In Notes from the Front Row, we consider current trends in contemporary mainstream film, and how we interact with these changes as film lovers.
In an age where online publications are popping up every other day and film debate and criticism are increasingly moving to public spheres like twitter as opposed to lecture halls or classrooms, setting up The Cinema Graph was not something that I took lightly.
At first my biggest worry was, “Well, there’s so many other online publications.” It felt like a niche but crowded market, and I had to wonder what The Cinema Graph would bring to the table. Slowly, over the course of the quarantined summer, the answer appeared to me.
In May of 2020, I was granted a Laidlaw Scholarship, which allowed me, a second year student, to undertake for the first time long-form research. I was studying the cinematic function of home in contemporary Lebanese Cinema (with a focus on Nadine Labaki), and for the first time, it seemed like I had unrestrained access to academic sources, journals and books. However, I very quickly noticed something: oftentimes the most interesting sources and writings were locked behind paywalls. I realised how much I had taken my student privileges for granted, how much of a door it had opened for me in my understanding and appreciation of cinema. But it also made me realise how detrimental it was to others’ enjoyment of the films they watched that the important conversations taking place around the media they were consuming were doing so behind closed doors.
Many online publications are focused more on general essays and reviews. And while we will also be doing that here at The Cinema Graph, I want to take this opportunity to open the door to everyone, regardless of education or interest, to the academic debates taking place within the film community.
Film, as one of the youngest artforms we have, is quite a separate beast to how we approach literature or music. Film is so young we still don’t necessarily have an established canon, and in the hyper-techno space of the 21st century, the form itself is also changing on a rapidly moving basis. Furthermore, film as a whole is nearly inextricably tied to academia. The Russian Formalists, the French New Wave movers and shakers at Cahiers du Cinema, all have roots in academic debate and discussion. Nowadays, film theory and film making are seen as being completely opposed to one another and rarely come into contact on a larger scale. But, some of our greatest filmmakers (Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein to name but a few) were all pioneers of film theory and criticism, and so at The Cinema Graph we want to re-synthisize these two elements.
At The Cinema Graph, we want to level the playing field. If the people who single handedly crafted what we now consider to be ‘cinematic’ did so through discussion and essays, then is it not only fair to introduce these debates when we speak of film? The Cinema Graph is, first and foremost, for film lovers. People with a genuine passion and desire to know more. People who have something to say and want to share it. People who want to stand on the shoulders of giants and contribute to over a century-long conversation about the one thing that connects us in our love– film.