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Alternative Images: Documentary as Counter-Culture

OSA Archivum in collaboration with OSI-HESP Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching "Alternative Culture Beyond Borders: Past and Present of the Arts and Media in the Context of Globalization" organizes the workshop "Alternative Images: Documentary as Counter-Culture" on 8-9 November 2007 at OSA Archivum (Arany János 32, Budapest, Hungary).

Workshop program

On-going technological developments, crowned by the digital revolution, have been continuously transforming the ways in which documentary films are made. Lighter, cheaper, and easier to handle equipment has gradually made filmmaking accessible to broader and broader circles interested in the creation of moving images. Aimed at catching life "as it is," documentary filmmaking has been continuously supplemented by the desire to go beyond the representational surface, to change the world, and to uncover deeper structures with the help of montage or added commentary. From the emergence of documentary cinema, artistic groups and individuals have challenged dominant ways of seeing – from the avant-garde movements of the 1920s, the political counter-culture cinema of the 1950-60s and amateur filmmakers whose works preserved alternative layers of culture. Working in conditions of state control over filmmaking, directors in Eastern Europe and today in other parts of the world learned not only to portray the realities of the contemporary regimes, but to simultaneously subvert them.

This workshop will explore the complex relationship of the "official" and "unofficial" in documentary filmmaking, both in terms of artistic alternatives to commercial production and as politically subversive narrative. It will address new trends in documentary filmmaking and the transformations caused by the emergence of new visual media. Participants will present case-studies and contribute to discussions on both contemporary media in the global era as well as on "counter-culture" documentaries throughout the 20th century, when visual imagery subverted and challenged mainstream narratives.

November 8, 2007
Chair: Imre Szemán

9:30-10:00 Introduction by Istvan Rev (OSA Archivum, Hungary)
10:00-10:20 Khatkovskaya, Inesa (Belarus): “Counter le Cinema”: Notes on the Radical Cinema of Guy Debord
10:30-10:50 Christian Christensen (Sweden): Documentary, Online Practice and Grassroots Political Action: The Case of Brave New Films
11:00-11:20 coffee break
11:20-11:40 Nina Sosna (Russia): Images on the Frontier: Documentary and Fiction
11:50-12:10 Halil Efrat (Israel): Presentation of the film Souvenirs
12:20-12:40 Discussion

Chair: Olga Zaslavskaya

14:00-14:20 Istvan Javor (Hungary): “Black Box” Foundation and Documentary
14:30- 14:50 Alica Lovejoy (Czech Republic): Documentary For and Against the State in Communist Czechoslovakia
15:00-15:20 Anna Schober (Austria): The Cinema as a Space for Political Action: the Formation of a Media-shaped Public Sphere in Western and Eastern Europe since 1945
15:30-16:00 Allan Siegal (Hungary): From Michael Moore to YouTube: Documentary Production in the Age of Digital Reproduction
16:00-16:20 Benjamin Halligan (UK): Anti-Bush documentaries and Anti-War Movements
16:30-17:00 Discussion

November 9, 2007
Chair: Alice Lovejoy

10:00-10:20 Tim Kaposy (Canada): The Fallibility of the Documentary Form
10:30-10:50 Mikhail Uvarov (Russia): Perception of Leni Riefenstahl's Documentary [cinema] in Contemporary Russia
10:50-11:10 coffee break
11:10-11:30 Natalia Melekhova (Russia): Document vs. Fiction: the Interaction of Documentary with Contemporary Television Media
11:40-12:00 Diana Groó (Hungary, filmmaker) Director's Responsibility: Perspective on Representing Disability in a Documentary.
12:00-12:30 Discussion

14:00–15:30 Roundtable: The Politics of Documentary Today
The past decade has seen an explosion in the production of documentary films and videos around the world. This includes everything from independent, small-scale productions intended for viewing only by the local communities in which they were produced, to feature-length, big budget documentaries whose aim is to bring attention to issues of global concern. What this roundtable will probe is what the expansion and revitalization of the documentary has meant for the politics of this form. Does documentary have an impact on politics? How and why? Have new forms of political documentary emerged in the context of new production techniques? Finally, should the focus of contemporary documentary be on the local or the global, and what are the implications in each case? Examples will be drawn from films screened at the 2007 Verzio Film Festival.

