Sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned. I recently had the idea to create a video using sounds and images from Rio Bravo and the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. As I wrote in the introductory essay to Rio Bravo Diary, I first discovered Rio Bravo by watching episodes of the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts on YouTube.
Last month, I rewatched the roast of Dean Martin, for which Don Rickles served as roast master — a historic moment if there ever was one. In the episode, Angie Dickson, who co-starred with Dean in Rio Bravo, roasts him by imagining Dean and herself on an episode of Police Women. I wondered: could I create the episode using clips from Rio Bravo?
Here’s what I came up with:
What do you think?
I’m not sure it works. I’ve made several versions of this video (thank you to Jason Mittell for watching multiple drafts and giving me feedback!) and this is definitely the best version I’ve come up with.
I think part of the problem is I’m not really sure what I’m trying to “accomplish” with the video. There’s not really an argument. I’m not really trying to say anything about Rio Bravo and it’s relationship to the Dean Martin Roasts. It’s more about fun! And that’s totally fine, but it still doesn’t totally work, right? I don’t know what it is. Maybe I’ve spent too much time with it? Maybe I need to take an entirely new approach? Or maybe the video is just as good as it’s going to get?
Either way, I had a fun time making it, so perhaps that’s good enough! But I’d like to know what you all think. Do you have any suggestions? Do you like it? Does it stink? Let me know! I’d love to publish some responses to the video — and my response to the responses — in the next newsletter.
The Rise of Film TikTok — On Your Screen #3
What is Film TikTok, or FilmTok? You've probably seen the videos, either on TikTok or other social media platforms, or perhaps you've seen Queline Meadows's great video essay on the subject. On the latest episode of On Your Screen, Queline, also know as kikikrazed on YouTube, answers all the questions you may have about Film TikTok: How does it work? What kinds of videos can you find on the platform? What does Film TikTok mean for the future of film criticism and fandom? If you're looking for a beginner’s guide to the platform, this conversation is for you.
Student Spotlight: Michela Bertossa
Michela Bertossa created these videos under the supervision of Prof. Dana Renga and Prof. Alan O'Leary at Ohio State University.
I've seen many examples of the voiceover videographic exercise, but I think yours is the first time I've seen a creator use the voices of other people. How did you come up with this idea and what inspired you to use the voices of your mother and grandmother?
The reason why I chose to use my mother and grandmother’s voices was primarily because I wanted to explore the relationship between Ischia as a filming and touristic location and its effects on the inhabitants, and more specifically my family. Both my mother and grandmother grew up and lived in Ischia, engaging with the touristic industry in different ways during over half a century. If in My Brilliant Friend Ischia is only a paradisiac island in which Lenù experiences freedom, my grandmother and mother’s voices expand on what happens outside of the frame. With the protagonist they share a story of post-war poverty, child labor and emigration, but at the same time we hear how mass tourism, film industry and modernization impacted the life of this community through the years.
Did you show the video to your family? And if so, what did they make of it?
I did show the video to my family, and they consider it as an eccentric, artsy video. Probably because I created this in an academic setting and videographic criticism is not well known in Italy outside of Academia. One of the biggest issues was the language. Both my grandmother and my mother are extremely self-conscious about their Italian, so they mostly criticized their perceived inability to speak “proper” Italian and felt insecure recording their voices.
What were you able to capture about My Brilliant Friend by using the voices of your family that you could not capture with your own voice? Did this exercise teach you something new about My Brilliant Friend?
The making of this video has been extremely personal. These are family stories, but also very diverse personal experiences. I would say that for me Ischia is a place of vacation and connection with relatives that I manage to see only once a year since my grandmother still lives there, and my mother left the Island when she was in her 20s. Therefore, I think that we all share a deeply diverse connection with this place and that is why my own voice could not capture how my grandmother and my mother experienced their life of the island. Furthermore, voiceovers highlighted for me how My Brilliant Friend is heavily defined through who is narrating the story. If you read the books, you will notice that, although Lila is also the main protagonist of the story, she is never the narrator. Everything is filtered through Lenù's point of view. Of course, in the TV show this feature is less obvious, nevertheless Lenù is the main deliverer of what the audience sees. Therefore, this video emphasizes the power of the narrator and its effects on representation of the Italian south in the media. If you take away Lenù’s voice, you create a space for other experiences that are usually left out of the frame.
