- Queer Cinema in the World by Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt
Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt attempt a formidable feat in Queer Cinema in the World: to take three charged yet indispensable concepts and theorize their interconnections. A tour-de-force analysis of the triangulation between “queer,” “cinema,” and “world”, this coauthored monograph largely succeeds in drawing out threads between crucial issues in cinema studies, queer theory, and global studies. To address such concerns, the authors draw on a varied, often eclectic corpus of films from around the world that includes the expected art house films, crowd-pleasing blockbusters, straight-to-video fare, and more. The book’s analyses account for cinema as text, social experience, and cultural institution, echoing current concerns in the field of cinema studies, such as a renewed interest in social histories of filmgoing or the so-called affective turn. Except for the introduction, each of the chapters is self-contained in its analyses and reiterates the main issues of the book as a whole. The writing is accessible, and the authors take care to define how they mobilize terms such as neoliberalism or homonationalism. As such, the book could be used for graduate courses, and individual chapters could be used in upper-division undergraduate seminars.
The introduction sets out the terms of Schoonover and Galt’s project and addresses the existing scholarship on queer film and world cinema. Most of the chapters consist of detailed close readings of the cinematic corpus that Schoonover and Galt have amassed. The authors choose not to group such readings by genre, national origin, or auteurs, categories that have long over-determined how films in general, and queer films in particular, are interpreted. Instead, chapters follow a theoretical thread across various film examples and single out a handful of these as exemplary of the pitfalls and possibilities of queer cinema in the world. Despite eschewing traditional forms of film categorizations, these readings tackle traditionally cinematic issues such as figuration, allegory, and time. Schoonover and Galt thus suggest that reconsidering queer film in a global context provides fresh insights into the field’s longstanding concerns. [End Page 218] In the process, Schoonover and Galt put forth an argument not only for queer films’ capacity for worldmaking, but also for cinema’s renewed potential in an age of digital interconnectivity and the collapse of medium specificity.
In fact, the most rewarding readings in Queer Cinema in the World consider the interconnectedness between cinematic text, its conditions of circulation, and its publics. For instance, Chapter 1 opens with an anecdote about the premiere of La Partida/The Last Match1 (Antonio Hens, 2014) at the BFI film festival. La Partida is a film about young Cuban men who turn to sex work with foreign male tourists. At the BFI premiere, the Cuban actors of the film joined the Q&A period via Skype because the UK’s restrictive immigration policies forbade them from attending in person. Schoonover and Galt zero in on this resonance between Western publics’ tourist gaze within and outside the film text, noting the air of condemnation for Cuba’s purported repressive stance towards homosexuality at the same time that the UK’s own repressive measures went unacknowledged. Further, the authors note how the facts of the event’s sponsor, Accenture, and the predominantly affluent white audience implicate this piece of international cinema in labor outsourcing and Othering across its producers and audiences.
“Queer” in this book stands for more than representations of nonnormative sexual identities. It is a capacious category that also encompasses resistant formal strategies, counter-reading practices, and, more broadly, a critique of globalization as a homonormative capitalist project. Throughout, the authors pay careful attention to the myriad ways in which LGBTQ political issues have become implicated with neoliberal impulses, particularly around discourses of human rights and within the international film festival circuit. Likewise, the book astutely draws out how cinematic productions and their circulations implicitly perpetuate the trope of the Gay International...