Chair: Imre Szemán

Discussants: Diana Groó (Hungary), Istvan Javor (Hungary), Christian Frei (Swizerland), Leo de Boer (Netherlands), Zsuzsa Zadori (Hungary), Anna Ginesti (Germany), Jean Tsien (China), Allan Siegal (Hungary)

Reception to follow


Dr. Imre Szeman (Canada) is Senator William McMaster Chair of Globalization and Cultural Studies at McMaster University, where he has taught since 1999. He is the recipient of the John Polanyi Prize in Literature (2000), Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award (2003), the Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization (2004, for the Institute on Globalization), an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship (2005-7) and the David Douglas Duncan Fellowship (2006-7). He is a co-founder of the Canadian Association of Cultural Studies and a founding member of the Cultural Studies Association (U.S.). He is author of Zones of Instability: Literature, Postcolonialism and the Nation (2003) and co-author of Popular Culture: A User’s Guide (2004); and co-editor of Pierre Bourdieu: Fieldwork in Culture (2000), the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism (2005), Global-Local Consumption (2008) and Canadian Cultural Studies: A Reader (2008).

Alice Lovejoy (Czech Republic) is a Ph.D. candidate in the departments of Film Studies and Comparative Literature at Yale University. She is currently conducting research for her dissertation, which explores the communist-era history and productions of the Czechoslovak army film unit. Her film criticism, scholarship and translations have been published in KinoKultura, Senses of Cinema, Cinepur (Prague), and Film Comment, where she is a contributing editor, and she has also worked as a film programmer and filmmaker, most recently as assistant director to Travis Wilkerson’s Who Killed Cock Robin? (2005).

Dr. Christian Christensen (Sweden) is Assistant Professor in Media and Communication Studies and Director of the Human IT research center at Karlstad University. His areas of research interest include international media and politics, new and alternative media, documentary film and journalism. He has published in a variety of journals including The Harvard International Journal of Press and Politics, Global Media and Communication, and the British Journalism Review. He is also the editor of a forthcoming book from Cambridge Scholars Press entitled, Human IT: Technology in Social Context. Finally, an article by Dr. Christensen's on his research on documentary film has just been published in the October 2007 issue of Le Monde Diplomatique.

Natalia Melekhova is a Ph.D. candidate and lecturer in the Theory of Communication and Advertising Department in the Faculty of Philology at Yaroslavl State Pedagogical University. She is a member of the Russian Association of Researchers, University Lecturers and Teachers of Rhetoric. Her academic interests include the socio-cultural impact and specificity of mass media; mass and elite cultures; propaganda and audience manipulation; the problem of trust and evaluation of media information; media in the context of globalization; reality TV and the private sphere on television. At the moment she is working on her dissertation, “Private and Public in Television Discourse”.

Dr. Alexei Penzin (Russia) is research associate in the Sector of Analytical Anthropology at the Institute of Philosophy, Russian Academy of Sciences. He contributes regularly to philosophy and humanities journals. His major fields of interest are the critical re-evaluation of philosophical anthropology, contemporary interpretations of Marxist thought, operaist theories of post-fordism, and the interconnections of art and political praxis. His current project is a book on cultural representations of sleep in the context of the bio-political regulations of life under late capitalism. He is also a member of the interdisciplinary group "Chto Delat / What is to be done?", which works in the space between theory, art, and political activism.

Tim Kaposy (Canada) is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He has just completed his dissertation, "An Ensemble of Need: The Scale and Visual Culture of Dispossession," a work exploreing the ways in which contemporary organizations of space and scale play a central role in the management of social, economic, and material needs. His other research interests include critical theory, cultural studies, novels and critics of 'world literature,' continental philosophy, and psychoanalytic theory. He is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor in the North American Studies Program at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Nina Sosna (Russia) is researcher in the Department of Modern Philosophy at the Russian State Academy of Science); assistant lecturer at the Media Branch of the Russian State Humanitarian University; Rotary Scholar 2005-2006 at Frankfurt-am-Main Media Institute. Her academic interests lie in the sphere of visual studies, media and image theory. She is the author of numerous publications on contemporary art and theory. Dr. Anna Schober (Austria) Ph.D. University of Vienna (in History and Art History, 2000), postgraduate studies at the Graduiertenkolleg Psychische Energien bildender Kunst, J. W. Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt/ Main (1996–1997); IFK (International Research Center for Cultural Studies) Vienna (1998–1999), at the Centre for Theoretical Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Essex, Colchester/ UK (2000–2003), at the Jan Van Eyck Academie in Maastricht/NL (2003) and at the Künstlerhaus Büchsenhausen (2006) in Innsbruck. Curatorial work for historical exhibitions (1992–1997). She has conducted several research projects and published widely on the aesthetic and political dimensions of the public sphere, museum studies and gender studies, pop-culture and the history of new social and avant-garde movements. Currently she holds a post-doc position at the Visual and Cultural History Section of the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna (financed by the FWF, Austrian Science Fund) and is completing the project The cinema as a space for political action: the formation of a media-shaped public sphere in western and eastern Europe since 1945.

