invented by Joseph Plateau and Simon von Stampfer at nearly the same time.


CELLULOID William H. Fox Talbot invents celluloid film.


ZOOPRAXISCOPE Zoopraxiscope is developed by Eadweard Muybridge. A rotating series of drawings or photographs were viewed through a slit in the device, effectively simulating motion. Former California governor Leland Stanford had an outstanding $25,000 bet to demonstrate that a horse did or did not have one foot upon the ground at all times while racing. Muybridge’s sequential photographs used with the zoopraxiscope visibly demonstrated quadruped locomotion. Muybridge is credited as the father of the motion picture.


FUSIL PHOTOGRAPHIQUE Etienne-Jules Mary invents Fusil Photographique, a gun shaped device that can take twelve consecutive pictures per second, using a rotating photographic plate.


ROLLED FILM George Eastman introduces celluloid film on a paper base, wound on a roll.


KINETOSCOPE Edison’s Kinetoscope debuts: a peephole viewing device creating the illusion of movement using a high speed shutter, exposing a film of sequential images drawn over a light source.


KINETOSCOPE PARLOR First Kinetoscope parlor opens in NYC, NY, on April 14th. The Holland Brothers charge .25 cents to view films in five machines


CINEMATOGRAPHE Cinematographe, the first portable motion picture projector combining animation and projection, invented by the Lumiere Brothers, shows the 50-second film La Sortie des ouvrirs des l’usine de Lumiere (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory) at Grand Café in Paris, France. This event is widely considered to be the birth of modern cinema.


COLOR TINTING Stencil-based film tinting process is invented by Pathé Frères in Paris, France.


STOP-ACTION Segundo de Chomón, a contemporary of surrealists Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, discovers


DOLLY SHOT, I Cabiria is filmed and distributed. Director Giovanni Pastrone and cameraman Segundo de Chomón mount a camera on a cart, creating one of the first examples of technique beyond the side-to-side or up-anddown movements from a camera mounted on a tripod.

DOLLY SHOT, II Allen Dwan is credited with inventing the dolly shot by filming a scene from a moving car. He is also credited with inventing a combination crane/dolly, putting an industrial crane on railway tracks. The effect can be seen in action during the Babylon-era set featured in D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance (1917).


3D FILM First 3D feature film Power Of Love shown at the Ambassador Hotel Theater, LA, CA. The 3-D format was not a success at this time, and it languished until the 1950s in the US.


SYNCHRONOUS SOUND US Cinemas begin wiring studios for soundtrack, eventually replacing live musical accompaniment


MONTAGE EDITING Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin released. Among many noteworthy accomplishments in this




OLDEST EXTANT CINEMA Korsor Biograf Teater opens on August 7th in Korsor, Denmark. Still exhibiting films in 2012, it holds the title of being the world’s oldest operating cinema.


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BENSHI Japan experiences motion pictures. Initially regarded as a novelty from the West, cinema grows quickly. Theaters employed a single narrator, benshi, to explain the film to patrons, and kowairo setsumei, group narrators, are used to voice over the film. The popularity of the benshi increased, and the technique was refined to an art form. Benshi acted as narrator and commentary, providing mimetic dialog to the film. Somei Saburo is considered the first benshi, and at its peak in the 1930s, thousands of benshi were employed. The tradition of benshi extended the life of silent film in Japan, Korea and Thailand into the 1940s.

stop-action film. While he subtitled a film, a fly crossed the sequence during the process. Upon developing the film, the perceived display of abrupt and jumpy movements of said fly gave birth to stop action film. Chomón’s most wellknown example of this technique was created in 1905, as El Hotel Electrico.


film, Eisenstein’s novel use of the close-up and montage sequence editing provoke viewer’s sympathies for characters onscreen. The visual medium of storytelling on film is radically altered with these effects.


FULL TRANSITION TO SOUND The Jazz Singer released, grossing over two million dollars for Warner Bros. studio as the first “talkie” movie.




BIRTH OF THE REALLY BIG SCREEN The Roxy opens in New York, advertised as “the cathedral of motion picture,” with 6000 seats and room for 500 standing, using and 18’ x 24’ screen. Venues and screens of this size spur the quest to create larger and better pictures and screens, continuing this evolution to the present day.


HYPERGONAR French Academy of Sciences receives Louis Lumiere’s debut

of astronomer Henri Chretien’s anamorphic device “Hypergonar,” first practical lens design for producing a correct widescreen image. First public viewing of device at Paris International Expo, 1937.


END OF SILENT FILM IN THE WEST City Lights released. Widely considered to be the last great silent film, Charlie Chaplin ends the era of silent movies in the western world.


DRIVE-IN CINEMA Automobile Movie Theater, the first drive-in theater, opens June 6th in Camden, NJ. Invented by Richard Hollingshead, it was initially conceived of as an attempt to accommodate an obese relative. Hollingshead experimented with setting a projector on top of his car, showing the film on his garage. He developed and commercialized the idea, and soon each car was charged 25 cents, and an additional 25 cents per person, with two showings per night.


EIDOPHOR The black-and-white, large-scale projection system debuts, allowing television programming to be transmitted and exhibited in movie theaters. The machine and process preserve “blown up” image integrity without loss of clarity or intensity. Eidophor was invented in Switzerland at the Federal Institute of Technology in 1939.


CRAB DOLLY The crab dolly is invented by Steve Krilanovich for a camera shot suggested by Alfred Hitchcock, a long travelling shot that turned around and looked back at the whole set.


TODD AO, VISTAVISION, CINEMASCOPE, PANAVISION These high-resolution widescreen film formats are competitively developed by various studios and technicians. The craft of widescreen continues to drive the cinematic experience to the present day, with Imax and Sony leading the technology.



STEADICAM Steadicam camera stabilizing system invented by cinematographer Garrett Brown. The most well known stabilizing

MOTION-CONTROLLED, COMPUTERIZED CAMERA SYSTEM John Dykstra invents the first motion-controlled, computerized camera system for Star Wars


VIDEO CAMCORDER Sony Corporation offers the first 8 mm consumer camcorder, the CCD-V8


JUMBOTRON Sony Corp. Jumbotron debuts during World’s Fair in Tsukuba, Japan


UNDERWATER DOLLY James Cameron, director of Titanic and Avatar, invents and patents an underwater dolly

DIGITAL CINEMA PROJECTION Digital Cinema Solutions builds First Digital Cinema Network, enabling digital delivery direct to theaters, effecting digital projection as a preferred medium over traditional film stock distribution.


4K PROJECTION Sony Corp. debuts 4K projection, allowing digital media to be projected in 4096x2160 pixels, doubling picture quality standards at the time. Images can be projected onto screens as large as 85’, approximately 4 stories high, with little to no loss of resolution.


DIGITAL STEREO 3D digital stereo 3D becomes a successful market with the Disney Studios release Chicken Little and culminates with the 2009 release of Avatar from director James Cameron.



IMAX IMAX films premiere at the Fuji Pavilion during EXPO ‘70 in Osaka, Japan. Using 65 mm film frames to increase resolution, a projector capable of displaying the technology, and a screen height of 72’ x 52.8’ or more, the viewing experience is significantly altered. Rows of seats are set at a steep pitch, up to 30 degrees, so that each viewer faces the screen directly.



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VERTIGO SHOT Irmin Roberts, second-unit cameraman on the set of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, employs the camera in a forward zoom with a reverse moving dolly. The novel technique disorients viewers with the shifting perspective, and “the Vertigo shot” quickly becomes iconic. This technique can be seen in movies like Jaws (1975) and Pulp Fiction (1994).

system of the era, along with camera systems he made especially for the 1992 Olympics. A prolific inventor, Brown created MobyCam, an underwater camera tracking system, as well as the DiveCam, the GoCam and the SkyCam. His inventions are still employed commercially and privately in 2012.


Bibliography: Selected Dates in Cinema Art, Science, and Technology by Vic Leeds

Abel, Richard. 1999. The Red Rooster Scare: Making Cinema American, 1900 - 1910, University of California Press. “Allan Dwan” in The Canadian Encyclopedia: The Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, accessed May 1, 2012. “American Memory: Inventing Entertainment, The Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.” Accessed May 1, 2012. http://lcweb2.loc. gov/ammem/edhtml/ Bacher, Lutz. 1978. The Mobile Mise en Scène: A Critical Analysis of the Theory and Practice of Long-take Camera Movement in the Narrative Film. Ayer Publishing. Cameron, et al. March 5, 1991. United States Patent 4,996,938. Crafton, Donald. 1993. Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898 - 1928, University of Chicago Press Crafton, Donald. 1999. The talkies: American Cinema’s Transition To Sound, 1926-1931, University of California Press. DeAngelis, Gina. 2003. Motion Pictures: Making Cinema Magic.The Oliver Press, Inc. Dym, Jeffrey A. 2003. Benshi, Japanese Silent Film


and Their Forgotten Narrative Art of Setsumei: 12 Narrators, A History of Japanese Silent Film Narration, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press.

Eagan, Daniel. 2010. America’s Film Legacy: The Authoritative Guide To The Landmark Movies In The National Film Registry. National Film Preservation Board (US), Continuum International Publishing Group. Fielding, Raymond. 1980. Technological History of Motion Pictures and Television: an Anthology from the Pages of the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, University Of California Press. “Freeze Frame: Eadweard Muybridge’s Photography of Motion” in the Virtual National Museum of American History. Accessed June 16, 2012. http://americanhistory. Garrett Brown and Garrett Cam official website. Accessed May 1, 2012. “Guinness World Records,” accessed May 1, 2012. http:// oldest-purpose-built-cinema-in-operation IMAX corporate website. Accessed May 1, 2012. http:// “Invention of Photography: Niepce.” Accessed May 1, 2012. Israels, Joseph II. February 1946. “Movies by television. Swiss use film of oil for theater-size image,” Popular Science Monthly. Accessed June 16, 2012. http://www.

