The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources

The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources

The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources

The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources

Synopsis

Film is often used to represent the natural landscape and, increasingly, to communicate environmentalist messages. Yet behind even today's "green" movies are ecologically unsustainable production, distribution, and consumption processes. Noting how seemingly immaterial moving images are supported by highly durable resource-dependent infrastructures, The Cinematic Footprint traces the history of how the "hydrocarbon imagination" has been central to the development of film as a medium.

Nadia Bozak's innovative fusion of film studies and environmental studies makes provocative connections between the disappearance of material resources and the emergence of digital media--with examples ranging from early cinema to Dziga Vertov's prescient eye, from Chris Marker's analog experiments to the digital work of Agnès Varda, James Benning, and Zacharias Kunuk. Combining an analysis of cinema technology with a sensitive consideration of film aesthetics, The Cinematic Footprint offers a new perspective on moving images and the natural resources that sustain them.

Excerpt

This book is about the inextricable relationship between moving images and the natural resources that sustain them. The terms of this relationship between oil and cinema, the biosphere and the cinema’s need for its energy, are contained in a photograph taken by Robert Flaherty in 1922 of an Inuk hunter Allakariallak, known now as “Nanook of the North.” Let this book begin here, with the Inuk hunter and the movie camera, and the resource energy embedded therein (frontispiece). I could not have arrived at this image without the inspiration of Dudley Andrew’s essay “Roots of the Nomadic.” It is here that Andrew sees in Nanook a man directly tied to the seal he hunts, and in that seal a “mobile, subaqueous source of oil,” whose caloric energy and economic value, Andrew states, would have burned in Nanook’s lanterns and in his body and so given life to the film itself, energizing the very projector and screen where Flaherty’s Arctic images premiered in New York in 1924. “Roots of the Nomadic” was written some years before the present book was conceived of, and it was not read until some time after it was set in motion. That Andrew’s reading of Nanook came before resource politics, ecology, and carbon footprints had so saturated the imagination testifies to two things: the essayist’s perspicacity, first, and, second, that energy has always been discernable in cinema. Indeed, cinema is intricately woven into industrial culture and the energy economy that sustains it. The terms set by Andrew’s essay and this image are uncommonly applicable to this book’s structuring aspiration: to locate the energy in cinema. From there, an explicitly environmental line of inquiry can be broached, namely how cinema, thus energized, impacts upon Earth. This book asks how an awareness of movie making as an industry, one that is as plugged into “nature” and the resources it yields as any other, reconfigures our interpretive and practical approach to the cinematic image throughout film history, from its photographic beginnings to its digital . . .

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