I found your epigraph to be extremely powerful as well. How did you go about making this video? And more specifically, I thought the choice to include the quote as a kind of title card instead of placing the text on the image was a brilliant idea, and again something I've not seen very often. What motivated you to present the text in this way? Why did you change the color of the font?
My Brilliant Friend engages with gender-based violence and a patriarchal conception of society. My purpose was to create a dialogue between depictions of violence against women on TV and feminist theories. Sara Ahmed’s book Living a Feminist Life (2014) is perfect, as it engages both with academic feminist theories and more concrete struggles that every marginalized group must face in their everyday life. In fact, both protagonists, Lila and Lenù, grow up in an environment where their bodies and desires are constantly policed and repressed, and I think that My Brilliant Friend (the book and the TV series) offers to the viewers in Italy two protagonists that constantly try to defy these social and moral expectations and are not aligned with what society expects them to do: being submissive and uneducated, good daughters and wives. I wanted to create a video essay that could highlight these features and create a direct dialogue with popular literature and media and academic discourses.
Regarding the colors, I initially used purple, as it is usually associated with feminism and the women’s rights movements. Eventually, my supervisors, Prof. Renga and Prof. O’Leary, suggested to choose colors that recalled more directly the TV show. Therefore, I opted for bright yellow and turquoise, colors that are used for advertising the first and second season of the TV show. I think that this choice helped to define the change of tone and narration. The first part with the epigraph in bright yellow is associated with violence and struggle, while the second section of the video shows how the protagonists overcome societal pressure and patriarchal norms through mutual support, friendship, and education.
News & Notes
I need your help curating this section! Is there something going on in the video essay world that you think others should know about? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Via r/videoessay: The Essay Library is putting together another collaboration project! The theme for the video is Time. More information here.
A stellar selection of video essays from the Film & Media Programme at Queen Margaret University are now available to watch online! More here.
The latest issue of the journal 16:9 features a new audiovisual essay by Jaap Kooijman. Watch here.
Via Film-Philosophy: “Videos for Practicing Film-Philosophy at the Film-Philosophy Conference 2021 are now available. Register to view them & join the makers on July 9. Catherine Grant's work explores the practice & theory of the online audiovisual essay as a creative, critical & scholarly form.”
Via Immerse: “Screen Tactics: A conversation with new media artist Grayson Earle on participatory politics in transformative media, transparency in screen-based works, and digital liveness” by Kevin B. Lee
The latest issue of MOVIE: A Journal of Film Criticism, features several video essays, and now houses papers from the recent symposium, “Under Capricorn: 70 Years On.” More here.
“Screen – Image – Flow: Desktop/Screen Documentary as Method” - the syllabus for a full semester course on Desktop Cinema from National Chiau Tung University in Taiwan. (h/t Kevin B. Lee)
One of the premier festival events in the video essay world is back! FILMADRID and MUBI present THE VIDEO ESSAY, a collection of seven works that all debuted online earlier this month. Access them all via MUBI here and via FILMADRID here.
Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essay has published their seventh issue: “we are proud to incorporate a new language to our video essay collection: Farsi. We are also delighted with the fact that the majority of works have been made by women, challenging the dominant role of male authors and creators within the worldwide panorama, and, specifically, Spain.” Watch here.
The Spring 2021_#Solidarity issue of NECSUS is now online. Pieces that may interest readers of this newsletter in particular are “Desktop documentary: From artefact to artist(ic) emotions” by Miklós Kiss, who generously quotes me and interview with Chloé Galibert-Laîné and Grace Lee on the podcast in the piece (Thank you, Miklós!) , and “Workshop of Potential Scholarship: Manifesto for a parametric videographic criticism” by Alan O’Leary.
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