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World Cinema and the Essay Film

Transnational Perspectives on a Global Practice

Edited by Brenda Hollweg, Igor Krstić

Hardback (Forthcoming)

Explores the essay film as a global film practice

World Cinema and the Essay Film examines the ways in which essay film practices are deployed by non-Western filmmakers in specific local and national contexts, in an interconnected world. The book identifies the essay film as a political and ethical tool to reflect upon and potentially resist the multiple, often contradictory effects of globalization. With case studies of essayistic works by John Akomfrah, Nguyen Trinh Thi and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, amongst many others, and with a photo-essay by Trinh T. Min-ha and a discussion of Frances Calvert’s work, it expands current research on the essay film beyond canonical filmmakers and frameworks, and presents transnational perspectives on what is becoming a global film practice.

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List of Figures


Introduction; Brenda Hollweg and Igor Krstić

Part One: Cinephilic Dialogues

1. The Essay Film and its Global Contexts: Conversations on Forms and Practices; Laura Rascaroli, Susana Barriga, Nguyen Trinh Thi and Bo Wang

2. Essay Films about Film: The 'Filmed Correspondence' between José Luis Guerin and Jonas Mekas; Fernando Canet

Part Two: Mobilities and Movements

3. Accented Essay Films: The Politics and Poetics of the Essay Film in the Age of Migration; Igor Krstić

4. ‘Cottonopolis’: Experimenting with the Cinematographic, the Ethnographic and the Essayistic; Cathy Greenhalgh

5. The World Essay Film and the Politics of Traceability; Giorgio Avezzù and Giuseppe Fidotta

Part Three: Laboratory of Memories

6. Memory as a Motor of Images: The Essayistic Mode in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Variations of Uncle Boonmee; Christa Blümlinger

7. ‘Time Turning into Space’: Innocence of Memories’ Prismatic Istanbul; Tim O’Farrell

8. Lovers in Time: An Essay Film of Contested Memories; Thomas Elsaesser and Agnieszka Piotrowska

Part Four: Landscapes of Trauma

9. No Man’s Zone: The Essay Film in the Aftermath of the Tsunami in Japan; Marco Bohr

10. ‘Image-Writing’: The Essayistic in Mainland Chinese Non-fiction Cinema and Zhao Liang’s Behemoth; Tianqi Yu

Part Five: Archival Effects

11. Indigenous Australia and the Archive Effect: Frances Calvert’s Talking Broken as Essay Film; Peter Kilroy

12. Between Autobiography, Personal Archive and Mourning: David Perlov’s Diary 1973–1983 in Tel Aviv; Ilana Feldman

Afterimages: a Photo-Essay

13. Strangely Real: Reassemblage from the Film Forgetting Vietnam; Trinh T. Minh-ha 

Notes on the Contributors


About the Author

Brenda Hollweg is Research Fellow in the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies at the University of Leeds. A specialist in American literature and a scholar of the essay as literary and expanded cultural form, she worked on two major research collaborations that addressed questions of gender, genre and the essay as well as the aesthetic and affective dimensions of democratic participation. She has published on contemporary documentary and the cinematic essay and, in 2010, realized a 45min-long video essay, 'The Road to Voting'.

Igor Krstić is Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Stuttgart and in the Centre for Cultural and General Studies (ZAK) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). He has published on national, world and transnational cinema, documentary film and film philosophy. He is the author of Slums on Screen: World Cinema and the Planet of Slums (Edinburgh University Press, 2016).


This stellar collection offers a spectrum of new perspectives and fresh arguments on a practice that continues to reverberate around the world. If the essayistic is often associated with a European history, this volume demonstrates its expansive variety as it continues to evolve through other cultures and new histories.

- Professor Timothy Corrigan, University of Pennsylvania

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