Current Film Conference

Film as Research Method

22nd International Bremen Film Conference

Using film for research and deriving a method from this can take very different forms and directions. In natural sciences and the humanities, for example, film produces visual evidence by way of recording, visualizing and archiving motion sequences. Similarly to the philosophy essay, a film essay can be used as a method of thinking and writing. Furthermore, film can become a source for contributing to historiography or displaying a history of human ideas and desires. Finally, in the context of artistic research, film offers methodological approaches to linking science and art, ranging from experimental film to documentary and fiction film as well as to contemporary forms such as interactive documentaries and video essays.

The 22nd International Bremen Film Conference will address the interdisciplinary implications of film as a research method. It is open to scholars in film, cultural studies and history, as well as to scholars working in related fields. During the conference, films will be screened at our local cinema, discussed with filmmakers and examined in relation to their research value.


Keynotes: Paolo Favero (Antwerp), Sylvie Lindeperg (Paris), Catherine Russell (Montreal)

The idea to use film as a medium for research is as old as film itself. As early as the end of the 19th century the Lumière brothers’ cinematograph was used in hospitals to document the patients’ conditions and to develop a method for the visualization and diagnosis of mental illnesses. In the 1950s this approach was rekindled and extended: a scientific film project was developed with the intention of creating an ‘Encyclopaedia Cinematografica’. The behavior of objects, plants, animals and humans was recorded to create a comprehensive archive of motion sequences of all kind. The project was promoted by international researchers of natural sciences, psychology, and ethnology. Furthermore, it was also intended to visualize and classify typical movements in order to record regularities and deviations. Until the present day similar procedures of visualization and recording are an integral part of several research methodologies in both natural sciences and humanities, thus creating their own aesthetic forms.

New approaches to research have recently been developed in the area of avant-garde films, a film form that explores the medium in a self-reflective manner, e.g. the Sensory Ethnography Lab of Harvard University that operates in-between science and art. It is widely recognized as a successful film area that attracts large audiences at festivals and has attracted a lot of interest within the art world. Furthermore, there is an increasing presence of online interactive screen productions focusing on issues of research in social interactions, reality, memory etc. which are often identified as interactive documentaries. In film studies the video essay has been established as a minor genre that somehow expands the field of the literary essay. Hence, these and related approaches aim for an aestheticization of science in general, a criticism of the scientific-media observation and a diversification of text-based knowledge production.

As early as the 1940s a film practice that settles on the border of science and art is defined by the filmmaker and theorist Hans Richter as “film essay”: “[T]he film essay enables the filmmaker to make the ‘invisible’ world of thoughts and ideas visible on the screen. Unlike the documentary film that presents facts and information, the essay film produces complex thought—reflections that are not necessarily bound to reality, but can also be contradictory, irrational, and fantastic”.

In 1948 Alexandre Astruc describes it in a far more radical manner: “a Descartes of today would already have shut himself up in his bedroom with a 16mm camera and some film, and would be writing his philosophy on film: for his Discours de la méthode would today be of such a kind that only the cinema could express it satisfactorily”. Astruc transfers the philosopher’s work, that has laid the foundations for a modern scientific understanding, into film practice. The discourse he refers to is: Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One's Reason and of Seeking Truth in the Sciences which is characterized by a strong focus on the subject and directs it against the scholarly tradition. The concept of doubt and the study of the world are regarded as central means of insight next to a metaphysical ego-centration. With his statement Astruc called for a theory-based form of film that builds on literature and philosophy as well as on mathematics and history.

Siegfried Kracauer (1969) has located historiography and film itself into the liminal area between art and sciences, thus emphasizing the correlation of aesthetics and scientific production and the fact that history requires a medium in order to be told. Filmmakers such as Alain Resnais, Claude Lanzmann and Edgar Reitz have generated forms of filmic historiography in cooperation with historians. History has therefore not just accepted film into its spectrum of methods as a source, but has developed historiography itself as both a poetic as well as a media practice. Along these lines Marc Ferro (1977) talks about the prospect of a history of human ideas and desires by taking into account the most diverse film forms. In his long-standing work for television: Histoire Parallèle / The Week Fifty Years Ago, his research practice has taken on audio-visual form. Nowadays this research practice is shifting towards digital and net-based formats.

The 22nd International Bremen Film Conference offers a platform for interdisciplinary exchange on historic and contemporary approaches to film with the intention of determining how the medium can be used as a research method. The conference will combine talks, panel discussions, film screenings, and Q&As with artists, and will take place from May 3rd to May 7th, 2017 at Bremen’s communal cinema CITY 46.

Astruc, Alexandre (1992) The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Camera Stylo [1948].
Ferro, Marc (1977) Cinéma et histoire, Paris 1977.
Kracauer, Siegfried (1969) History – The last things before the last. New York.
Richter, Hans (1992) The Film Essay. A New Form of Documentary Film [1940]. See:

Rasmus Greiner
University Bremen 

Registration and information:
Louisa Manz
City 46 | Kommunalkino Bremen e.V.