“The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention & Innovation: Resources.” Accessed May 1, 2012. http:// aspx?id=709 Lev, Peter. 2006. Transforming The Screen 1950-1959. University Of California Press. Lobban, Grant. 1994. “Out of the Lens Cupboard.” Cinema Technology 7, no. 2: 219-227. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed March 10, 2012). Lobban, Grant. 2005. “The Restoration Business.” Image Technology 87, no. 5: 32-36. Film & Television Literature Index with Full Text, EBSCOhost (accessed March 10, 2012). Marey, Etienne-Jules. 22 April 1882. “Fusil Photographique“ (illustration) in La Nature: Revue Des Sciences et de leurs applications aux arts et a l’industrie. 464: p 329. Accessed May 1, 2012. cgi?4KY28.18/333/100/432/0/0 “Martin Scorsese presents: Cabiria, a restoration by Museo Nazionale del Cinema - Turin, in association with PresTech Film Laboratories Ltd.” Accessed May 1, 2012. http://www. Pressbook_ING_Cabiria_Berlino.pdf Matsuda Film Productions, “The Benshi.” Accessed May 1, 2012. html Musser, Charles. 1990. The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. History of the American Cinema, Vol. 1, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. Musser, Charles. 1995. Thomas A. Edison and His Kinetographic Motion Pictures, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. Sanders, Don and Sanders, Susan. 1997. The American Drive In Movie Theater. Motorbooks International. “Segundo de Chomón, Selected Works (1902-1914)” Accessed May 1, 2012. html Sony Corp. corporate website. Accessed May 1, 2012. http:// Sony Corp. corporate website. “SONY SXRD 4K PROJECTORS BRING AUDIENCES TO THE EDGE OF THEIR SEATS ON UNIVERSAL STUDIOS ‘THE SIMPSONS’ RIDE,” Sony Corp. press release. Accessed May 1, 2012. http://pro. SXRD_Simpsons_11_2008_F_2.pdf Taylor, Deems. 1943. Pictorial History Of The Movies, New York: Simon and Schuster. Taylor, Richard. 2000. The Battleship Potemkin: A Film Companion, I. B. Tauris. Zone, Ray. 2007. Stereoscopic Cinema & The Origins of 3-D Film, 1838 - 1952. University Press of Kentucky. “The zoopraxiscope - a couple waltzing.” Accessed June 16, 2012.

RetroSpect: 1868

The Myriopticon by Lauren B. Hewes Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society


the 19th century,

before the advent

in the United States. Set up in lecture halls, theaters, or any large space, often lit with gas lights and accompanied by live music, these events captured the imagination with their rolling pictures of river scenes, urban life, and national landmarks. Popular subjects depicted on full-sized public panoramas included views that moved the audience down the Mississippi, the Nile, or the Niagara rivers or through the streets of London, New York or Jerusalem. Temperance-themed and antislavery panoramas showing redeemed drinkers or escaped slaves might be accompanied by a lecture full of moral and political rhetoric. Public panoramas were affordable entertainment, available to large audiences and were often touted for their educational content. Perhaps not


popular form of entertainment

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of motion pictures,

moving panoramas were a


surprisingly, the panoramic form was quickly adapted for use in children’s toys, with small, boxed panoramas appearing on the U.S. market after 1820. These were based on European predecessors,

is full of facts (number of wounded,

and were usually printed on paper and

technical advances of the navy, etc.)

mounted inside a box with two wooden

but is also peppered with humorous,

14 panorama along, either forward or back. GLIMPSE

rollers and a metal key to move the

entertaining commentary. For an image of Union soldiers chasing and catching pigs in a tent camp, for example, the

The Historical Panorama, Rebellion, was

lecturer states: “But leaving these scenes

published by Milton Bradley & Co., in

of blood-shed and carnage, we present

Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1868. It

you with a very ‘pig-chew-resque’ scene

depicts selected events from the American

representing a more cheerful phase of the

Civil War and is accompanied by a pre-

soldiers life….”

printed lecture, tickets, and a broadside to be posted by the child outside the parlor

Overall, though, the message was a

where the toy was to be presented. The

serious one, as the nation was still

broadside spoofs the language used in

healing from the wounds of the war

advertisements for full-sized panoramas

and the stresses of Reconstruction. The

(which usually promoted the size of the

panorama toy was a way for children

roll), stating, “This splendid work of art is

to play through the momentous events

painted on nearly 1,000 square inches of

that had occurred just a few years before.

surface.” The panorama takes a decidedly

Moving pictures were an important part

Northern view of the war, with Union

of play (as seen in other optical toys such

victories illustrated over Confederate

as zoetropes and praxinoscopes), and

ones and American flags flying in nearly

predict the attraction that the movies

every scene. The script that the child was

would have for children at the beginning

to read while advancing the panorama

of the 20th century. w

All images, pages 13-23, courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society. Gift of Franklin P. Rice, 1917.


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Opening W i d e: by Kevin Corbett


s a professor of Broadcast and Cinematic Arts, I’ve been amazed at the evergrowing number of film festivals nationwide. This

cultural movement begs the question: if technology can now enable people to literally watch a movie anywhere, why are


in groups in the festival setting? The com-


so many of them choosing to watch them

or psychological reasons that are beyond

plete explanation may point to sociological the scope of this essay, but the simple and likely answer may be that we have a 100-year cultural tradition of doing so. It could be the sheer inertia that motivates people to gather in communities, or simply groups, to watch movies. I often talk about movies and technology in my classes, where I frequently catch students using technology for unrelated purposes. In such instances, I have yet to find the patience to use the catch as a teachable moment. But if I could, I’d tell the student that before about 1900 in America, if you were to see a movie, it’s likely you’d see it alone. You’d peer down into a device designed to accommodate the eyes of a single human, and watch a Austin Film Festival. Image courtesy of the author.

30-second moving image of a pratfall, a

Film Festivals and Fan Communities even your phone, why go out to see one?)

This may sound oddly reminiscent of someone—

But at a time when it has become increas-

say, a student in a film history class—watching a

ingly easy to watch movies alone on small

YouTube clip on a smartphone, but it’s actually the

screens, people are continuing to see them

kind of “movies” many people watched on Kineto-

in groups in front of big ones.

scopes in the very early days of American film.


watching that would dominate the next hundred

The number of American film festivals

years emerged: people gathering in groups in

has recently expanded at such a rate that

front of large screens. It would also become ex-

counting them all is virtually impossible.

tremely popular; for decades many people went

Multiple festivals are organized in every


By the turn of the 20th century, the kind of movie-

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sexually suggestive dance, or perhaps a pet trick.


if technology can now enable people to literally watch a movie anywhere, why are so many of them choosing to watch them in groups in the festival setting? to the movies on a weekly basis. Following the

state, including those where, given the

emergence of the silver screen, at least since the

relatively sparse populations, one would

mid-20th century, every new communications/

not expect to find very large film “com-

entertainment technology was seen as a threat to

munities” (there are at least 4 festivals

theatrical movie-going. First, there was television

in Vermont, at least 5 each in Alaska and

in the 1950s, then cable television in the 1970s-

Montana). “Community” is interesting in

80s. By the turn of the 21st century, new technolo-

this context because, while organizers’

gies seem poised to return movie-“watchers” (as

purposes and goals behind these myriad

opposed to “goers”) to the pre-1900 solo mode.

festivals vary, that single word appears in

(If you can watch a movie on your computer, or

many of their mission statements. The folks


before about 1900 in America, if you were to see a movie, it's likely you'd see it alone. at the Newport Beach (California) Film Festival say on their website that “With

The Making Of…

the integration of the local community

In many of these cases, the “communi-

and educational institutions, the Festival

ty” that organizers refer to is comprised

stimulates an interest in the study and

of two groups: filmmakers and film

appreciation of film and encourages

audiences. The expansion of oppor-

people of all ages and backgrounds to

tunities for filmmakers to display their

participate.”1 On another beach across

work is an interesting phenomenon.

the country, the mission of the Reho-

Until recently, shipping and projecting

both Beach (Delaware) Film Festival is

traditional film was the standard prac-

“to promote the art of film and, through

tice, but the cost and complexity of this

outreach initiatives, to entertain, edu-

method of distribution is prohibitive

cate, and enrich the cultural life of local

for many of the newer film festivals. As

and extended communities.”2

an alternative, digital technologies—

(Above) Austin Film Festival. (Right) Louisville Film Festival. Images courtesy of the author.

of large screens. There are, of course, a number of ways

made it easier for filmmakers to make

that modern fans of film can “celebrate,” not the least of

their films and to screen them. [The

which are the various online communities like Facebook,

resulting festivals bring movie-makers

Twitter, etc. But when it comes to film festivals, people of-

and movie-goers together.] Down in

fer different reasons for why they go. At a recent Louisville

Alabama, The Sidewalk Film Festival in

(Kentucky) International Festival of Film, a staffer said she

Birmingham describes the communal

had volunteered to work the festival as a means of see-

nature of its event as “a summer camp

ing the films, and that the festival allowed her and other

for filmmakers and film lovers. No one is

attendees to “see new films first, before anyone else.”

trying to make deals or prove anything.

