Foto: Steven Keller

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.

Download Abstracts

Foto: Klaas Dierks


Mittwoch, 03.05.2017

9:15 - 17:30 Uhr: Workshop im Teerhof

   |  Interactive documentary as research method
       * in englischer Sprache

19:30 Uhr: Begrüßung und Vortrag 1

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

20:30 Uhr: Film

   |  Forest of Bliss
       USA 1986, R: Robert Gardner, 90 Min, OF. *Film zum Vortrag 1

Donnerstag, 04.05.2017

9:30 Uhr: Forum 1: Produktion *in deutscher Sprache

   |  9:30 Uhr: Filmische Produktionsforschung
       Dennis Göttel (Lüneburg)
   |  10:15 Uhr: Die Kamera als Werkzeug
       Rosa John (Wien)
   |  11:10 Uhr: Zwischen Wissenschaft und Spielfilm
       Theorie und Methodologie des wissenschaftlichen Films in Deutschland (1950er - 70er Jahre)
       Eva Knopf (Hamburg)
   |  11:55 Uhr: Fundstücke aus der Tiefe
       Filmische Tauchgänge zwischen Naturwissenschaften und Geschichte
       Natalie Lettenewitsch (Paderborn)

       Abstracts (PDF)

14:00 Uhr: Film

   |  Los Angeles Plays Itself
       USA 2003, R: Thom Anderson, 169 Min. *Film zum Vortrag 2

17:15 Uhr: Vortrag 2

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

20:00 Uhr: Präsentation und Film

   |  Am Siel
       BRD 1962, R: Peter Nestler, 13 Min, OmengU. *Film zu Forum 3

   |  Leviathan
       USA/F/GB 2012, R: L. Castaing-Taylor / V. Paravel, 87 Min, OF. *mit Präsentation von Ramón Reichert (Wien)

       Abstracts (PDF)

Freitag, 05.05.2017

9:30 Uhr: Forum 2: Geschichte *in deutscher Sprache

   |  9:30 Uhr: Produktion und Aneignung von Interviews mit Zeitzeugen
       in Lanzmanns "Shoah" und Fechners "Prozess"
       Sven Kramer (Lüneburg)
   |  10:15 Uhr: Epistemologische Relevanz dokumentarischer Praktiken
       Thomas Weber (Hamburg)
   |  11:10 Uhr: Unanschaulichkeit, Historiografie als Montage
       Vrääth Öhner (Wien)

       Abstracts (PDF)

14:00 Uhr: Film

   |  El botón de nácar - Der perlmuttknopf
       F, CHI, E 2015, R: Patricio Guzmán, 82 Min. *Film zu Forum 1

15:45 Uhr: Film

   |  Memories of the Eichmann Trial
       ISR 1979/2011, R: David Perlov, 65 Min. *Film zum Vortrag 3

17:00 Uhr: Grußwort Nordmedia und Vortrag 3

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

20:30 Uhr: Film

   |  Der Mann mit der Kamera
       UdSSR 1929, R: Dziga Vertov, 80 Min, 35mm.
       *mit Livemusik-Begleitung von Eunice Martins (Berlin), Film zu Forum 1 und 2

Samstag, 06.05.2017

9:30 Uhr: Forum 3: Orte *in deutscher Sprache

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

       Abstracts (PDF)

14:00 Uhr: Projekte und Film *in englischer Sprache

   |  14:00 Uhr: Fallen Women
       GB 2016, R: Lily Ford (London), 15 Min. *Mit Präsentation und Diskussion

   |  15:00 Uhr: Promenade
       F 2016, R: Philip Cartelli (Paris), 31 Min. *Mit Präsentation und Diskussion

   |  16:00 Uhr: The Secret of Our Environment
       D 2013, R: Martin Gruber (Bremen), 34 Min. *Mit Präsentation und Diskussion

       Abstracts (PDF)

19:30 Uhr: Film mit Gast

   |  Cinema Futures
       A 2016, R: Michael Palm, 126 Min, OF. *Mit Diskussion mit dem Regisseur

22:30 Uhr: Film

   |  Dressed to Kill
       USA 1980, R: Brian De Palma, 105 Min, OmU. *Film zu Forum 3

Sonntag, 07.05.2016

10:00 Uhr: Forum 4: Naturwissenschaft *in deutscher Sprache

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

       Abstracts (PDF)


   |  The Illonois Parables
       USA 2016, R: Deborah Stratman, 60 Min.
       *Kuratiert und vorgestellt von Christine Rüffert (Universität Bremen)

   |  The Interior
       USA 2015, R: Jonathan Rattner, 24 Min.
       *Kuratiert und vorgestellt von Christine Rüffert (Universität Bremen)

Änderungen vorbehalten!

