Being Ruby Rich: Film Curation as Advocacy and Activism
Wednesday 21 June 2017 | 09:30-18:30
Birkbeck Cinema, 43 Gordon Square WC1H OPD | Map
This 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.
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 21stcentury 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.
09:30am | 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
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.
- Chair: Helen de Witt, Lead Programmer Advisor BFI LFF Experimenta AMI & Senior Programme Advisor, BFI Southbank
- Laura Mulvey, Professor in Film Studies, Birkbeck
- Lynne Segal, Anniversary Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies, Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck
- Amy Tobin, Associate Lecturer in the Fine Art Department, Goldsmiths
12:00-13:00 | Lunch
13:00-14:30 | Session 2 | Renewing Queer Cinema: Travelling with ‘Homo Pomo’
10mins intro NQC shorts programme (38mins): (Sadie Benning + Isaac Julien + Lucretia Martel + Apichatpong Weerasekthakul) + 50mins discussion + 5mins, with PhD student response from Theresa Heath (Kings)
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.’
- Chair: Michele Aaron, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Birmingham
- Dagmar Brunow, Lecturer Film Studies, Linnaeus University Växcö (Sweden)
- Campbell X, filmmaker and curator
- Isaac Julien, installation artist and filmmaker
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
- Ian Christie, Anniversary Professor of Film and Media History, Birkbeck
- Catherine Grant, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, Sussex and filmmaker
15:30-16:00 | Tea
16:00-18:00 | Session 3 | Social Change On Screen: Screening Social Documentary
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?
- Chair: Amber Jacobs, Senior Lecturer in Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck
- Andrea Luka Zimmerman, filmmaker
- Treasa O’Brien, filmmaker, activist and PhD doctoral candidate
- Elhum Shakerifar, social documentary film producer and programmer
18:00-18:30: Responses from B Ruby Rich, chaired by Janet McCabe, Senior Lecturer in Film and Television Studies, Birkbeck