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The Cinematic Footprint

Lights, Camera, Natural Resources

Nadia Bozak

Publication Year: 2011

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.


Published by: Rutgers University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii


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pp. ix

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pp. 1-16

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...

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1. Energy

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pp. 17-52

Carbon-neutrality is achieved by balancing out a measured amount of released carbon with an equal amount that has been sequestered or offset, often by purchasing a requisite quantity of carbon credits. The widely used term is used primarily in the context of carbon dioxide...

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2. Resource

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pp. 53-87

Set during the Iran–Iraq war (1980–1988), Samira Makhmalbaf’s Blackboards (2000) uses a basic and obvious metaphoric logic to forge connections between war, nomadic culture, and communications breakdown, and likewise anticipates some of the questions...

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3. Extraction

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pp. 88-120

The contemplation of the photographic image—digital or analog, moving or still—is an encounter with industry, the ephemeral nature of the commodity and, by extension, the accumulation of trash or waste, the byproducts of resource-based consumption...

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4. Excess

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pp. 121-154

The long take is a single uninterrupted shot that occupies more cinematic time and space than any other single unit of exposure. According to Barry Salt, the measurement of a long take is a relative exercise, for it depends on whether or not that given shot is considerably longer than those occurring alongside...

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5. Waste

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pp. 155-188

The free market economy of industrial and now post-industrial culture is enabled by the ability, if not the right, to dispose of our personal and collective undesirables and have them disappear—forever. As Gay Hawkins shows throughout...

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pp. 189-203

This book began with the image of an Inuk hunter and a movie camera, taken around 1922, which set some of the terms of my inquiry, namely locating the relationship between the cinematic image and natural resources. I turned to that image in response...


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pp. 205-222


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pp. 223-230


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pp. 231-241

About the Author

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pp. 243

E-ISBN-13: 9780813551968
E-ISBN-10: 081355196X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813551388

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 1 photograph
Publication Year: 2011