How might we illustrate, explore, and begin to define the state of the nation film and television text? This free online conference invites consideration of these questions. The contours of the genre and tropes are fluid, and often the term is retrospectively ascribed. Typically, there is a distinction between a National Cinema which might foster an imagined community and identity, and concern instead with reflection, commentary, and critique of the state of the nation, a mirror (often cracked) held up to the nation. At best the state of the nation text captures the zeitgeist, shines a light on issues and inequities, serves public commentary, garners popular support and critical acclaim. Here film and TV can serve the function of unflinchingly presenting a nation to itself. As a compression and convergence of key issues of the times, played out through representative characters, the state of the nation text helps us interrogate past, present, and future. The concern with film and TV as fourth estate critique is underscored. A key characteristic of the state of the nation text is to seek to do justice to the varying politico-socio-cultural conflicts characteristic of the period. How does the state of the nation text do this? What are the core attributes of the state of the nation text?
To what extent must it offer explicit critique? How far could a definition stretch to include the subtextual, the metaphorical and allegorical? How might it help construct or challenge the nation as a category? Can the success or not be evaluated? If it is often assumed to offer progressive or radical critique, is there space for a conservative or reactionary state of the nation text? There has been a shift away from the realist conventions that typified the text and an embrace of the more personal aspects of art cinema, with degrees of stylisation, and perhaps even the avant-garde (Bait, 2019). The genre is also interwoven with coming-of-age narratives (Fish Tank, 2009), and other genres such as the political thriller, crime, comedy and satire. There are forward-looking anticipations embracing science fiction tropes (Years and Years, 2019) and historical considerations (the Small Axe anthology, 2020) which speculate on the future, or interrogate the past, for the sake of the present. How mutable is the state of the nation text? Can we still speak of the state of the nation in such global times? What of regionality and the local? What of the state of the world text recognising no borders?
Papers are invited that analyse classical and contemporary exemplars of the state of the nation text; consider production and reception; question and explore the boundaries of the genre; trace continuities and changes; help define by comparison and contrast with, for instance, National Cinema(s), transnational cinema, heritage, and Social Realism; and themes that otherwise scrutinise and draw attention to this form. Topics might include, but not be limited to:
- The state of the nation film and tv text: definitions, as a genre
- Rereading the canon
- Theatre and literary antecedents
- Function / successes / failures
- Readings and receptions
- As documentary
- As an exploration of gender / race / class
- Acting and the face of the nation
- Location: the place of the nation
- The sound(track) of the nation
- Auteurs of the state of the nation
- European, international, and global variations.
The conference will be held virtually at London Metropolitan University on Wednesday 3rd July 2024.
Abstracts of 400 words for 20 minute presentations are requested, accompanied by biographies of 250 words by Monday 26th February 2024.
Acceptance notification: Monday 25th March 2024.