Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Film Workshops as Polyvocal Public Spheres: Minor Cinemas in Sweden

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Film Studies

Film Workshops as Polyvocal Public Spheres: Minor Cinemas in Sweden

Article excerpt

Résumé: La culture de l'atelier de cinéma est un phénomène négligé dans l'histoire et la recherche en cinéma. Cet article propose l'idée que les ateliers qui ont proliféré dans les années 1960, 1970 et 1980 ont souvent constitué des espaces publics au sens qu'Habermas, Negt ou Kluge donnent au terme. Portant attention à l'atelier de cinéma suédois Filmverkstan (1973-2001), cet article démontre que les films issus d'ateliers étaient en résonance avec les « modes de vie concrets » d'un public (Lebenszusammenhang) plutôt d'être des produits visant pour un marché spécifique. De plus, les ateliers offraient un accès à la réalisation à diverses personnes. Cette recherche sur les ateliers de cinéma en tant qu'espace public, comme culture de polyvocalité et comme pratique mineure du cinéma réagit de façon productive aux approches téléologiques et textuelles qui ont prévalu en études cinématographiques.

Film workshop culture, which was at its height in the 1970s, is a neglected phenomenon in film history and research. This neglect is mostly attributable to the dominance of textual interpretation among film scholars. Although there is a counter tradition in reception studies, a dichotomy has been fostered, formulating producer versus receiver, object versus public. This split was to be addressed by the various theories of the public sphere. The aim of this essay is to argue that the film workshops that flourished some decades ago often constituted true public spheres in Oskar Negt's and Alexander Kluge's sense.1 Accordingly, the rise of the Internet, with its immense audiovisual archives and platforms such as YouTube, has a prehistory in workshop culture in terms of openness and availability. Of course, contemporary moving image technology and the Internet have, due to economic affordability, user-friendly equipment, and unlimited distribution, actualized a public sphere of a different magnitude as, for example, Bjorn Sorenssen has recently shown.2 However, films at the workshops were not made in order to create vast publics. Rather they were produced to resonate with a public's "concrete way of life" (Lebenszusammenhang) . All kinds of films were made by all kinds of people, as a sort of pre-digital YouTube. In order to encourage research into these former workshops, which we consider to be important for approaching and studying the heterogeneous audiovisual culture of today, we argue for the usefulness of three specific concepts: "minor cinema," "polyvocalities" and - according to our main claim - "public sphere." As our object of study we have chosen the Swedish co-operative FilmCentrum (Film Centre) and in particular the workshop Filmverkstan (The Film Workshop).

The co-ops in the U.S., most significantly San Francisco Canyon Cinema and the Filmmakers Co-op in New York, inspired several instances throughout Europe. Some of the European equivalents were working as co-ops according to the North-American model in which the filmmakers both owned and ran the organization; others were community- or state-based workshops that encouraged a broad range of different filmmaking in which the workshop was the co-owner of the rights to the films being produced. However, as a film practice, when it came to what kind of films that were made and what kind of film culture they promoted, the values and ways of working were usually quite similar. Due to lack of thorough comparative research about film co-ops and workshops in different countries we will use the notion of "workshop" in general, signifying both film co-ops and film workshops in Europe. For example, the two major Swedish film workshops, Film Centre and the Stockholm based Film Workshop differed partly when it came to organization, funding and output, but they also overlapped. Film Centre started off as a co-op and became very soon an organization for mostly professional filmmakers, but also founded regional film workshops throughout Sweden. These workshops provided local filmmakers - both amateurs and professionals- with facilities and equipment, and the funding was mostly public. …

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