Allan Siegel (Hungary) is a filmmaker, video artist, writer and teacher. In New York he was involved in the experimental filmmaking movement and was a founding member of the film collective Newsreel. His films have been presented at major festivals in North America, Europe and Asia, and have appeared in exhibitions in Budapest and Pécs, Chicago, New York and Montreal. He was a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has taught at other universities in the United States. Currently he is a lecturer in the Intermedia Department at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts. He has written a film adaptation of the novel BAIT by David Albahari and is completing the film USTI OPRE about Roma musicians in Central Europe.

Diana Groó (Hungary) received her education in Budapest, Hungary, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in French-Hebrew from the Faculty of Arts, Lórand Eötvös University of Sciences (1992-1995), followed by a Master’s in TV and Film Directing, Department of Film and Television Directing at the Hungarian Film Academy. She has co-founded DocClub (2000) and Madzag Film (2001) associations, and Katapult Film studio (2002). Since 2001, she is director and scriptwriter at the Cinema Film and Katapult Film studios. After her prize winning shorts and documentary films, she directed her first feature film, A Miracle in Cracow (2004). Beginning in 2001, she has been working on the Wild Imagination art-history series which she explored the art and life of such painters as Chagall, Renoir, Bruegel, and Roussau. The first four epidsods of the Wild Imagination series opened the contemporary art exhibition in Herzlya Muzeun, Tel-Aviv, Israel in March 2005. In June 2005 the Wild Imagination series were included into the InterMedia course program "Intervisual between Painting & Cinema" at Haifa University, Israel, along with Peter Greenaway, Derek Jarman and others. Diana’s current projects are a documentary and a long feature film project about Regina Jonas, the first woman rabbi in the world, who lived in Berlin and perished in Auschwitz 1944.

Christian Frei (Switzerland) is a filmmaker. He studied Visual Media at the Department of Journalism and Communication at Fribourg University. He shot his first documentary in 1981, and has been working as an independent filmmaker and producer since 1984. He works regularly for the Swiss National Television SF DRS. His works include Ricardo, Miriam y Fidel (1997) and War Photographer (2001). The Giant Buddhas has won several awards among which it was included to the art-tv "Cultural pearls" five best Swiss Films in 2005.

Leo De Boer (Netherlands) is filmmaker, screenwriter and lecturer. He studied History at the University of Amsterdam followed by four years at the Dutch Film Academy. He has worked as film editor at NOS Dutch National Television, and is presently lecturer at the Utrecht School of the Arts (HKU). He has further done documentary screenplay coaching at the IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) workshop for docu-development. He is the screenwriter and director of several documentaries and feature films. His work includes documentaries like The Russian Folk (1996), Dreaming in October (1999), Under Moscow (2001), and fiction: The Lover (1995).

Anna Ginestí Rosell (Germany) was born in 1975 near Barcelona. She has a PhD in Classics at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona. She worked as assistant at the International Documentary Film Festival Munich. Recently, she has been working with Gereon Wetzel as production manager for the documentary Castells and coming projects.

Halil Efrat (Israel) graduated from the Sam Spigel Film & Television School, Jerusalem. He has worked as editor on several social and biographical documentaries, as well as co-editor for the feature film, Sweet Mud (2005). His collaboration with Shahar Cohen as director and editor of Souvenirs has brought his film the Israeli Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2006.

Jean Tsien (China) studied film production at New York University. She has been working in the field of documentary for the past 20 years as editor, producer, writer and consultant on cinema verité, historical, art, and feature films. Her editing credits include the 2001 Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Feature, Scottsboro: An American Tragedy. Her recent editing credits include Dixie Chicks: Shut Up & Sing, a feature documentary about freedom of speech, and the critically acclaimed, 2007 Silverdocs Sterling award winner, Please Vote for Me.

Organized in collaboration with OSA Archivum and OSI-HESP Regional Seminar for Excellence in Teaching "Alternative Culture Beyond Borders: Past and Present of the Arts and Media in the Context of Globalization."

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