The Essay Film and The City

This roundtable on the essay film considers this crucial intersection of experimental and documentary practice through the lens of landscape, particularly globalized urban spaces. This page collects all posts on the topic.

Each of the contributors will offer an initial short essay responding to the roundtable introduction below. Following this, the contributors will offer further responses.

Introduction: Essay Films and the City (October 15, 2018)

In this roundtable introduction, Igor Krstić introduces the main thematic issues and questions to be addressed.

The Diachronic Flâneur (October 16, 2018)

Is the critical gaze on the city always a wandering gaze? Laura Rascaroli works through questions of usage and explores how the essay film thinks through its practices.

The Fiction of Beirut: Reframing Labour Migration in Ziad Kalthoum’s Taste of Cement (October 17, 2018)

Brenda Hollweg shows how Taste of Cement, part of the recent global growth of the essay film, explores Beirut through the perspective of its migrant workforce, unearthing the city’s history and role in regional conflicts, as well as flows of labor.

Streets & Screens (October 18, 2018)

Iván Villarmea Álvarez explores the perspectives that local and outsider filmmakers bring to the essay film.

Notebook on Cities and Clothes: Wim Wenders Takes to the (Inner Ring) Road (October 19, 2018)

Thomas Elsaesser reconsiders some of Wim Wenders films through the lens of the city and the essay, discovering new dialogic and self-reflexive qualities within them.

The City as Stage: Proto-Essayistic Elements in Chronique D’un Été (October 19, 2018)

Roberto Cavallini discusses Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin’s Chronique D’un Été (1961) as a proto-essayistic film.

Urban Palimpsests and the City Essay Film (October 28, 2018)

Igor Krstić reflects on the first round of The Essay Film and the City and opens the second by asking contributors to rethink the classic metaphor of the urban as palimpsest.

Re/framing the City of Cinema (October 29, 2018)

Laura Rascaroli on how the essay film’s metahistorical nature, combined with the characteristics of post-modern space/time, produce a distinct treatment of the city as palimpsest.

Bad essays don’t think: reflections on a (still) heretic form of the cinematic city (October 30, 2018)

Drawing on Adorno’s account of the “bad essay”, Brenda Hollweg defends the essay film’s capacity for politico-aesthetic intervention.

(Im)Permeable History: Notebook on Cities and Clothes (pt. 2) (October 31, 2018)

Thomas Elsaesser traces Wim Wenders and Yohji Yamamoto’s intertwined history through personal upheavals and national trauma to arrive, unexpectedly, at Weimar photography.

Beyond the Museum of Present Pasts (November 1, 2018)

Iván Villarmea Álvarez explores the politics of memory in the contemporary city essay film.

At the margins of the market: notes on the essay film’s modes of production and distribution (November 2, 2018)

Roberto Cavallini unpacks the essay film’s potential for ideological critique vis-à-vis its position within the film industry.