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Photography against History in Indigenous Siberia
Following the socialist revolution, a colossal shift in everyday realities began in the 1920s and ’30s in the former Russian empire. Faced with the Siberian North, a vast territory considered culturally and technologically backward by the revolutionary government, the Soviets confidently undertook the project of reshaping the ordinary lives of the indigenous peoples in order to fold them into the Soviet state. In Agitating Images, Craig Campbell draws a rich and unsettling cultural portrait of the encounter between indigenous Siberians and Russian communists and reveals how photographs from this period complicate our understanding of this history.
Agitating Images provides a glimpse into the first moments of cultural engineering in remote areas of Soviet Siberia. The territories were perceived by outsiders to be on the margins of civilization, replete with shamanic rituals and inhabited by exiles, criminals, and “primitive” indigenous peoples. The Soviets hoped to permanently transform the mythologized landscape by establishing socialist utopian developments designed to incorporate minority cultures into the communist state. This book delves deep into photographic archives from these Soviet programs, but rather than using the photographs to complement an official history, Campbell presents them as anti-illustrations, or intrusions, that confound simple narratives of Soviet bureaucracy and power. Meant to agitate, these images offer critiques that cannot be explained in text alone and, in turn, put into question the nature of photographs as historical artifacts.
An innovative approach to challenging historical interpretation, Agitating Images demonstrates how photographs go against accepted premises of Soviet Siberia. All photographs, Campbell argues, communicate in unique ways that present new and even contrary possibilities to the text they illustrate. Ultimately, Agitating Images dissects our very understanding of the production of historical knowledge.
Over nearly sixty years, Agnès Varda (b. 1928) has given interviews that are revealing not only of her work, but of her remarkably ambiguous status. She has been called the "Mother of the New Wave" but suffered for many years for never having been completely accepted by the cinematic establishment in France. Varda's first film, La Pointe Courte (1954), displayed many of the characteristics of the two later films that launched the New Wave, Truffaut's 400 Blows and Godard's Breathless. In a low-budget film, using (as yet) unknown actors and working entirely outside the prevailing studio system, Varda completely abandoned the "tradition of quality" that Truffaut was at that very time condemning in the pages of Cahiers du cinema. Her work, however, was not "discovered" until after Truffaut and Godard had broken onto the scene in 1959. Varda's next film, Cleo from 5 to 7, attracted considerably more attention and was selected as France's official entry for the Festival in Cannes. Ultimately, however, this film and her work for the next fifty years continued to be overshadowed by her more famous male friends, many of whom she mentored and advised.
Her films have finally earned recognition as deeply probing and fundamental to the growing awareness in France of women's issues and the role of women in the cinema. "I'm not philosophical," she says, "not metaphysical. Feelings are the ground on which people can be led to think about things. I try to show everything that happens in such a way and ask questions so as to leave the viewers free to make their own judgments." The panoply of interviews here emphasize her core belief that "we never stop learning" and reveal the wealth of ways to answer her questions.
Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century
There was a time when rural comedians drew most of their humor from tales of farmers' daughters, hogs, hens, and hill country high jinks. Lum and Abner and Ma and Pa Kettle might not have toured happily under the "Redneck" marquee, but they were its precursors. In Ain't That a Knee-Slapper: Rural Comedy in the Twentieth Century, author Tim Hollis traces the evolution of this classic American form of humor in the mass media, beginning with the golden age of radio, when such comedians as Bob Burns, Judy Canova, and Lum and Abner kept listeners laughing. The book then moves into the motion pictures of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, when the established radio stars enjoyed second careers on the silver screen and were joined by live-action renditions of the comic strip characters Li'l Abner and Snuffy Smith, along with the much-loved Ma and Pa Kettle series of films. Hollis explores such rural sitcoms as The Real McCoys in the late 1950s and from the 1960s, The Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Hee Haw, and many others. Along the way, readers are taken on side trips into the world of animated cartoons and television commercials that succeeded through a distinctly rural sense of fun. While rural comedy fell out of vogue and networks sacked shows in the early 1970s, the emergence of such hits as The Dukes of Hazzard brought the genre whooping back to the mainstream. Hollis concludes with a brief look at the current state of rural humor, which manifests itself in a more suburban, redneck brand of standup comedy. Tim Hollis is the author of numerous books, including Hi There, Boys and Girls! America's Local Children's TV Programs and (with Greg Ehrbar) Mouse Tracks: The Story of Walt Disney Records.