Attendees at the 2011 Austin Film Festival not only got

Everyone is there with one goal: to cel-

the chance to see the most recent Johnny Depp film (The

ebrate the art of film.” One state over,

Rum Diaries) “first,” but they got a chance to see Depp

in Jackson, Mississippi the mission of

himself when he made an appearance at the festival. Back

The Crossroads Film Festival is “to cel-

in Louisville, another attendee told me that film festivals

ebrate the art of filmmaking in all of its

allowed her to discover “new stuff that’s not mainstream

diversity and depth,” and to “facilitate

that you don’t hear about,” while still another suggested

and promote a broader spectrum of

that she, her husband and another couple had come out

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film and video for the community.” Out

to the festival as a

in Idaho, the mission of the Sandpoint

way of supporting

Films Festival is “to guide, educate

the “local arts cul-

and support community interest and

ture.” These are

participation in the entire filmmaking

certainly all valid

process.”5 And The South Dakota Film


Festival “was designed to be a unique

with the exception

statewide event for filmmakers and

of the chance to

film lovers to gather, mingle and watch

snap a photo with

pretty cool movies. There is nothing like

Johnny Depp, film

cinema on a big screen. . .”

fans can do most


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Going to the Picture Show


The fact that so many of these festi-

of the arts can pa-

vals are also intended as community

tronize them in other ways, and bootleg copies of “new”

enrichment, or at least as a chance for

films circulate on the web somewhat regularly. That the

the community to celebrate film, is an

desire to watch movies in groups still persists suggests the

interesting social phenomenon. The key

power of the cinematic tradition. I think this momentum of


coming out to a theater.



here is that this celebration takes place in groups, in front

digital projectors—have simultaneously

issue 9

from cameras and editing software to


tradition is implicit in film festivals in general, but

these various communities, organizers of a number

especially when it comes to the growing number

of festivals have designed them to show audiences

of festivals designed for specific audiences.

old films, even films they’ve already seen—in some cases many times before. The Turner Classic Movies



Movie-Watching and Finding Your Tribe

(TCM) television channel recently launched a festi-

Organizers have launched a number of film fes-

the “old”-film festivals than the many horror festivals

val in Los Angeles dedicated to, of course, classic films. But there are perhaps no better examples of

tivals with the idea of attracting and benefitting

that have emerged in recent years. Just a sample

specifically female audiences. The Lunafest is a

of these festivals includes Arizona’s International

travelling film festival/fund-raising program that

Horror and Sci-Fi festival, Indiana’s Dark Carnival

“connects women, their sto-

Film Festival, Massachusetts’s

ries and their causes through

All Things Horror Film Festival,

film,” specifically “films by, for

North Carolina’s The Carnage

and about women.”7 Another

Film festival, New York’s The

organization, Women, Action

Buffalo Screams Horror Film

and Media (WAM!) strives

Festival and The B-Movie Fest

for “Gender equity in media

(in Syracuse), Ohio’s The Cincin-

access, representation, em-

nati Horror Film Festival, Okla-

ployment and ownership”8

homa’s Tulsa International Film

via a number of activities,

Festival – Nightmare Division,

including a film festival in

Oregon’s The Zompire Undead

Boston. Then there are the

Film Festival, Pennsylvania’s The

Jewish film festivals—you can

Eerie Horror Film Fest and The

find them in San Francisco,

Horrified Weekend Film Festival

Los Angeles, Seattle and

(Gettysburg) and Rhode Is-

Atlanta. But there’s also the

land’s International Horror Film

l That the desire to m t T h . EN ribe watch movies T N sc O b in groups C u s LY m/ N still persists-O N power na O suggests the r I T jou P I R thepcinematic of se C S im B l SU w.gtradition. ww

one in Jackson, Mississippi,

/ / : p

and even the Maine Jewish

Festival. While many of these festivals, of course, screen new

Film Festival in Portland. If these aren’t examples

horror, science-fiction and other genre films, many

of “film festival as community,” one would be hard

of them feature classics as well. The founders of the

pressed to describe them as anything else. The

Thriller! Chiller! Festival in Grand Rapids, Michigan

folks in Maine state their mission is “to provide a

launched the festival in part because they realized

forum for the presentation of films to enrich, edu-

that many (especially young) fans of classic “genre”

cate and entertain a diverse community about the

movies had never had the opportunity to see those

Jewish experience.”9

films in a theater, with a large group of similarly


appreciative fans. The 2011 Thriller! Chiller! event But the community aspect of film festivals may be

featured the cult classics Die Hard, Cape Fear and

even more resonant when it comes to those dedi-

Night of the Living Dead. There’s even a fan club

cated to specific kinds or genres of films. In other

dedicated to a single, and singularly bad, horror

words, while many festivals offer new films to

film—Troll 2 (club members hold public screenings

Austin Film Festival. Image courtesy of the author.

screenwriting, the idea of communal context (i.e., the theater)

and crew).

as opposed to media content (i.e., the films themselves) is

Regardless of what movies they are seeing, and in

important to the movie-watching experience as a whole.

what kind of venue, people seem to go to these festivals to see films together—to experience

These anecdotes, in addition to the apparently exponential

them as part of a community. And while the mo-

expansion of the number of film festivals in recent decades,

mentum of the “tradition” of doing so seems to

seem to support the idea of the communal nature of movie-

be enough to propel the success of film festivals

watching as “magical,” even when the watching doesn’t

further into the 21st century, it seems obvious that

necessarily take place in an old theater. Now, this does not

this need for community is part of our nature. In

account for those in a college class, or out at the movies in

my previous research on movie-watching within

front of a big screen, surrounded by a large group of people,

dating and marital relationships, I discovered that

who use their phones anyway. That’s a matter that warrants

many couples watch movies together as a way of

another discussion entirely. w

spending time together, regardless of the film. It

seems to be the quality of the togetherness—the


context, as opposed to the content of the film—

p t t h

that is important in these relationships. I’ve also studied the symbolic value of historic movie theaters in small towns, where again I found that the context—the experience of watching movies in an old theater, as opposed to the content of any of those movies—was more important. At the 2011

Austin Film Festival, the festival director noted the “magical experience” of seeing a film in the old Paramount theater, the festival’s main exhibition venue. So, even at a major national festival dedicated ostensibly to independent filmmaking and











T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

recognized as having its own unique quality that’s especially

issue 9

l m ht

of the film, which sometime involve the film’s cast


TAHRIR CINEMA by Esther Howe

Film Activism in




n January 23rd, 2011, Omar Hamilton couldn’t sleep. He had just arrived in Washington D.C. for a job, a two-month gig, and he

was glued to Al Jazeera. Pro-democracy protests were beginning in Cairo, people were taking to the streets, and there was no question, just compulsion: Hamilton had to board a plane. He had to get to Cairo. An independent filmmaker by profession and the producer of the annual Palestinian Festival of Literature, Hamilton joined the protests on January 30th. By the time Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11th, Hamilton states, “It was clear the role that citizen journalists had to play. It was clear that a new space for new ideas and collaborations was needed.”

Egypt’s Revolution issue 9 Cinema


Photograph by Sherief Gaber. Image courtesy of Lara Baladi.



Photograph by Sherief Gaber. Image courtesy of Lara Baladi.

While Hamilton’s notion of a

of truth in their country

archive belongs to the Egyp-

“new space for new ideas”

through sharing their stories

tian people: “It was filmed

may seem vague or grandiose,

with the world.

by the Egyptian people, it’s

it is neither. In a country full of

their story and it’s our story,”

government corruption, state-

In addition to their daily

and it will continue to be of

run media, and inconsistent

offerings, Mosireen houses

use to future generations,

Internet access, providing a

an ever-growing archive of

as they work to process and

space for citizen-driven media

the revolution, comprised

make sense of the revolution.

is both new and needed. In

of media footage taken by

In the past year, the team at

April 2011, this sentiment

citizens with digital cameras

Mosireen used their collection

came to fruition when a group of artists and activists including Khalid Abdalla, Tamer el Darwish, founded Mosireen, a non-profit media center out of the 6th floor of 19a Adly Street, Mosireen aims to empower the voice of the street-level perspective by providing space and technical support for the production of citizen media. True to its name, which is a play on the Arabic words for ‘Egyptian’ (pronounced el msrioon) and ‘determination’ (pronounced mosemmem), Mosireen’s mission is accomplished by any

ratives of current events, like the Maspero demonstrations in October, and the Mohamed Mahmoud battle in November, both of which involved police brutality that went unreported by the state-run news media. In January 2012, Mosireen’s YouTube channel was the most-watched non-profit channel in the world—a strong testament to Mosireen’s success in empowering the street-level perspective on an international scale. [http://english.ahram.]. However impressive Mosireen’s

and all means available, often

and mobile phones. While

international reach, the major-

in a different way each day.

the archiving process is

ity of Egyptian citizens do not

Mosireen’s offerings include

tedious, Hamilton believes

have access to the Internet

weekly editing workshops,

there is value in every

and truly countering state-run

technical support and training,

piece of footage, for “who

media on a local level requires

frequent film screenings, and a

knows what’s hidden within

thinking beyond the Internet.

library—all open to the public.

a frame, or what might

Last summer, visual artist Lara

Mosireen provides people

become apparent when cut

Baladi did just this. As Baladi

from all walks of life with the

with another?” Though Mo-

describes it, she saw the July

opportunity to learn from each

sireen houses the archive,

sit-in as an opportunity to

other, and to keep the balance

Hamilton maintains that the

be proactive and inventive.


in Downtown Cairo. Based

films that offer alternative nar-

issue 9

Said, Aida el Kashef and Lobna

“The majority of Egyptian citizens do not have access to the Internet and truly countering state-run media on a local level requires thinking beyond the Internet”

of footage to produce short


While many protesters used song and

revolution. “Every night

had taken footage to organize

speech to express their dissatisfaction

there’d be at least two

screenings back home.”

