Volume 1, Issue 8: Black Lives Matter Playlist II

FILMADRID Video Essays, A Study on "Mukbang", Podcast Update

Today is Juneteenth! Here’s a video posted today by UCLA African American Studies featuring Professor Jemima Pierre on “Why Black Studies?” (h/t Terri Francis)

Thank you to everyone who has shared or contributed videos to the Black Lives Matter Video Essay Playlist. We have revised and expanded our initial statement (below) and continue to add videos daily (click here for the full list). We have also added a “Further Viewing” section to the list that includes works that were submitted but do not meet our definition of “videographic.” As always, we welcome feedback on our definition and categorizations, and hope that you will continue to send us videos to be included. Thank you! - Will

Black Lives Matter. The need to stand for racial justice and against police brutality and systemic inequality is greater than ever. Video essays can play an important role in illuminating these issues, critically examining their representation in film and media, serving as a medium for Black visions and voices to be seen and heard in alliance with the expressions of all other people of color. 

To make this potential more visible, we are gathering video essays on these and other topics related to the Black Lives Matter movement, the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers and subsequent protests. Suggestions for additions to the list are strongly encouraged. The easiest way to send them is to use this form. Alternatively you may email willdigravio@gmail.com and/or alsolikelife@gmail.com and/or cydniiwildeharris@gmail.com or DM The Video Essay Podcast on Twitter/Facebook with links to be added to this webpage. 

For the purposes of this project, the basic criteria for “video essay” is an audiovisual work that critically reappropriates existing works of film and media. These works can be found in many forms and contexts, such as academic scholarship, journalism, YouTube explainers, video art and social media. We have organized titles within categories to reflect these contexts, while acknowledging that they are non-exclusive to each other. Our call for videos have yielded a wide range of submissions, which we have tried to list comprehensively below. At the same time, we retain an emphasis on video essays as videographic criticism: works that use media to think critically about media. 

Through its resourceful use of existing materials to reveal, reframe and redirect their meanings and purposes, videographic criticism offers a powerful mode of media production for those historically excluded from access to dominant media institutions due to racial or economic injustice. This has been especially evident during the Black Lives Matter movement through the use of social media as videographic criticism, as seen in the TikTok, Twitter and Instagram videos listed below. These are just a few examples of how this historical moment has produced exciting new forms of media criticism, which this list endeavors to document.

- Cydnii Wilde Harris, Kevin B. Lee, and Will DiGravio list co-organizers

Podcast Update

I haven’t forgotten about the podcast! When you read this newsletter next week, I will (knock on wood) have just submitted my MPhil thesis! My first priority will be to finish up the episode, which is called, “On Publishing the Video Essay.” The episode features a roundtable discussion with three editors of publications that publish videographic work: Michael Leader of BBC’s Inside Cinema, Adam Woodward of Little White Lies, and Joost Broeren of Filmkrant. We discuss what it is like to publish video essays, what video essays bring to a publication, tips for freelance video essayists, and more!


And it’s not too late to submit a multi-screen composition! Check out the list of submissions here. Here is “Platinum Club” by Cormac Donnelly.

News & Notes

Have something to be featured in this section? Email me: willdigravio@gmail.com

  • Watch/listen to a great conversation between Ja’Tovia Gary and Terri Francis on the final night of the the Orphan Film Symposium on May 28. Click here.

  • FILMADRID in partnership with MUBI has released their annual slate of video essays. Watch here.

  • From Lisson Studio: John Akomfrah in conversation with Tina Campt, Ekow Eshun, Saidiya Hartman. Watch here.

  • The Pesaro Film Festival is inviting students aged 18-35 to submit videographic works of any length made between 2018 - 2020. More here.

  • An interview with Kevin B. Lee by Johannes Duncker on online teaching and film festivals.

  • Great read from 2019 (h/t Catherine Grant): “Fictional Biography as Film Criticism: Two Videos by Mark Rappaport” by Jonathan Rosenbaum

  • A belated congratulations to Chris Keathley and Jason Mittell on winning the first-ever “Innovative Pedagogy Award” from the Society for Cinema & Media Studies for their work teaching videographic criticism! Watch last month’s award video here. This week would have marked the first week of the Scholarship in Sound & Image Workshop. Jason and Chris will appear on an upcoming episode of the podcast to talk about their collaboration. Stay tuned!

  • The audiovisual essay journal Tecmerin issued a new CFP and is accepting submissions until August 1, 2020.

Student Spotlight: Q&A with Sabrina Plath and Lisa Beikirch

Each week, the newsletter will aim to feature a video essay made by a student(s) along with a short Q&A. Is there a student(s) or former student(s) of yours you would like to see highlighted? Email willdigravio@gmail.com.

Sabrina Plath and Lisa Beikirch created this video essay for a seminar in the Department of film studies at the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany under the supervision of Chloé Galibert-Laîné.

Will DiGravio: One thing that struck me about your essay is that you do not formally introduce the term “mukbang” or offer any definition until the last couple minutes of the video. Why did you decide to do this? 

Sabrina Plath and Lisa Beikirch: While doing our research we came across many videos of people criticizing mukbang. We deliberately started out without defining the subject. This way we allow the images to speak for themselves and the viewer to experience the content without prejudice. We believe that defining the “phenomenon” too soon would limit the viewer in their approach to the topic. After the sensory overload of videos, the explanation acts like a cool down period. The questions that have come up inside the viewers mind will now (hopefully) be answered.

WD: The montage and layering of images is fascinating. At some points it almost looked like the individuals on camera were in dialogue with one another via video chat. Was this intentional? How did you decide to layer the images? 

SP & LB: After finding out how broad the topic is, we realized that we needed to divide the content into different categories. We observed that a big characteristic of mukbang is the social component (as mukbang emerged originally from the wish to have company while eating). To visualize this aspect, we had the idea of editing the videos as if the individuals would be chatting with each other via video call. While starting off with a one-on-one call, which seems like a personal conversation, the call evolves into something more superficial, with people talking over each other and even talking in different languages. Additionally, layering more and more images over each other also exhibits the large quantity of videos posted online with rather “simple” content revolving around food.

WD: The sound design is fantastic. How difficult was this process? Do you have any sound design tips? 

SP & LB: Considering that audio plays a big part in mukbang videos and eating in general, we wanted to emphasize these sounds by letting them stand alone in the beginning and end of our film. We also worked a lot with layering of the audio so that it evokes a sense of disorientation. Near the end, with the explanation of the mukbang “phenomenon”, we wanted the audio to flow together, creating a synergy. Through this we were hoping that these partially different statements might create a summarizing overview. The process was not necessarily difficult but involved a lot of playing around.

WD: What drew you to this topic? The essay really allows for the images to breathe and speak for themselves. Why did you take this approach instead of, for example, using text on screen or voice over? 

SP & LB: We were interested in working on the topic because we both did not have many connections to mukbang videos and initially did not realize the dimensions of it. It was fascinating that we were able to experience a different side of the Internet. The research would just never stop as there was always another video to discover. Just as we experienced these images, we also wanted others to experience them as unbiased as possible. We did not want to speak over the images or impose our own thoughts on them, the viewer should not be pressured into an opinion. Instead the images should speak for themselves. We felt like there was no need to add any text because the videos themselves had so much to offer. The videos we show are not only interesting in terms of their audio-visual components, but also in the feelings they invoke in a person, whether those may be disgust, fascination, or confusion. That is also why we held off until later in the film to show the more extreme videos, so that the subject will not begin with a possible negative connotation.

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