WSM and the Making of Music City
Started by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1925, WSM became one of the most influential and exceptional radio stations in the history of broadcasting and country music. WSM gave Nashville the moniker "Music City USA" as well as a rich tradition of music, news, and broad-based entertainment. With the rise of country music broadcasting and recording between the 1920s and '50s, WSM, Nashville, and country music became inseparable, stemming from WSM's launch of the Grand Ole Opry, popular daily shows like Noontime Neighbors, and early morning artist-driven shows such as Hank Williams on Mother's Best Flour. _x000B__x000B_Sparked by public outcry following a proposal to pull country music and the Opry from WSM-AM in 2002, Craig Havighurst scoured new and existing sources to document the station's profound effect on the character and self-image of Nashville. Introducing the reader to colorful artists and businessmen from the station's history, including Owen Bradley, Minnie Pearl, Jim Denny, Edwin Craig, and Dinah Shore, the volume invites the reader to reflect on the status of Nashville, radio, and country music in American culture._x000B_
Alan Ball: Conversations features interviews that span Alan Ball's entire career and include detailed observations and insights into his Academy Award-winning film American Beauty and Emmy Award-winning television shows Six Feet Under and True Blood. Ball began his career as a playwright in New York, and his work soon caught the attention of Hollywood television producers. After writing for the sitcoms Grace Under Fire and Cybill, Ball turned his attention to the screenplay that would become American Beauty. The critical success of this film opened up exciting possibilities for him in the realm of television. He created the critically acclaimed show Six Feet Under, and after the series finale, he decided to explore the issue of American bigotry toward the Middle East in his 2007 play All That I Will Ever Be and the film Towelhead, which he adapted and directed in the same year. Ball returned to television once again with the series True Blood--an adaptation of the humorous, entertaining, and erotic world of Charlaine Harris's vampire novels. In 2012 Ball announced that he would step down as executive producer of True Blood, in part, to produce both a new television series and his latest screenplay, What's the Matter with Margie?
Albert Maysles has created some of the most influential documentaries of the postwar period. Such films as Salesman, Gimme Shelter, and Grey Gardens continue to generate intense debate about the ethics and aesthetics of the documentary form. In this in-depth study, Joe McElhaney offers a novel understanding of the historical relevance of Maysles. By closely focusing on Maysles's expressive use of his camera, particularly in relation to the filming of the human figure, this book situates Maysles's films within not only documentary film history but film history in general, arguing for their broad-ranging importance to both narrative film and documentary cinema. Complete with an engaging interview with Maysles and a detailed comparison of the variant releases of his documentary on the Beatles (What's Happening: The Beatles in the U.S.A. and The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit), this work is a pivotal study of a significant filmmaker.
This in-depth study of Mexican film director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu explores his role in moving Mexican filmmaking from a traditional nationalist agenda toward a more global focus. Working in the United States and in Mexico, Inarritu crosses national borders while his movies break the barriers of distribution, production, narration, and style. His features also experiment with transnational identity as characters emigrate and settings change. In studying the international scope of Inarritu's influential films Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel, Celestino Deleyto and Maria del Mar Azcona trace common themes such as human suffering and redemption, chance, and accidental encounters. The authors also analyze the director's powerful visual style and his consistent use of multiple characters and a fragmented narrative structure. The book concludes with a new interview of Inarritu that touches on the themes and subject matter of his chief works.
Since 1996, Alexander Payne has made six feature films and a short segment of an omnibus movie. Although his body of work is quantitatively small, it is qualitatively impressive. His movies have garnered numerous accolades and awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Adapted Screenplay. As more than one interviewer in this volume points out, he maintains an impressive and unbroken winning streak. Payne’s stories of human strivings and follies, alongside his mastery of the craft of filmmaking, mark him as a contemporary auteur of uncommon accomplishment.
In this first compilation of his interviews, Payne reveals himself as a captivating conversationalist as well. The discussions collected here range from 1996, shortly after the release of his first film, Citizen Ruth, to the debut of Nebraska at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Over his career, he muses on many subjects including his own creative processes, his commitment to telling character-centered stories, and his abiding admiration for movies and directors from across decades of film history.
Critics describe Payne as one of the few contemporary filmmakers who consistently manages to buck the current trend toward bombastic blockbusters. Like the 1970s director-driven cinema that he cherishes, his films are small-scale character studies that manage to maintain a delicate balance between sharp satire and genuine poignancy.
A Passion for Cinema