This is a co-sponsored event with Birkbeck Institute of Humanities (BiH) and Birkbeck Institute of the Moving Image (BIMI)

Wednesday 21 June 2017 | 09:30-18:30

Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square WC1H OPD | MapThis one-day symposium will celebrate the return of curator, critic and film activist, B. Ruby Rich, to London, where she was instrumental in the theorisation of, and advocacy for, feminist and avant-garde film in the 1970s and 1980s.

Rich will be celebrated with a four-day event at the Barbican Cinema, entitled ‘Being Ruby Rich’ (as part of their 2017 Film in Focus season), sponsored by Film London and co-curated by Club des Femmes, a queer-feminist film curating collective. In addition, this symposium will act as a pre-conference event for ‘Feminist Emergency : International Conference’ (22-24 June 2017) hosted by BiH in collaboration Birkbeck Gender and Sexuality (BiGS), the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research, BIMI and the British Comparative Literature Association.

Building on Birkbeck’s innovative MA Film Programming and Curating, the symposium will focus on the role of the film curator as advocate and activist rather than simply taste-maker. In particular, the event will explore the inter-related ethics and political aesthetics of the three movements with which Rich is associated: 1970s and 1980s feminist cinema; 1990s and 2000s international New Queer Cinema; and 21st-century social documentary. The event will consider how these complex, politically-engaged movements have specifically integrated and foregrounded curation and criticism as a key aspect of moving image practice.

The symposium will mirror this integrated practice, bracketed by screenings and panel discussions that highlight interdisciplinary approaches to moving image practice within the School of Arts and other humanities programmes across the College. Revisiting debates such as the role of psychoanalysis in film theory, and engaging with new questions such as the theorisation of feminist curation, the day will bring together a scholarly and artistic community that highlights continuities of theory and practice from the radical 1970s until the present day, not least with Prof. Laura Mulvey. At a challenging political and cultural moment, when inclusive practices are both being revisited within the film industry and resisted by a backlash against progressive and diverse culture, ‘Being Ruby Rich’ offers an unique opportunity to revisit and revise radical filmmaking practices by casting fresh light on the curatorial and critical routes, by which these films and filmmakers were (and continue to be) brought to international attention.

This event is free, but reserving a place is essential. Click here for further details.


09:30 |  Registration

09:45 | Welcome, Prof. Esther Leslie, Co-Director Birkbeck Institute of Humanities

10:00-12:00 |  Session 1 : Before the Beginning: Feminist Formations in the 1970s

Introduction to Daughter Rite (Michelle Citron, 1980. USA. 53mins), with PhD student response from Selina Robertson (Birkbeck)

This panel will begin where Rich’s curation and criticism starts: with the instigation of a feminist film culture in the United Kingdom, around the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Screen journal and Circles distribution. It will consider the connections between activism, art-making and curation in the era, and how they generated transnational conversations with the American second-wave. Taking the idea of ‘formations’ as central, the panelists will examine how theoretical and practical manifestations informed each other and consider feminist curation itself – alongside the films it highlighted – as a critical and theoretical activity.

  • Prof. Laura Mulvey, Professor in Film Studies, Birkbeck
  • Prof. Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck
  • Dr. Amy Tobin, Associate Lecturer in the Fine Art Department, Goldsmiths
    • Chaired by Helen de Witt, Lead Programmer Advisor BFI LFF Experimenta AMI & Senior Programme Advisor, BFI Southbank, and Associate Lecturer at Birkbeck.

12:00-13:00 |  Lunch

13:00-14:30  | Session 2 | Renewing Queer Cinema: Travelling with ‘Homo Pomo’

Introduction to NQC shorts programme (38mins): (Sadie Benning + Isaac Julien + Lucretia Martel + Apichatpong Weerasekthakul) + 50mins discussion + 5mins, with PhD student response from Theresa Heath (King’s)

Rich coined the title ‘New Queer Cinema’ in 1992, to describe an assortment of Anglophone filmmakers, including Derek Jarman, Isaac Julien, Sally Potter, Todd Haynes and Gus Van Sant.

By the start of the 21st century, queer formations in film were appearing on-screen in the work of Lucrecia Martel, Weerasethakul, Tsai Ming-Liang and Zero Chou. This panel will consider both the core of NQC and its transnational ramifications, looking at how non-Euro-Western filmmakers have expanded and challenged the range of LGBTQ identities co-opted by social democracies and described by Jasbir Puar as ‘homonationalism.’

  • Dagmar Brunow, Lecturer Film Studies, Linnaeus University Växcö (Sweden)
  • Campbell X, filmmaker and curator
  • Isaac Julien, installation artist and filmmaker
    • Chaired by Dr. Michele Aaron, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of Birmingham

14:30-15:30 | Doing Film Curating Differently : A Workshop

This will be an informal discussion offering MA and PhD students interested in film archiving, as well as other curators, the opportunity to ask practical and theoretical questions, looking in depth at the nitty-gritty of curating alternative, archive and experimental cinema. Come and discuss your curatorial ideas!

  • B. Ruby Rich, Professor, Social Documentation Program and Film, UC Santa Cruz
  • Prof. Ian Christie, Anniversary Professor of Film and Media History, Birkbeck
  • Dr. Catherine Grant, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Sussex and filmmaker
    • Chaired by Dr. Janet McCabe, Birkbeck, University of London.

15:30-16:00 | Tea

16:00-18:00 | Session 3 | Social Change On Screen: Screening Social Documentary

TAŞKAFA, Stories of the Street (TAŞKAFA, BİR SOKAK HİKÂYESİ, Andrea Luka Zimmerman, 2013. Turkey, 64mins), followed by a response from PhD student from Ania Ostrowska (Southampton)

Connecting to BIMI and the Essay Film Festival, this session will engage with Rich’s current pedagogical and curatorial focus on emerging forms of documentary that engage systemic injustice and foreground radical communities and solutions at a moment when documentary is more visible and popular than ever in the UK, with the growth of Sheffield Doc/Fest, the development of dedicated documentary screening spaces and programmes at independent cinemas, and the introduction of initiatives like The Guardian’s commissioning of documentary.

Considering the impact of digital technologies, globalized media, austerity politics and emergent grassroots responses, the panelists will debate the knotty question of film and moving image’s impact on real-world communities and politics, and the strategic use of media tools by grassroots activists. Documentary is news – but it’s in danger of getting lost in the constant media stream, so how can curators and critics help urgent films stand out?

18:00-18:30: Responses from B Ruby Rich, chaired by Dr. Janet McCabe, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Birkbeck.