Monday, 6 June 2011


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People in my films always act as if nothing bad is happening. There is fakery all the time. My films are political in this sense: to make a film is to share the doubt about reality.
[Lucrecia Martel, interviewed by Demetrios Matheou, "Vanishing Point", Sight and Sound, 20:3, March 2010, pp. 28-32, 32 (our emphasis).]
Martel used shallow depth-of-field, or compression, in her previous films to bring her central characters, members of Argentina’s bourgeoisie, into relief against their surroundings and the huddled bodies that crowded around them. In The Headless Woman, her use of compression is even more purposeful.  It illustrates [the main character's] “separation from reality” [...]. The plane of focus remains on her because that separation is part of the subject of the film.
[Michael S. Smith, 'Lucrecia Martel's Immersive Cinema', Filmwell, July 31, 2009 (our emphasis)]

Argentine director Lucrecia Martel's first three feature-length films (La ciénaga/The Swamp [2001], La niña santa/The Holy Girl [2004], and La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman [2008]) have each made an extraordinary international impact.

Emerging from the aesthetic and discursive framework of the so-called 'New Argentine Cinema', these elliptical narratives all take the same, very local, focus, each of them located in Salta, the northern province of Argentina where Martel grew up. As well as their dark figurations of family, class, national, sexual and racial tensions, they share a caustic humour, a riveting sense of the absurd, and a rich intertextuality with other films and literary texts. 

This symposium, hosted by the Centre for Visual Fields (School of English) and the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex, will reflect on what we fervently hope is merely the first decade of Lucrecia Martel's feature-filmmaking career. The invited speakers, from the fields of Argentine and Latin American studies, social and critical theory, and film and visual studies, will explore this director's work using a number of different 'planes of focus', to correspond with some of those discernible in Martel's work: the local, the transnational, the political, the cultural, the historical, the memorial, the hauntological, the affective, the sexual, the real, the aesthetic and the intertextual. 

The symposium is free to attend but please email Catherine Grant to register your intention to come along. 

All sessions will take place  in ARTS B 274, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK (link opens Google Maps). Directions to the university may be found here.
Symposium Schedule

12.45-2.30: SESSION 1
  • Joanna Page, 'Martel's Fabulations' 
  • Dolores Tierney, 'On transnational aesthetics and Martel's films'
  • Debbie Martin,  ''Wholly ambivalent demon-girl: horror, the uncanny and the representation of feminine adolescence in Lucrecia Martel's La niña santa/The Holy Girl'
2.30-3.30pm: SESSION 2
  • Maria M. Delgado, 'La mujer sin cabeza/The Headless Woman: silence, historical memory and metaphor'
  • Cecilia Sosa, 'The Headless Woman (2008): A counter narrative of mourning in 13 acts (and a queer dog)'
3.30-4pm COFFEE BREAK, including the first ever English-subtitled screening of Pescados/Fish (Lucrecia Martel, 2010: 4'19"), shown with the permission of the filmmaker. 
4.00-5.00pm: SESSION 3 
  • Catherine Grant, 'The Haunting of The Headless Woman'
  • Jens Andermann, 'Accidents and Miracles: subjectivity and politics in Martel's films'
5.00-6.00pm: SESSION 4 Responses/discussion

Information about the speakers:

  • Catherine Grant is Senior Lecturer (part time) in Film Studies in the School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex. She has published on Latin American and French cinema and culture, theories and transnational practices of film and cultural authorship, and feminist and queer film theories. She co-edited Screening World Cinema with Annette Kuhn (Routledge, 2006). In 2008, she created Film Studies For Free, a widely-read, online portal-archive of multimedia, scholarly resources. She is researching by practice the potential for internet-based, videographic film studies. 

This Symposium has been organised by Catherine Grant, John David Rhodes, Dolores Tierney, Rosalind Galt and Michael Lawrence.

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