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Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

9:15 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.: Workshop at Teerhof

   |  Interactive documentary as research method
       * in English

7:30 p.m.: Welcome and Keynote 1

   |  Experiencing, Exploring and Explaining the World through the Image
       Reflections on Ethnography, Documentary Praxtices and Emerging Technologies
       Paolo Favero (Antwerpen) * in English

8:30 p.m.: Film

   |  Forest of Bliss
       USA 1986, director: Robert Gardner, 90 Min, OF. *Film to Keynote 1

Thursday, May 4th ,2017

9:30 a.m. - 12:35 p.m.: Panel 1: Production *in German

   |  9:30 a.m.: Filmische Produktionsforschung
       Dennis Göttel (Lüneburg)
   |  10:15 a.m.: Die Kamera als Werkzeug
       Rosa John (Vienna)
   |  11:10 a.m.: Zwischen Wissenschaft und Spielfilm
       Theorie und Methodologie des wissenschaftlichen Films in Deutschland (1950er - 70er Jahre)
       Eva Knopf (Hamburg)
   |  11:10 a.m.: Fundstücke aus der Tiefe
       Filmische Tauchgänge zwischen Naturwissenschaften und Geschichte
       Natalie Lettenewitsch (Paderborn)

2:00 p.m.: Film

   |  Los Angeles Plays Itself
       USA 2003, director: Thom Anderson, 169 Min. *Film to Keynote 2

5:15 p.m.: Keynote 2

   | Archiveology: Walter Benjamin and Archival Film Practices
       Catherine Russell (Montreal) *in English

8:00 p.m.: Presentation and Film

   |  Am Siel
       FRG 1962, director: Peter Nestler, 13 Min, OV with English subtitels. *Film to Panel 3

   |  Leviathan
       USA/F/GB 2012, directors: L. Castaing-Taylor / V. Paravel, 87 Min, OV. *with presentation by Ramón Reichert (Vienna) *in German

Friday, May 5th 2017

9:30 a.m.: Panel 2: History *in German

   |  9:30 a.m.: Produktion und Aneignung von Interviews mit Zeitzeugen
       in Lanzmanns "Shoah" und Fechners "Prozess"
       Sven Kramer (Lüneburg)
   |  10:15 a.m.: Epistemologische Relevanz dokumentarischer Praktiken
       Thomas Weber (Hamburg)
   |  11:10 a.m.: Unanschaulichkeit, Historiografie als Montage
       Vrääth Öhner (Vienna)
   |  11:55 a.m.: "Archäologie filmischer Ikonen"
       am Beispiel von Leni Riefenstahls "Triumph des Willen"
       Chris Wahl (Potsdam)

2:00 p.m.: Film

   |  El botón de nácar - Der perlmuttknopf
       F, CHI, E 2015, director: Patricio Guzmán, 82 Min.
       *Original with German subtitels *Film to Panel 1

3:45 p.m.: Film

   |  Memories of the Eichmann Trial
       ISR 1979/2011, director: David Perlov, 65 Min. *Film to Keynote 3

5:00 p.m.: Keynote 3

   |  The Two Stages of the Eichmann Trial
       Sylvie Lindeperg (Paris) *in English

8:30 p.m.: Film

   |  Der Mann mit der Kamera
       UdSSR 1929, director: Dziga Vertov, 80 Min, 35mm.
       *Silent film and live music by Eunice Martins (Berlin), Film to Panel 1 and 2

Saturday, May 6th 2017

9:30 a.m.: Forum 3: Orte *in German

   |  9:30 a.m.: Raumforschung
       Zur räumlichen Sprache des Films am Beispiel des Museumsraums
       Alejandro Bachmann (Vienna)
   |  10:15 a.m.: Der Film als Ort einer sinnlichen Philosophie?
       Über den Film als Aushandelungspraxis von Bedeutung zwischen Wirklichkeit und Phantasmatik
       Philipp Blum (Stuttgart)
   |  11:10 a.m.: Selbstanzeige konkreten Daseins
       Zu einer Möglichkeit filmischer Forschung
       Marc Ries (Offenbach)
   |  11:55 a.m.: Überprüfen, beweisen
       Film als Expedition
       Lena Stölzl (Vienna)

2:00 p.m.: Projects and Films *in English

   |  2:00 p.m.: Fallen Women
       GB 2016, director: Lily Ford (London), 15 Min. *with presentation and discussion

   |  3:00 p.m.: Promenade
       F 2016, director: Philip Cartelli (Paris), 31 Min. *with presentation and discussion

   |  4:00 p.m.: The Secret of Our Environment
       D/BOT 2013, director: Martin Gruber (Bremen), 34 Min. *with presentation and discussion

7:30 p.m.: Film with Gast

   |  Cinema Futures
       A 2016, director: Michael Palm, 126 Min, English OV. *with discussion with the director

10:30 p.m.: Film

   |  Dressed to Kill
       USA 1980, director: Brian De Palma, 105 Min, OV with German subtitles *Film to Panel 3

Sunday, May 7th 2017

10:00 a.m.: Forum 4: Naturwissenschaft *in German

   |  10:00 a.m.: Re-edited medical films in Vienna
       Katrin Pilz (Vienna)
   |  10:45 a.m.: Mikro-Zeitlupe, Narcotica, Strömungsbilder
       Praktiken der Sichtbarmachung im zoologischen Labot der 1920er Jahre
       Stefan Probst (Vienna)


   |  The Illonois Parables
       USA 2016, director: Deborah Stratman, 60 Min.
       *curated and presented by Christine Rüffert (University Bremen)

   |  The Interior
       USA 2015, director: Jonathan Rattner, 24 Min.
       *curated and presented by Christine Rüffert (University Bremen)

Subject to Modifications!