Dr. Karl Schoonover

Where in the World is Queer Cinema?

The intersection of queer sexualities with global politics has become a pressing issue in recent years: violence at pride marches in Serbia, India, and South Africa form one vector of tensions among ideas of global citizenship, nationalist politics, and sexual identity. At the same time, film and media have formed increasingly transnational routes to queer cultural visibility. Along with the burgeoning landscape of queer film festivals shown in cinemas, a virtual festival circuitry has emerged in the spaces of VOD, bootlegging, and “free” streaming.  Audiences in the UK can view an early 1970s Filipino gay melodrama uploaded to Youtube from old Betamax off-air taping, while Hong Kongers watch bootleg copies of Un Chant d’amour and US viewers buy Apichatpong’s Tropical Malady on iTunes. Film studies has increasingly addressed categories of the global and the transnational, but discussions of cinematic sexuality have been limited by national frameworks, neoliberal universalizing, or archaic definitions of cinema. How should we go about mapping the international space of queer film culture? Where does queer cinema reside? The varied practices and platforms of queer film consumption require us to dispense with reified definitions of the cinematic medium.  And yet something about the idea of cinema persists in the globalism of queer film culture. In this moment when many of us taken for granted Skyping and Tweeting globally, or instant digital interconnectivity, why is this old medium still understood as a key means of worlding, of connecting to world politics, and of experiencing the category of the universally human?

Karl Schoonover‘s recent work explores the idea of ‘world cinema’ as a political structure that emerges from specific institutions, including arthouses, film festivals, tax incentives, censorship, NGOs, and piracy.  His book, Brutal Vision: The Neorealist Body in Postwar Italian Cinema (U of Minnesota P 2012), argues that Neorealist films used images of suffering to recalibrate the scale of the human community.  Schoonover also co-edited the anthology Global Art Cinema (Oxford UP 2011).  In addition to these books, he has published articles on topics such as queer stardom in the 1970s, recent “slow cinema” debates, and cinematic aestheticizations of waste.

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