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Activist Film Festivals
Towards a Political Subject
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Price £48, $64
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ISBN 9781783206346
Paperback 245 pages
Published December 2016
Imprint: Intellect
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Books by Sonia Tascon
Books by Tyson Wils
Books in Film Studies

Edited by Sonia Tascon and Tyson Wils
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Film festivals are an ever-growing part of the film industry, but most considerations of them focus almost entirely on their role in the business of filmmaking. This book breaks new ground by bringing scholars from a range of disciplines together with industry professionals to explore the concept of festivals as spaces through an activist lens, as spaces where the sociopolitical identities of communities and individuals are confronted and shaped. Tracing the growth of activist and human rights-focused films from the 1970s to the present, and using case studies from San Francisco, Brazil, Bristol, and elsewhere, the book addresses such contentious topics as whether activist films can achieve humanitarian aims or simply offer “cinema of suffering.” 

Sonia Tascón is a lecturer at the School of Social Sciences at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia. Tyson Wils is a lecturer at the School of Media and Communications at RMIT University, Australia.

'In their volume, Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject, Sonia Tascón and Tyson Wils bring together a range of academics and practitioners to explore the sociopolitical potential of activist film festivals. They state that their book was ‘born of the hypothesis that different platforms for political activism may produce different audiences and that film festivals (...) having an activist orientation need to be considered more closely as they “envelop” a spectator differently’ (p. 3). With this interesting hypothesis in mind, each of the contributors to this volume takes a closer look at one or more activist film festivals. The result is a valuable addition to the literature on festivals, activism and spectatorship – and the complex relationships between the three.' – Emiel Martens, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television

'Sonia Tascón and Tyson Wils’s edited collection Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject is not the first book devoted to the intersection of activism and film festivals (Dina Iordanova and Leshu Torchin’s 2012 Film Festival Yearbook 4: Film Festivals and Activism can make that claim), but it does seek to expand more thoroughly, as Tascón explains, our understanding of how spectators are “enveloped” differently at film festivals that have an activist orientation. Activist Film Festivals thus turns its attention to the role of the spectator and their visual activism to engage with issues raised in such seminal texts as Luc Boltanski’s Distant Suffering and Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others. Whereas those essays posited a particularly problematic spectatorial position in which an inequitable dynamic was evident when a powerful saviour figure viewed the suffering of a disempowered “other,” Tascón and Wils aim “to facilitate discussions that may consider other possibilities.” As a structuring principle, the editors asked the contributors to consider how “the gaze of a spectator who chooses to view images of others’ troubles may be configured differently through the context of consumption.” Of course, for Tascón and Wils’s volume, the film festival gets taken up as the privileged site of this image consumption.' – Liz Czach (University of Alberta), Frames of Cinema Journal

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