Arab Documentaries - Recording Whose 'Reality'?
Organised by the Arab Media Centre, Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI)
Date: Friday 11 April, 2014
Venue: University of Westminster, Regent Street Campus, 309 Regent Street, London W1
Call for papers – Deadline 16 December
Arab documentary films that have proliferated since the start of the Arab uprisings are part of a much longer and wider success story. Demand for documentaries increased with the rise of Arab-owned 24-hour news channels. At the same time, rapid technological changes enabled young Arab film-makers to circumvent censorship barriers, not only by filming more discreetly and cheaply but also by distributing their work online. As a result, genre boundaries have become blurred. Does mobile phone footage of torture in police cells or military action against protestors count as documentary film? In 2007, Egyptian bloggers saw the annual Cairo Film Festival as an opportunity to run a parallel event featuring videos of torture in police cells shot on mobile phones. In 2011 Egyptian activists used outdoor screenings to bring documentary evidence of brutality and human rights abuse by security forces to public attention and challenge the silence of mainstream media.
Whose reality finds expression through documentary film and what kind of ‘reality’ is represented? Does so-called Reality TV qualify as a sub-genre? Are Arab documentaries filling a gap where investigative journalism should be? Historically, in other regions, documentaries were mainstays of television broadcasters seeking to meet requirements for public service programming that would educate and inform, especially since easy translation of voiced-over narratives makes documentaries relatively easy to trade. In a region where the public service ethic is either not yet established or is heavily contested, do state broadcasters source documentary films locally or abroad?
An increase in Arab funding and training for aspiring documentary makers seems to reflect increasing appreciation for local topics and talent. Prominent supporting bodies include the Doha Film Institute and the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture in Beirut, and prominent venues for documentary screenings include film festivals hosted by Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. But what became of the Dox Box that started in Syrian cities in 2008, and how has the annual Doc à Tunis event fared in the wake of Tunisia’s political upheavals? Despite some apparently positive changes affecting the filming and exhibition of Arab documentaries, questions remain about who exactly is commissioning and financing them, especially those that tackle sensitive topics. Are new voices really being heard and how far do film-makers still have to rely on foreign, mainly European, funding, despite the possible implications for decisions on content? Is crowd-funding a realistic alternative?
We welcome papers from scholars and film-makers that will engage critically with particular aspects of Arab documentaries. Themes may include, but are not limited to, the following:
* Processes and power relations in commissioning, funding and distribution
* Voices and representation: Who gets to tell which story?
* Film festivals and their impact on public access to documentary films
* Film schools and the teaching and learning of documentary making
* Current debates about documentary ethics and aesthetics
* Documentary making and political engagement
* Authorship rights and the law
* Implications of digital media for the status and circulation of documentary films
* Impact of new media technologies on documentary filming and editing
* Archiving practices
Programme and registration
This one-day conference, taking place on Friday 11 April 2014, will consist of plenaries, parallel workshops and selected screenings. The fee for registration for all participants, including presenters, will be £99, with a concessionary rate of £49 for students, to cover all conference documentation, refreshments and administration costs. Registration will open in February 2014.
Deadline for abstracts
The deadline for abstracts is Monday 16 December 2013. Successful applicants will be notified early in January 2014. Abstracts should be 300 words. They must be accompanied by the presenter’s name, affiliation, email and postal addresses, together with the title of the paper and a 150-word biographical note on the presenter.
Please send all these items together in a single Word file, not as pdf, and entitle the file and message with ‘AMC 2014’ followed by your surname. The file should be sent by email to the Events Administrator, Helen Cohen, at [log in to unmask]
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