Handmaid’s Political Terror
Documentary & Accountability
Pressure and Guerrilla: British Black Film Legacies
RIP Nelson Pereira Dos Santos
Interview: Brett Story
Palestinian Revolutionary Cinema
Festivals: Orphans, Cinéma du réel
Handmaid’s Political Terror
The terrain of history is perhaps nowhere more fraught than in the Israeli/Palestinian context, a highly charged force field of ethno-religious identities, political ideologies, and conflicting territorial claims. Overlaid with collective memories and symbolic meanings, the landscape has borne witness to war and imperial conquest, shifting regimes and borders, perpetual occupation and injustice, and overlapping yet seemingly irreconcilable narratives of past experience. Take 1948: celebrated by Zionists for the establishment of the State of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust, the year is remembered by Palestinian Arabs as the Nakba (“catastrophe”), given the forcible dispossession and expulsion of an estimated 750,000 native inhabitants. And where many Israeli Jews have cast their nation’s founding as a return to political sovereignty after nearly two millennia in the diaspora, Palestinians have sought to assert a counterhistory in a condition of subjugation and exilic dispersal from their land.
Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017¬–) resonates strongly as an allegorical, science-fictional response to the Trump administration. The show refuses to accept the “new normal” as normal and acknowledges its audience’s simultaneous feelings of resistance and exhaustion. The program ultimately argues that, while hope alone is not enough to sustain anyone through the Trump years, it is the right place to start. Above all, the program points to the power of collective resistance. As Americans face down a fascist president, as they contend with babies torn from their mother’s bosoms at the border, as they confront a powerful resurgence in White Nationalist activism, the country has perhaps never felt more divided, or threatened. And yet the only way to defeat Trumpism is by standing together and collectively pushing back. The Handmaid’s Tale may not show viewers exactly how to do that, but it does show its audience exactly what it would feel like.
First things first: this issue marks the arrival of Rebecca Prime as Associate Editor of Film Quarterly. Rebecca first published a book review in FQ back in 2006 and also had one in the last issue, with articles in other journals in the interim. Rebecca is a film historian, editor of Cinematic Homecomings: Exile and Return in Transnational Cinema (Bloomsbury, 2014), and author of Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2014).
Racquel Gates and Kristen J. Warner are colleagues and soul twins who enjoy applying their expertise in race and media to popular culture debates. One such conversation arose —inevitably—around the release of Marvel’s Black Panther directed by Ryan Coogler.
“FQ” the Film Quarterly podcast presents SUNDANCE EDITION 2018.
To many men and women of color, as well as many white women, meaningful diversity occurs when the actual presence of different-looking bodies appear on screen. For them, this diversity serves as an indicator of progress as well as an aspirational frame for younger generations who are told that the visual signifiers they can identify with carry a great amount of symbolic weight. As a consequence, the degree of diversity became synonymous with the quantity of difference rather than with the dimensionality of those performances. Moreover, a paradoxical condition emerges whereby people of color have become more media savvy yet are still, if not more, reliant on overdetermined and overly reductive notions of so-called “positive” and “negative” representation. Such measures yield a set of dueling consequences: first, that any representation that includes a person of color is automatically a sign of success and progress; second, that such paltry gains generate an easy workaround for the executive suites whereby hiring racially diverse actors becomes an easy substitute for developing new complex characters. The results of such choices can feel—in an affective sense—artificial, or more to the point, like plastic.
This special dossier for Film Quarterly comprises a selection of essays that share the central idea that the work ahead for scholars in the current moment must be to appreciate what has been an ever-increasing complication of the idea of black film and media over the last ten years. This dossier considers significant trends, film and media objects, and clusters of work related to issues of blackness and questions of aesthetics, historiography, industrial practice, collectivity, politics, and culture. It is compelled by a shared belief that requires scholars to remain open to contemporary and future enactments while at the same time recognizing the momentum of the past.
Film Quarterly has been interested for some time in establishing a critical approach to works made in Virtual Reality (VR). Homay King had begun conducting interviews with Shari Frilot to that same end. FQ then invited them to make that dialogue public with a conversation on stage at UC Santa Cruz on the implications of the VR platform to be shared with FQ readers.