with the Supreme Council of Armed

hundred people gathered

Forces (Mubarak’s successor of sorts),

round, and every night we

By screening footage of the

Baladi’s mind turned towards visual

had people coming up to

protests preceding Mubarak’s

expression and moving images. Baladi

us with new footage, or

resignation, Tahrir Cinema re-

set out in search of a projector and

with memory cards to take

minded protesters of their past

screen, and within a matter of hours

away copies of what they’d

success in ousting Mubarak,

she crossed virtual paths with Omar

and provided them with a new

“people very quickly trusted l us and saw that m t T h . we were just EN ribe T projecting what ON bsc they couldn’tLY C m/su N co get on-O their l. a N televisions. rn” IO u T IP sejo R SC imp B SU w w / p:/

Hamilton via Twitter: “I was sending

perspective on themselves--

messages left and right and tweet-

both literally, through watching

ing, and I got somebody who I didn’t

their actions played out on a

know at the time, Omar Hamilton, and

huge screen, and abstractly,

I learned about Mosireen.” Baladi and

as part of a larger narrative

Hamilton met up, hatched a plan, and

of historical and continuing

began searching for equipment to

revolution. “Reliving those mo-

project revolutionary-themed footage

ments from January 28th when

in the square.

they dismantled the hated

Central Security Forces tells

Hamilton hassled people for money

you that it can be done again,”


34 and donations, and Baladi went to the

Hamilton writes in a blog post

Townhouse Gallery, where she found

from early July. He continues,

full support for the idea: “Mido Sadek

reflecting on the inspiration

and I built a screen out of leftover

gleaned from the watching the

materials. I borrowed the gallery’s

footage: “The cheers that go

speakers and sound equipment, and

up every time Omar Soleiman

Mido set up the projections in the

seen,” writes Hamilton. As

announces the President has

square.” Once built, the makeshift

Baladi recalls, Tahrir Cinema

stepped down frees you for

screen became the site of an ever-

became a “visually, politi-

a brilliant moment from the

changing lineup of footage including

cally active screen,” nearly

day’s dust and heat.”

that of police and army brutality,

overnight. “Because it was

experimental documentaries, and You-

totally democratic and

Through screening previously

Tube videos poking fun at Mubarak--

open,” Hamilton reflects,

unseen content, Tahrir Cinema

all of which were counterpoints to the

“people very quickly

also became the catalyst for

state-controlled media.

trusted us and saw that we

discussion, and for off-screen

were just projecting what

sessions of storytelling.

For the next three weeks, Tahrir

they couldn’t get on their

“People would pick up the

Cinema ran every night, operating

televisions. Pretty soon

mic and give a monologue to

with a nearby tent where protesters

there was a cinema running

the crowd” states Baladi. Time

brought media files to project, and

in Alexandria and people

and again, they would stand

later add to Mosireen’s archive of the

from five or six other towns

up and declare they knew they


were being lied to, or as Hamilton

the Mubarak regime to not

open to the public from 12:00 pm

writes, “they knew State TV wasn’t

question the possibility that

to 10:00 pm, six days a week. While

truthful, but now they were seeing the

this information may be

Tahrir Cinema was put on hold, the

truth.” These impromptu discussions

false.” To this end, Tahrir

cinema’s founding sentiment inspired

brimmed with emotion; as Baladi

Cinema efficiently exposed

Kazeboon, a national, decentralized

vividly recalls, “It was very intense, in

viewers to a vast array of

campaign of screening films in public

a very human way. It was in the middle

new images, and opened

places across Egypt. In January 2012,

of the revolution, and people were

up space for questioning.

Kazeboon went international, with

angry and they felt like it was being

“It was a very powerful

screenings in the US, Paris, Rome, and

hijacked from them. They felt power-

and beautiful experience,”

Canada. Run by volunteers, screenings

less and they felt very strongly about

states Baladi, “ultimately in

include footage of police brutality,

this new possibility that was being

the midst of the revolution,

many of Mosireen’s films, and footage

offered with the revolution, and they

Tahrir Cinema was a magical

of conflict particular to the viewing


location. As the revolution continues, the citizen journalism movement

On August 1st, the holy

grows, and for Hamilton and Baladi,

directly illustrated the political power

month of Ramadan began,

Tahrir Cinema remains a point of pride

of images for Baladi, as exposure to

Egypt’s police forces

and inspiration. w

new footage changed protesters’

cleared the Square, and

perspectives on the revolution: “Most

Tahrir Cinema came to

people still relate to Egyptian TV as

a halt. Mosireen’s focus

being a reliable source of information.

returned to 19a Adly,

They have no problems with being

organizing mass amounts

lied to because they don’t even know

of footage, running editing

they’re being lied to. They have been

workshops, and working

conditioned, numbed, for years under

hard to keep the space


p t t h

Image courtesy of Lara Baladi.

These interviews were conducted in October 2011 and January 2012; just as the revolution and democracy evolves, the role of Mosireen changes and the perspectives and opinions of Baladi and Hamilton shift. For the most up-to-date information on citizen journalism in Egypt, visit


Such reactions from the audience

issue 9

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didn’t want to miss it.”


Your Brain on Movies Y by Norman Holland

ou buy your ticket, walk into the

Mouse, Spider-Man. You have what

theater, sit down, and watch. This

poet and philosopher Samuel Taylor

passive sitting and watching, sitting

Coleridge called the “willing suspension

and watching, sitting and watching is the

crucial thing to remember for understanding your brain on movies. When you sit and


in your brain—at least if you are, as the


watch this way, some special things happen

I would say, if you are really “into” the

psychologists say, “transported” (or, as

of disbelief.”1

You care.

You feel real emotions toward things that you know perfectly well are not real, that are mere sparkles on a projection screen.

movie—”lost in it”). Unless someone yells

At least, you do these things if you are

“Fire!” or something else happens to take

“transported.” Why?

your attention away from the movie, four, at least four, odd things happen:

You cease to be aware of your own body.

If you’re tired, if you have a head cold, if

The short answer is, because you’re just sitting and watching. You have shut down your brain’s systems for acting. For a longer answer, let’s take them one by one.

your back aches—you forget all that.

You cease to be aware of your environment.

You know you can’t change what’s going on onscreen, and you aren’t trying or planning to change it. The movie is in

You don’t pay attention to the people

control. You know this in your prefrontal

around you, the exit sign, or your seat.

cortex, which is the most sophisticated

You don’t doubt.

part of your brain, and the part that is highly developed in us and other

You believe in unrealities. You simply

primates. It is here that we plan actions,

accept what you’re seeing even if it’s totally

think about the future, delay gratification,

improbable: hobbits, quidditch, Mickey

and so on. You know in your prefrontal

issue 9 Cinema

Image courtesy of Kenneth Lu.

cortex that you aren’t going to do any

the thing. You’re not going to try to change

of those things while you are “into” this

it or move it or even judge it and write a

movie, so you lose track of your body

review of it. You’re just “into” it.

and your environment. That’s partly because you’re intensely involved with

In that happy trance-like state of mind,

the movie, or as psychologists describe

you’re not aware of your body or your

this, you are experiencing “flow.”2 When

environment because they’re no longer

you’re doing something to which you

relevant. You’re not going to do anything

devote all your attention, balancing

about them. The brain is an economical

your checkbook, say, you don’t have any

organ. What isn’t necessary, it doesn’t

attention left over for your body or your

bother doing.

environment. In effect, the executive function located in your prefrontal cortex

You also don’t doubt. Here, disinterestedness

says, “Only sense this. Don’t waste

plays the key role. Richard Gerrig conducted

energy sensing irrelevant distractions.”

a number of experiments in the ‘80s that showed that people (or at least Yale under-

But this is a movie, not a checkbook,

graduates) didn’t exactly suspend disbelief

and movies are special. You’re living out

when they read short, paragraph-length

a concept Immanuel Kant put forward:

stories. Some stories contradicted what

when you’re properly appreciating a

they already knew, and some didn’t. When

work of art, you are “disinterested.”3

asked about the stories’ truth or falsity, the

That is, you don’t plan any action toward

Yalies took a significantly longer time to an-


swer with the false stories. In effect, they

ternal world, by our moving within the world and

had believed the stories for the moment

thus from our sensory-derived experience of it.”8

and then, when asked to check the story against other facts in their memories, they

But at the local Bijou you’re just sitting there

actively disbelieved them. Gerrig’s work

and watching. You’re not behaving. You’re not


confirms a well-established human failing: we’re very poor at detecting lies. Psychologists call it “lie blindness.” You might just as well flip a coin to decide whether someone is telling you the truth. Probably, from a sur5

vival point of view, it’s more advantageous to believe a warning or an invitation in the first instance and only later, if need be, disbelieve.


Kant’s “disinterestedness” addresses the aesthetics of


the matter, but neuropsychology has long established that we assess the reality of a stimulus only if we act or plan to act in response. Neuropsychologist Andrew Clark writes, “Perception is itself tangled up with specific possibilities of action—so tangled up, in fact, that the job of central cognition often ceases to exist.” Two specialists 6

Not only do you not doubt, you care. You feel real emotions about the romances and murders and car chases that are happening on screen.

manipulating the external world. You’re not planning what you’re going to do tomorrow. You’re “into” that movie. You have ceded control to the movie projector. It will go on doing what it’s doing and you can’t, and don’t want to, do anything about it. Again, the brain is economical. If we are not going to act on something or not even going to plan to act on it, why bother to decide whether it is real or not? And the brain doesn’t. When you shut down your motor systems in the frontal lobes, you also shut down reality-testing. Not only do you not doubt, you care. You feel real emotions about the romances and murders and car chases that are happening on-screen. You experience fear, anger, contentment, sadness, awe,

in frontal lobe function, Robert T. Knight

lust—all the emotions we might have in life. You feel

and Marcia Grabowecky, put the principle

them although you know as sure as you’re sitting

this way: “Reality checking involves a con-

in a movie theater that the things you are seeing

tinual assessment of the relation between

aren’t real. But you’ll jump when the hockey-masked

behavior and the environment.”7 Rodolfo

creep jumps out at the pretty blond starlet who just

Llinás writes: “the brain’s understanding

opened a door that she shouldn’t have. And every-

of anything, whether factual or abstract,

body else will, too. We moviegoers react emotionally

arises from our manipulations of the ex-

to the mere images as though they were real.