Keynote 1

Wednesday, 3rd may 2017, 7:30 p.m.

Paolo Favero, Foto: Klaas Dierks

Experiencing, Exploring and Explaining the World through “New Images”

reflections on the politics of the dialogue between documentary practices and emerging technologies

From the invention of geometrical perspective onwards images have, in a Western context, been characterized by a specific politics and epistemological ambition. Solidified by the invention of the camera, “our” images have separated the observer from the observed, the mind from the body, allowing for what has been considered a “neutral” observation. “New images” (i.e. images produced with emerging digital visual technologies) are today posing a challenge to such conventions. Relational, material, haptic and immersive by nature, such images go hand in hand with new image-making practices characterized by non-linearity, interactivity, participativity and immersivity. The present paper explores this emerging terrain in the context of the documentary form. Moving back and forth in space time, hence comparing image-making practices that belong to different cultures and epochs, the paper will explore the key political and epistemological challenges of the documentary image in the contemporary digital habitats.

Paolo Favero is Associate Professor in Film Studies and Visual Culture at the University of Antwerp. A visual anthropologist with a PhD from Stockholm University, Paolo has devoted the core of his career to the study of visual culture in India. Presently he conducts research on image-making, politics and technology in contemporary India as well as on questions of ontology and methodology in the context of emerging digital visual practices and technologies at global level.

Experiencing, Exploring and Explaining the World through “New Images”

Keynote 2

Friday, 4th may 2017, 4:15 p.m.

Catherine Russell, Foto: Steven Keller


Walter Benjamin and Archival Film Practices

Archiveology is a critical language of images. It designates the potential of archival film practices to rethink historical knowledge. Walter Benjamin is frequently cited in discussions of found footage and media archives because his historiography is based on a non-linear conception of correspondences between past and future. The shock of the moment produced through montage is for Benjamin, a technique of awakening. Once fragments of fiction film become documents of fashion and architecture, and fragments of documentary become recognizable as performance, a dynamic new language of history emerges. Archiveology teaches us that history does not need to be written. It can also be constructed, cut and pasted together, as the archive lends itself to practices of searching and collecting, and the materialist historian is one who respects the piecemeal construction of historical experience. If history breaks down into images, archiveology is a means of engaging those images as pieces of collective memory from which new futures can be known.

Catherine Russell is Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. She is the author of four books, including Experimental Ethnography: The Work of Film in the Age of Video (Duke, 1999).

Keynote 3

Saturday, 5th may 2017, 7:00 p.m.

Sylvie Lindeperg, Foto: Klaas Dierks

Judicial Truth and Cinematographic Truth

The filming of the Eichmann Trial

Based on the archives of the state of Israel and those of filmmaker Leo Hurwitz, Sylvie Lindeperg’s talk examines both the unprecedented decision to videotape the Eichmann trial in its entirety and the subsequent negotiations between broadcasting executive Milton Fruchtman, the Israeli government, and the judges in charge of the case. Her study of Hurwitz’s preparation for the trial sheds light on his intentions and his expectations. Her analysis of the recorded documents reveals the principal tropes in the scenario and underscores the disparity between the filmmaker’s preconceptions and the material reality of the event. In pursuing these lines of investigation, her talk explores the interaction between judicial ritual and TV drama as well as the unavoidable influence of the recording itself.

Sylvie Lindeperg is a historian and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France. She is professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. She is the author of several books, including: Les Ecrans de l’ombre ; Clio de 5 à 7 ; La Voie des images ; Nuit et Brouillard. Un film dans l’histoire.