When we react to movies, we are demonstrating that our brains have different levels. We make the judgment that what we’re seeing isn’t really real in our frontal lobes, probably in the prefrontal cortex. But we may not make that judgment at all, because of our passive, disinterested state, and even if we do, we cannot stop the emotions. Recently, I wrote an essay on the 1951 A Christmas Carol, the one with Alastair Sim, and, sitting in front of my computer noting changes from the novel, the tears were running down my cheeks, even as I felt contempt for

come from a more primitive, sub-cortical part

of your brain, inside and at the back of your sophisticated frontal systems. You are responding from your limbic system, a group of structures

that form the inner border of the cortex. This is a brain region we share with other mammals (and, if you don’t think animals have emotions, you’ve never owned a dog or cat). By contrast, our

prefrontal cortices are much enlarged in us and

other primates compared to other mammals. But these evolutionarily later systems cannot sup-

press the subcortical activity in the earlier, more primeval limbic system.

Curiously, we enjoy having even unpleasant

hints lately that perhaps this mechanism

emotions aroused by movies—anger, disgust,

serves an evolutionary purpose. We

fear (think of horror movies)—so long as there

become more likely to survive and

are no real consequences. Hence movies, plays,

have offspring if we can regulate our

stories, poems, music, art in general, can give

emotions. Perhaps movies and stories

us pleasure. We seem to enjoy having even our

generally allow us to have powerful emo-

displeasing emotions stimulated so long as we

tions without being carried away by them

don’t have to act on them.

as we might be in real life. We practice

: p t t


Image courtesy of Richard Schwier.

modulating our emotions—but this is I don’t think anybody quite knows why this is


the case. The question is as old as Aristotle who wondered why we enjoy still life paintings with

And all this is going to change, anyway.

disgusting objects in them. There have been

What isn’t speculation is the new way



T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

sorts of emotions can’t be turned off, since they

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l m ht

responding to such treacly sentimentality. Those




A group of friends huddle together to watch a clip of a movie on an iphone, while sitting inside a cinema. June 2010, UK. Image courtesy of Geek Calendar.

we watch movies. Remember Jon Stewart at the 2008 Oscars? He pulled out his iPhone and announced, “I love new media. I’m watching Lawrence of Arabia. It’s awesome. . . . To really appreciate it, you have to see it on the wide screen.” And he turned his iPhone on its side. Stewart and the rest of us with our iPods, iPhones, iPads, and all their iCopycats and DVDs and streaming—we aren’t just sitting and watching. We’re in control. We can turn the iPhone on its side. We can stop the DVD and start it when

tions confronting us, reminding us that there are


things we need to do.


Coleridge, S. T. 1817. Biographia Literaria; or, Biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions, Volume 2. London: Rest Fenner. p 2. books/?id=hU4JAAAAQAAJ


Csikszentmihalyi, M. 1990. Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.


Kant, I. 2000. Critique of the power of judgment. Trans. and ed. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. The Cambridge edition of the works of Immanuel Kant. Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press.


Gerrig, R. J. 1998. Experiencing narrative worlds: On the psychological activities of reading. New Haven: Westview Press, Yale University Press.


Bond, C. F., Jr. and B. M. DePaulo. 2006. Accuracy of deception judgments. Personality and Social Psychology Review,10(3):214-34.


Clark, A. 1997. Being there: Putting brain, body, and world together again. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.


Knight, R. T., and M. Grabowecky. 1995. Escape from linear time: Prefrontal cortex and conscious experience. In The cognitive neurosciences, ed. M. S. Gazzaniga, 1357-71. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.


Llinás, R. R. 2001. The I of the vortex: From neurons to self. Cambridge MA: MIT Press.


Aristotle. 330 B.C.E. Poetics. Part iv.

What’s going to happen in our brains with these new ways of seeing films? I don’t have my

crystal ball with me, and anyway, my crystal ball

doesn’t show movies like an iPad. But I suspect, not much is going to happen. We’re not going

to have the same thrills and chills that we used to have in the local Bijou. And that’s too bad.

The moral of my story, then, is, give your brain

a vacation. Put down your iGadget. Go to your

local movie theater, sit down, and just watch and

enjoy. Get disinterested, free your limbic system,


p t t h

drop your reality-testing. Let the movie take over your brain. w

10. Pinker, Steven. BBC World Service: Your World - A Short History of Story. iplayer/episode/p00ldy9q/Your_World_A_Short_ History_Of_Story_Episode_1/. Host: Mordecai Richler. Accessed: March 15, 2012.


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rooms with the day’s mail, ads, bills, and solicita-

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we wish. Or perhaps we’re sitting in our living


Cinematic Spelunking Inside Plato’s Cave by Maureen Eckert

and voices that create the “reality” of the

follows Socrates’ presen-

prisoners. As Socrates notes, “the prison-

tations of the Analogy of

ers would in every way believe that the

the Sun and Divided Line

truth is nothing other than the shadows of

in The Republic Book VI.

those artifacts.”2 Who are these puppet-

These two earlier images illustrate the

masters in the Allegory of the Cave in

metaphysical status of the Good and the

The Republic? Plato gives no clue to their


Ideas (aka “Forms”) in relation to the fa-

identity—at least not directly—in the pre-

miliar material world. These images pres-

sentation of the cave interior’s structure.



he Allegory of the Cave

ent an inverted reality—that which we are most familiar with is the least real and can-

Immediately after describing the features

not actually be known through sense ex-

of the inside of the cave and the shadow-

perience. The Allegory of the Cave takes

reality of the prisoners, Socrates discusses

a further step, illuminating the manner in

what would happen if one of the prison-

which we are condemned to live because

ers were to be released. He describes

we do not know what reality is. We are in-

the prisoners escaping the chains, first

formed that the prisoners inside the cave,

becoming dazzled by the light of the

chained and unable to move or turn their

fire, then confused as to the difference

heads, are “like us.”1 According to the

between the artifacts and their shadows.

allegory, we are all born into bondage,

The prisoner would have to overcome the

forced to stare at the back wall of the cave

temptation of turning back to the more

where we perceive the shadow-play cast

familiar, darker shadows. “And if someone

upon it. We prisoners take these shadows

dragged him away from there by force, up

and sounds to be reality, ignorant of the

the rough steep path, and didn’t let him

wall positioned behind us and a huge

go until he had dragged him into the sun-

fire further behind it. Puppeteers (thau-

light,“ Socrates continues, “wouldn’t he be

matopoio) concealed on a path behind

pained and irritated at being treated that

the wall are holding artifacts of all kinds

way?”3 Progress out of the cave is pain-

and moving them, casting the shadows

ful in two stages. Freed from her chains,

issue 9 Cinema

“Shadow puppets,” 2008. Image courtesy of flickr member, das_kaninchen.

the prisoner initially contends with the pain and

his time to construct his allegory.6, 7 Would

confusion caused by the firelight and artifacts.

Plato object to a little cinematic spelunk-

Next, the prisoner contends with the experience

ing in his cave? It is hard to say, but I’d

of being forced out of the cave into real sunlight.

guess he’d approve of thinking through it

The passage does not provide an analogy for the

as carefully as possible.

puppeteers—they move around freely inside the cave and are not, it seems, exactly “like us.” So,

Let’s start with an analogy. 1) Cave: Cinema

who are they like?

Theater, 2) Shadow-play: Film, 3) Prison-


ers: Audience, and 4) Puppeteers: Direc-


ver the years, students in my courses

tors. The puppeteers in Plato’s Cave have

have noted that the Allegory of the

a constructive role instead of a passive

Cave describes the experience of

one. Like film directors, they re-present

seeing movies. The cave and the prisoners inside

material artifacts and voices—sights and

it remind them of a darkened movie theater. The

sounds—in a coherent presentation for

shadow-play fully engrossing the prisoners’ at-

the audience/prisoners. Individual things

tention seems like a film. In fact, Plato describes

represented within films, like actors and

the wall behind which the puppeteers work as be-

locations, are part of the shadow-play and

ing “like the screen in front of puppeteers above

parallel the artifacts held up by the pup-

which they show their puppets.” Plato very much

peteers. Directors, like the puppeteers,

seems to employ the entertainment technology of

work behind the scenes.



Following this analogy,




to notice that the prisoners, like any audience, need to accept the shadows as real. This may remind us of the func-

what could be the script they follow? At this point, the analogy between film and shadow-play may prove a bit inadequate. Not only must the shadowplay be coherent, it must also be comprehensive—like


the film, The Matrix.

the Matrix within the film.



The prisoners spend their


tion of the Matrix in

Not only must the shadow-play be coherent, it must also be comprehensive ... It is a very long show, to say the least.

whoever they are,

entire lives inside the cave

are unknown to the prisoners. Like good

(unless set free). It is a very long show, to say the

film directors (or the Architect of The Ma-

least. The film reels cannot be changed, nor can

trix trilogy), their film must not disrupt the

there be an intermission or a time to go back

audience’s suspension of disbelief. While

home to real life. Moreover, if different directors/

the film runs, it must fully engross the

puppeteers presented radically different shows,

viewers’ attention—they must believe the

based upon incompatible premises, the seamless

reality presented. The fact that it is artifice

feel of reality would be jeopardized. Pigs cannot

needs to remain concealed. Achieving

suddenly fly unless they do so all the time. To

these ends requires something more than

paraphrase Aristotle in the Poetics, coherence at

a random series of images and sounds.

the reality-building level of this narrative would

Socrates notes that if the prisoners could

require “consistent inconsistencies.”9

speak to one another, “they’d suppose

sounds are not presented as a confusing


flux, but have an order and consistency.

important scripted features: (1) Coherence; an

The shadow-play is thus directed coher-

order that enables prisoners to follow and po-

ently. The puppeteers are doing so. But

tentially name artifacts in a believable reality, (2)

that the names they used applied to the things they see passing before them.”8 This would require that the shadows and

o far, based on our set of analogies between Cinema and the Cave, we have discerned that the shadow-play that en-

grosses the prisoners inside the cave has some

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“Moviegoers,” Long Island City, Astoria, NY, 2011. Image courtesy of flickr member, edenpictures.

Consistency; any features that could jeopardize

large of Athens in 5th century BCE and the

suspension of disbelief must be regular enough

Sophist intellectual movement.10

so as not to do so and (3) Comprehensiveness; there is no outside of the shadow-play that is ap-

In my view it seems most likely that the

parent to the prisoners.These three features of

puppeteers represent the poets and the

the shadow-play, if we are right, set up a chal-

script followed is the poly and theocen-

lenge to some interpretations of the Allegory of

tric worldview they sustain in their poetry.

the Cave. If the shadow-play and the puppeteers

There is textual support for this notion.

are interpreted too narrowly, as only representing

Hesiod, Homer, and the traditional poets’

politicians or only the Sophists, we lose facets of

views of the gods are first attacked in

comprehensiveness, consistency and coherence.

Book II of The Republic. There, when con-

It would be better that the shadow-play and pup-

structing the first law of the ideal republic,

peteers represent a much more inclusive group,

the poets’ notions that the gods shape-

ideally one that could incorporate the politics at

shift, deceive and can behave unjustly are

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T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

Image courtesy of Stephen Boisvert.

purged from the ideal society.11 Later on, famously, in Book X, the poets are altogether purged from

and structure of reality. Hesiod’s Theogony

the ideal state. Their skill in representation—the

is a creation account that lays out natural

crafting of images of the material world that

and divine order.14 Hesiod’s further writing,

is itself an image of the world of ideas—is too

Works and Days, and Homer’s Iliad and



rather a metaphysical view of the nature


Odyssey present varied accounts of the

the extent that the poets’ works represent a com-

relationships between gods and humans,

prehensive and relatively coherent view, it seems

and the setting for ethical values.15,16,17 The

that they would be good candidates for the script

shadow-play watched by the prisoners, if it

of the puppeteers. The puppeteers within this

follows this type of script, has the strength

analogy are the poets. The theocentric worldview

of being meaning-bestowing. That is to

presented in the great works of ancient Greek

say, it is a type of narrative that gener-

poetry would be the script they follow.

ates an account of reality to be believed.

grave, seductive and dangerous a power.


Moreover, each individual artifact forming The crucial thing to bear in mind is that the script of

a piece of the show has a meaningful place

the poets is not a narrative in the typical sense, but

within this type of narrative.


n this interpretation, the Allegory of the Cave still

preserves the “three degrees from reality” problem that is

[the poets’] skill in representation too grave, seductive and dangerous a power

against impiety went un-challenged, just as the Laws argue in the

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Crito that Socrates, himself, never chal-

Book X, while maintaining

its democratic consti-

connection with the Divided

tution, Athens did not

Line in The Republic, Book

separate church and

VI.18 The shadow-play in the

state. The Sophists,

cave is this “third degree” representation, the

a group of intellectuals the public viewed

artifacts, second degree, and the world outside

as threatening to traditional moral values,

the cave is the world of ideas.

were never tried for impiety as Socrates was.21, 22 Their training of the wealthy po-

The next thing to keep in mind is the image of the

litical elite to “make the weaker argument

Divided Line preceding the Allegory of the Cave

the stronger” and to succeed in civic life

divides phenomenal experience into two distinct

went politically unopposed in any real

segments.19 The lowest segment is that of images

terms and Sophists like Protagoras and

and reflections, which are grasped by the mind

Gorgias died wealthy men. The Sophists’

in imagination. The level above is that of artifacts

entrenchment in political life at Athens

and material entities which are grasped by belief

and other Greek city-states did nothing

(pistis—’belief’ with a sense of trust). The shad-

to overturn the social glue of the religious

ow-play inside the cave represents phenomenal

worldview expressed by the poets.



experience. The poets’ accounts bestow meaning on the shadows that are reflections of the artifacts

One might object that there was great

they manipulate. The consistency, coherence and

variation in ancient Greek myth, and the

comprehensiveness of their shadow-play causes

works of the tragic playwrights present

the prisoners to remain enthralled in the shadow-

moral complexities and challenging ethi-

play at the level of imagination, demonstrating

cal dramas. How could poets like these

three degrees from reality.

be counted as puppet-masters? In short, I would claim that the poetic script in play

The script of the poets is quite compatible with

tolerated a great amount of variation. This

the political life of Athens. The Athenian law

elasticity is permitted by commitment to a


lenged it.20 Despite

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T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

described in The Republic,


polytheistic pantheon. Gods and god-

cient Greek poets, the very fact that we need to

desses within a polytheistic pantheon

flesh out his allegory in order to figure out who

necessarily have differences, and in the

or what in a culture might be “running the show”

traditional, poetic accounts, are not

suggests something fascinating. If we are in the

constrained by having to be good. Lo-

position of the prisoners inside the cave, the pup-

cal traditions in different city-states en-

peteers are invisible to us. They are present yet

able variations on traditional themes,

absent, just as a director and the whole machin-

and the conflicts between deities and

ery of filmmaking arts can successfully achieve

humans caught up in these divine dra-

an illusory absence for the audience. According

mas provide topical themes for poets.

to Plato’s model, someone or some system is,

The interesting question is at what

in fact, in the director’s position with respect to

point the elasticity of the poetic tradi-

what we take for granted as “real.” The power of

tion gives out. I believe this is precisely

his allegory might very well be that it requires us

what is so important in Plato’s presen-

to consider who or what, at any given period of

tation of Socrates.

history, directs our shadow-play. w

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /


n The Republic, Socrates is forth-

right in rejecting the traditional




Plato. 360 BCE. The Republic. Benjamin Jowett, trans. Book VII, (515a). Accessed May 27, 2012,

way that Socrates also calls upon the


Plato, Republic, Book VII, (515b).

gods in the Apology, claiming that he


Plato, Republic, Book VII, (515e).

is, indeed, a pious man. Careful read-


Interestingly, we have not been told precisely how a prisoner is set free, nor who it is that drags a prisoner further up the steep path into the blinding sunlight. This topic goes beyond the scope of this essay, but hopefully it is easier to figure out!


Plato, Republic, Book VII, (514b)


See Asli Gocer. 1999-2000. “The Puppet Theater in Plato’s Parable of the Cave,” The Classical Journal, 95, no.2: 119-129.

accounts of the poets. Making


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things more difficult, however, is the

ing of the dialogues may suggest that

Socrates’ belief in the gods is sincere

while representing a reformation of tra-

ditional beliefs.23 Socrates’ is the case that tests the elasticity of traditional


religious beliefs. Should Athenians

p t t h

have tolerated his seemingly reformed theology, rejecting the poets’ accounts

of the gods? Readers of Plato are challenged with this question. Plato leaves the identity of the puppetmasters in his Allegory of the Cave open to interpretation. This seems intentional on his part and a significant feature of the allegory. Although I have made a case for identifying the puppet-masters as the traditional an-

The practice of puppetry in Ancient Athens has features worth noting. According to Asli Gocer’s research, ancient Greek puppet-theater was a bawdy, burlesque, comedic style of theater presented to popular audiences. Thaumatopoio was the term meaning “puppeteer,” but also designated other popular performers like conjurers, jugglers, acrobats and mimes. Puppetry thus bore association with all “low-brow” forms of entertainment. Ancient Greek puppetry is thought to be the ancestor of Turkish Karagoz Theater. Karagoz Theater is improvised and often satirical, contemptuous of customs and aimed at entertainment of “the masses.” Gocer claims that the puppetry depicted in the Allegory of the Cave as of a piece with Plato’s critique—not just of drama—but specifically of comedy and popular art forms.


See Graham Ley. 1991. A Short Introduction to the Ancient Greek Theater. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 10-13.

19. Plato, Republic, Book VI, (509d-511e), html

Graham Ley notes that puppets in Ancient Greece may have been more akin to marionettes controlled by strings (neurospatos; drawn/ operated by cord) and self-moving, mechanical automata. Ley also remarks that, given Plato’s comments in the Laws, puppet shows might have been comedic, and aimed at an audience of children.

20. Plato. 360 BCE. Crito. Benjamin Jowett, trans. (51e-52a). Accessed May 27, 2012,


Plato, Republic, Book VII, (515b)


Aristotle. 350 BCE. Poetics. S. H. Butcher, trans. Section 2: XV. Accessed May 27, 2012,

10. For an explanation of the Sophist movement, see

12. Plato, Republic, Book X, Plato/republic.11.x.html

In Plato’s Euthyphro we also find a clear comment from Socrates about his negative view of the poets. Euthyphro has just expressed his commitment to the traditional myths about the gods, describing Zeus’ castration of Chronos. To this, Socrates responds: “Indeed, Euthyphro, can this be the reason I’m under indictment, because whenever such things are said about the gods I find them so difficult to accept? It seems that because of this I will be told that I do wrong.” 14. Hesiod. 1914. “Theogeny,” The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd.), accessed May 27, 2012, 15. Hesiod, “Works and Days” in Homeric Hymns, accessed May 27, 2012, http://www.perseus.tufts. edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3atext%3a1999 .01.0132 16. Homer. 800 BCE. Iliad. Samuel Butler, trans. Accessed May 27, 2012, Homer/iliad.html 17. Homer. 800 BCE. Odyssey. Samuel Butler, trans. Accessed May 27, 2012, Homer/odyssey.html 18. Plato, Republic, Book VI, Plato/

In Plato’s Apology, especially at 18b, Socrates makes the effort to disambiguate his practice of philosophy from both of these intellectual groups. 23. See Gregory Vlastos. 1991. “Socratic Piety” in Socrates: Ironist and Moral Philosopher, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), 157-178. I find Vlastos convincing on the point that Plato’s Socrates is very much “a man of his time,” maintaining some religious beliefs while, at the same time, advocating for rational, philosophical investigation. Relegating each instance of his mention of religion to irony seems to do damage to Plato’s careful presentations of actual irony in the dialogues.


13. Plato. 1966. “Euthypro,” Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1, Harold North Fowler, trans., (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd), sec. 6a, accessed May 27, 2012, erseus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext%3DEut hyph.%3Asection%3D6a

22. Plato. 1966. “Apology,” Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vol. 1, Harold North Fowler, trans. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press; London: William Heinemann Ltd), 18b. Accessed May 27, 2012, http://www. eus%3Atext%3A1999.01.0170%3Atext% 3DApol.%3Asection%3D18b .

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11. Plato, Republic, Book II, Plato/republic.3.ii.html

21. Aristophanes. 419 BCE. The Clouds. Accessed May 27, 2012, http://classics. Aristophanes’ depiction of Socrates in his comedy The Clouds is an interesting case in which Socrates is depicted as a practicing sophist—setting up a school (The Thinkery) and offering to teach young men to win lawsuits at any cost. Materialistic views of the world including rejection of the gods are also attributed him in the play, although such views reflect those of the natural philosophers (Milesians, such as Thales and Anaximander, and Pluralists, such as Anaxagoras).



New posters for old movies GLIMPSE


Silver Screen Society

honors the many stories told through the world of cinema by inviting designers, illustrators, and graphic artists to create new poster designs for old movies. Silver Screen Society is curated and by graphic designers Trevor Basset and Brandon Schaefer.

issue 9 Cinema


The Third Man



The Third Man movie poster, 2011 by Brandon Schaefer Image courtesy of the artist

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The Third Man movie poster, 2011 by Timo Meyer Image courtesy of the artist


p t t h


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

issue 9

l m ht




issue 9 Cinema


Dick Tracy



Dick Tracy movie poster, 2012 by Alex Griendling Image courtesy of the artist

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Dick Tracy movie poster, 2012 by Barry Blankenship Image courtesy of the artist


p t t h


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

issue 9

l m ht




issue 9 Cinema


2001: A Space Odyssey



2001: A Space Odyssey movie poster, 2011 by Eren Blanquet Unten Image courtesy of the artist

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2001: A Space Odyssey movie poster, 2011 by Brandon Schaefer Image courtesy of the artist


p t t h


T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

issue 9

l m ht


Pancakes with Darth

Shifting Images of Villain from

by Tony Pacitti



get a little uncomfortable

So why all the hate? What

Let’s look at an important

while flipping pancakes

possible harm is there in

pop culture icon whose

with a genocidal war-lord.

humorously juxtaposing one of

career has long since shifted

A man who is capable of

cinema’s most notorious villains

from entertaining to hocking

murdering a room full of

with something as benign as

merch for an ever-growing

helpless, unsuspecting kids,

a well-balanced breakfast?

Technicolor empire: Mickey

nearly choking his pregnant

For me, it isn’t really about

Mouse. What is he like? What

wife to death and eventually

pancakes at all, but what this

are his quirks and his interests?

wiping a respected religious order off of the map isn’t the type of guy you want in your kitchen helping you make fried eggs or French toast. But he’s there. Every single morning when I walk into the kitchen he’s there, staring me down with his empty, remorseless eyes and breathing menacingly through that wicked black mask.

type of branding does for the character. It is my honest fear that at some point down the line, a new generation of Star Wars fans will have forgotten that Darth Vader is supposed to be scary. That someday, he will be just a cartoon face, as devoid of any menace or cultural significance as Count Chocula or Franken Berry. Admittedly, Count Chocula

As a kid I never got Mickey. I got Goofy and Donald Duck, the loveable, well-intentioned klutz and the animated manifestation of misplaced, chipmunk-fueled rage/antipants activism, respectively. I’d be left in stitches whenever Goofy and Donald were making with the yuks. Mickey, on the other hand, bored me to death. I never saw anything in him beyond the ears, which

“You will bring the eggs and

didn’t tarnish the vampire’s

the Bisquick to me, Rebel,” he

reputation as a ghoul who will

demands. Even though I hate it,

mess you up without even

I obey because my Darth Vader

thinking twice, but there is

There’s a perfectly good

spatula is truly the Sith Master

no other Darth Vader to keep

reason why Mickey Mouse

of cookware. I am helpless

things scary while a lesser one

became the face of the

against the awesome power of

becomes a shill for cereals and

company instead of Goofy

the Dark Side. And pancakes.

fruit snacks.

or Donald—something I’d

immediately invoked images of souvenir hats.

Death Stars to Department Stores

Mickey has a personality, it’s

and decided to figure out

just not one based around

just who he was. The answer

any extremes, like Goofy’s

is that he was everybody.

clumsiness or Donald’s short

Mickey was an “everymouse,”

fuse, but as a kid that was lost

a jack-of-all-trades who was

on me, because any shred of

just an everyday guy doing

living, breathing character

everyday guy stuff, only with

was infinitely diminished after

dogs and angry ducks. He

decades of him being a logo

was the character we could all

first, and a character second.

relate to, and thus he became the one we were most willing

Now I find that Darth Vader,

to fork our money over to.

of all characters, seems to

Being an everyman doesn’t

be popping up in a similar

Image courtesy of Robert McGoldrick.


mean he’s a blank slate.

to until I was in my twenties

issue 9

never given much thought

It is my honest fear that at some point...a new generation of Star Wars fans will have forgotten that Darth Vader is supposed to be scary


From Anakin to Vader 70


n the original three films Vader is strictly a villain until part-way through Return of the Jedi when Luke, ever the hopeful Boy Scout, insists that there is still good in the creature that was once his father. When Vader is redeemed in the end—a redemption firmly-rooted in the love for his son and a life that he had turned his back on—it is meant to show us the extent to which good can triumph over evil, love can conquer all, and so on. We are never meant to forgive him.

capacity. In their feature-length video review, Red Letter Media’s fictional film critic and sociopath, Harry Plinkett, argues that Darth Vader’s classic-looking, non-Anakin appearance in the third installment of the prequel trilogy, was to serve as visual connective tissue to the original films so

Darth Vader could someday be shoehorned l m t into the role ofT .h N be E the everyman T cri N O ubs C Y m/s L ON N rna With the prequel trilogy, O I u T the scope of the story o P j I e is shifted to become R s C p the Tragedy of Anakin S im B l Skywalker. We see as U him g . S a good, though frustrated, w w man before he becomes /w tyrant / the helmet-clad : pthe original films. t from t h that they could justify putting his super-

recognizable image on a bunch of sleazy


promotional tie-in products. These included cereal, soda and M&Ms, none of which a

kid can use to actually play Star Wars on a

rainy Saturday afternoon. I should mention now that I don’t have any beef with Star

Wars toys. I don’t necessarily think there’s

any harm in kids playing with action figures

where they can use a pre-established world

and characters as a springboard for their own

imaginations to run wild with new adventures.

The story, now spanning six films, is about a man of great power falling victim to his own demons, and how, eventually, he finds redemption. We still don’t let Vader off the hook for his heinous acts, but now there are two actual

Even Darth Vader costumes don’t bug me

because you can’t play Cops and Robbers

without someone being the robber. My issue is solely with the fact that, through excessive branding and changing the fundamental narrative that plays out over the Star Wars films and Star Wars: The Clone Wars television show, Darth Vader could someday be shoehorned into the role of the everyman. “He’s not evil,” the series might argue, “He’s

issue 9 Cinema


Image courtesy of elfidomx.

I always are becoming the faces of Star Wars, but unlike Mickey Mouse thought there is no everyman appeal he was to them. Not only do they lack that universally relatable absolutely factor, but their current status in the story unfolding in a the coolest galaxy far, far away doesn’t in his role change the fact that we know what monster they’ll become. as a villain. It is the dark side of these characters that made them He was endure in the first place. While l massive, dark, I, of all people, appreciate a m t T h look at where they.all came mysterious, EN ribeof how I from—regardless T feel Star Wars in powerful, ON may scabout b a post-Jar Jar world—their fearless,LY C /sunew image does less to build N com up to a moving tragedy of just a just regular guy who cruel. O - al. interstellar proportions, and hit a few rough years. Who N more to give each incoming the Clones frequently n deal O r hasn’t?” I u of just being generation of fans a false Twith thejoissues P I impression as to who they of identical R pone The same argument goes seofandthousands C are as fictional characters faces being manufactured for the GalacticS Empire’s m B with interesting lives, beyond someone else’s U muscle, goose-stepping gli towar.fightWithin . S their day jobs as corporate the Star Wars w the Stormtroopers. They’ve spokesmen. wtoo, and a universe they are the mascots got a spatula w / mold, just like for the Republic war effort / pancake : I understand how this all and, later, the face of an ttpVader. Star Wars: The Clone Empire’s order through fear. works. I’m not so naïve as to

Image courtesy of Kristian Mollenborg.




Wars shows their origins,

In our world, their image is

think that the people in control

on cookware, junk food and

of something as absurdly

cutesy bobbleheads. Alanis

lucrative as Star Wars won’t

when the time is right, are

Morissette should work a line

milk every possible penny

instructed to turn on the

about them into the twentieth-

out of it, and I probably

Jedi and blindly follow

anniversary special edition of

seem like a Death Star-sized

orders that start a reign


hypocrite—or would, if you

as an army bred for the good of the Galaxy who,

of oppression and nearly

saw my house—given all of the

wipe out an entire religion.

The Clones/Stormtroopers and

stuff I’ve bought over the years

Before they betray the Jedi,

Anakin Skywaker/Darth Vader

because it happened to say

“Star Wars” on it. But why

kids off of smoking with

use the bad guys as a logo?

something like: “Smoking

R2-D2 and C-3P0 have

will kill you <fwooo-kuuuh>

body and head shapes that

or I will. Join me in smoke-

lend themselves really well

free living. <fwooo-kuuuh>

to everything from soap-on-

Don’t make me destroy

a-rope to ice cream cakes

you.” Something tells me

to, and I’m just throwing

parent groups wouldn’t

this out there, contraceptive

take kindly to death threats.

devices. In fact these guys

Odds are, they would have

were designed explicitly to

played the sympathy card,

be the everymen of the Star

and he would have given

Wars saga. George Lucas, in

a testimonial about how

Side and his dependence

characters in Akira

on a life-support suit to

Kurosawa’s The Hidden

stay alive. That would’ve

Fortress, always envisioned

made him look like a wuss,

Artoo and Threepio as

and somebody who Joe

two minor, average guys

Camel could probably

who got caught up in this

beat up behind a pool hall

bigger conflict. It is (sort


of) through their eyes, that we see this story unfold.

I never related to Darth

Indeed, they used to pop

Vader when I was a young

up a lot more on products,

geek, but I always thought

serving for a while as

he was absolutely the

representatives of the Star

coolest in his role as a


villain. He was massive,

dark, mysterious, powerful,

They were mascots that

fearless, cruel. Darth Vader

made sense, because they

scared the hell out of me,

had universal appeal and

and I loved every second he

lacked the type of image or

was on-screen because of

edge that could be sullied

it. Now, I use him to make

by that sort of thing. When

pancakes. Who is going to

Artoo and Threepio were

be afraid of some Mickey

used for an anti-smoking

Mouse evil warlord who

commercial in the late ‘70s

makes pancakes? w

and early ‘80s, I didn’t think twice. Vader could only turn


nod to the two peasant

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smoking led to the Dark


l m ht

Throw in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, a television series set between episodes II and III, and the scale completely tips, at least in terms of total running time, in favor of Anakin Skywalker. Coming up on its fifth season, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will probably run as long as it keeps turning a profit. Despite occasionally touching on Anakin’s future and darker tendencies, the show largely shows him as a hero. At what point does Vader go from being the loathsome bulk of the Anakin character to nothing but a black mark on a larger, more heroic record?

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

a frequently-acknowledged

Wars brand.

sides to him, the villain I grew up with, and an Anakin Skywalker that we actually get to spend time with, as opposed to just being told about. Now things get fuzzy, because we need to use two different names to talk about the same person.



INSIDE THE DEAD MATTER Natalia Almada’s The NightWatchman GLIMPSE


by Courtney Sheehan


ttempting to locate a central narrative in Mexican

“Why do you put the dog when you put

filmmaker Natalia Almada’s documentary The Night

the dog?” Almada wondered aloud at the

Watchman (El Velador) is like trying to detect the

International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

spot where chisel first touched rock in a sculpture: interpretive

(IDFA), referring to the rhyme rather than reason

energies would be better spent elsewhere. Almada herself

that structured her editing process. Almada shot

likens the crafting of her film, which tracks the nocturnal

the film in her hometown of Culiacán over the

jaunts of a security guard in a Mexican cemetery, to the “very

course of a year. “One morning I woke up and

organic process” of sculpting. Organic is an apt descriptor

was like, hmm, I wonder how the cemetery is, I

for a film about the return of dust to dust, a documentary

think I’ll go.” Filming only a few days each month,

that rejects conventional narrative construction in favor of

she edited between shoots, which explains the

contemplating the atmospheric side effects of the violent

many gradually-placed layers that compose the

Mexican drug war. It would even be a stretch to say that the

film. The Night Watchman engenders a sense of

film’s focus is its titular character, a quiet man who watches

context through the lyrical sculpting of mood.

alongside the spectator as much as he functions as a subject

Lingering shots of mausoleums, too magnificent

of the camera’s gaze. The “real” story behind the graveyard’s

to be built without blood money, rub up against

rapid intake of slain drug war lords never explicitly enters

close-ups of the paint-splattered boots of

the frame: in a film about violence that does not contain

construction workers busily erecting more marble

a single shot of bloodshed, rhythm—not logic—guides the

tombs. A skinny dog trots across the orange dust,

creation of a collection of visual and aural moments linked

a coconut vendor hatchets open his wares, the

by points of tension and release.

night watchman waits out a late night rain storm

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under a tin roof. The jangling performance of an

in the context—to understand what it means for

off-screen marching band accompanies a scene

someone like the night watchman to have to work

of men carrying unwieldy funeral wreaths through

and function in that context.”


the graveyard, the bright flowers matching the confection-colored mausoleums they will soon

Editor as well as director, Almada created the

adorn. “It’s more like music in terms of finding

immersive feeling of context by arranging the

the right balance or rhythm between moments

sounds and images of the cemetery’s content.

of tension and moments of release,” Almada

To this end, the night watchman is not the only


figure of interest who works and functions in the context of constant gruesome murder. At

Through its focus on the oftentimes quotidian

several points throughout the film, a well-dressed

aftermath of death, The Night Watchman

woman mops the floor of her late husband’s






astronomical levels of violence produced by drug trafficking in Mexico. “The news about the drug war is full of very, very graphic images and I think they make us not able to really respond,” said Almada. “They’re so shocking that you can get numb...And so I was interested in how to talk about violence in a different way, where you’re

Images courtesy of Natalia Almada.

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T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / / dazzling mausoleum while her young children play outside. A cluster of similar shrines to the dead line the row, each with their own left

behind loved ones who visit and keep vigil.

The tiny haunted world, where women tend to

the upkeep of flower, candle, and stone, eerily


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parallels ordinary neighborhood life.

In only one instance does Almada make her presence behind the camera explicitly known, and by doing so disrupts the quiet, at times

even claustrophobic tone of the film. The scene takes place on the construction site of a new mausoleum (although given the high demand for mausoleums, the whole graveyard could be called a construction site, and the film itself, a site of deconstruction for visual representation of violence), where a worker is preparing plaster. He lights a cigarette and begins to smoke. Almadaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s off-screen voice abruptly invades the

quiet activity. “Do you always smoke when you

mix plaster?” she asks. The worker responds that the cigarette is a marker of time: by the

time he is finished smoking, the plaster will be ready. The simple exchange has a disrupting effect in a film that contains very few spoken words,





Almada’s active assertion of her subjectivity clarifies any questions the spectator may have about the film’s relationship to realism. “I’ve always felt it’s important to have a certain amount of invisibility but remind the viewer every now and then that there is someone




T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s LY m/ N O N rna O I T jou P I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

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behind the camera,” Almada said. “This

hard to imagine how they bear the death load day

isn’t an objective picture of truth.”

in and day out. As fixtures within the space of the cemetery, they are also conduits, message bearers

The passage of time measured by the

for the outside world.

cigarette stands synecdochically for the film itself, which Almada described as concerned with the concept of time. Time is as invisible and ubiquitous as the violence that never appears within the confines of the frame but nevertheless influences every element of the film’s structure from outside the cemetery. Almada connects

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such visual absence with aural presence: “A lot of the film is about what you cannot

T . N E ribe T N sc O b C u s Y m/ L ON N rna O I u T o P j I R pse C S im B SU w w / /

see. There’s a band but you don’t see the

band. You hear the mothers crying but you don’t see them.” The friction point

between inside/outside the cemetery



becomes all the more visceral when

Almada, whose background is in photography, “was

manifested in forms that straddle the

very interested in going back to just the image, and

cemetery’s invisible yet tangible walls. The

working alone, being patient, making a film out of

radio perched on the coconut vendor’s

nothing.” By stripping down the messy, complex,

cart and the small television set by which

and overwhelming nature of a drug war too vast in

the night watchman wiles away the hours

scale and damage for any film to sum up, The Night

each emit the sounds and sights of the

Watchman lets the sounds and images speak for

drug war as presented by the media. Gory

themselves. No wonder the film won a special award



at the International Film Festival Bratislava, “for

hopeless editorials stream from these two

demonstrating how long it takes to water the dusty

devices, both of them so diminutive it’s

road to heaven.” w


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Because I misunderstand my mouth, misrepresent my eyes And burn my guts for lack of honesty and quiet Because my poverty is a godâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s immense reels Flickering across this face, these clothes, this stutter Because the dust revealed in the thrown light When the film begins is my father and mother

Image courtesy of flickr member Vince42

Because so much is left behind each time In the filthy comfortable seats facing forward Because a pale pimply kid cleans up afterwards Not sure whether to hate or love or vanish And on the ride home you know that I know that you know Thereâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s something to be ashamed of tonight by Arto Vaun


Because I know my own errors, crumbs, injured ghosts That I step over in the dark, trip over when trying to start again

issue 9

Be My Projector So I Can Fail Differently




Now Available

Now Available

Close your eyes to learn to see... Upcoming, issue 10: Blindness

issue 9 Cinema

Image courtesy of flickr member elise.y




GLIMPSE | Issue #9, summer 2012 | Cinema  

GLIMPSE issue 9 investigates our personal, collective and technological relationships to moving image art, both historically and in the pres...