• Founded
  • Seminar Number

“Sites of Cinema” takes a new approach to the question of cinema at the moment when cinema is said to be in decline, even in some accounts said to be facing its “death.” At this moment, when are focused on a convergence of moving image forms into a single delivery system we take up divergence over convergence, a divergence. Alternative to André Bazin’s question “What is Cinema?” “Sites of Cinema” will ask “Where is Cinema?” Where has it been seen to be and where will it be spaced in the future—as theoretical construct, national culture, material object, artistic work, social practice and space of exhibition. Cinema has moved and is still moving—from theatrical stages to museum walls, in and on buildings as well as within historical nations and regions of the world. “Sites of Cinema” signals our interest in site-specific cinemas plural but also cinema as a total apparatus—the “cinema of the mind” for the mass audience.

Professor Nico Baumbach

Professor Jane Gaines

Professor Rob King 

Professor Debashree Mukherjee

Spandita Behera

Meeting dates and locations are subject to change. Please confirm details with the seminar rapporteur.

Meeting Schedule

09/26/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Televisioning Makerworld: A Poetics of Administrative Production
John Caldwell, University of California, Los Angeles

Respondent: Anna McCarthy, New York University

10/10/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Radical Theater to Theatrical Cinema: Ritwik Ghatak's Experiment in Autobiography
Moinak Biswas, Jadavpur University

Debashree Mukherjee, Columbia University

11/21/2019 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Confessions Between Two Media Paradigms
Damon Young, University of California, Berkely

Respondent: Nico Baumbach, Columbia University

01/30/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
When the Left Eye Meets the Right Ear: Cinematic Fantasia and Comic Soundscape in City Scenes (1935) and 1930s Chinese Leftwing Music
Ling Zhang, Purchase College, SUNY


This book chapter focuses on the reinvention of Hollywood and Soviet inspirations through sound technology, aesthetics, socio-political connotations, and genre hybridity in 1930s Chinese films, particularly Yuan Muzhi’s musical comedies City Scenes (1935) and Street Angel (1937). I investigate how concealment of conventional boundaries between speech, sound effects (Mickey Mousing), and music (fantasia and Wagnerian leitmotifs) articulates an “auditory grotesque” that allows leftist urban comedies to expressively deploy an extravagant cinematic soundscape, thereby enhancing their satirical social critique and unruly energy. Such comic and tumultuous cinematic soundscapes correspond to popular sound culture in the modern cityscape of semi-colonial Shanghai. As a means of remaking “new music” and the “new musical ear” in China, vernacular and mass songs afforded new spaces for fostering social solidarity under the banner of a nationalist spirit and for generating the potential for mass mobilization.

Respondent: Jane Gaines, Columbia University

02/20/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
Andre Bazin's Anti-Anthropocentric Film Theory: Art, Science, Religion
Angela Dalle Vacche, Georgia Institute of Technology


Andre Bazin's (1918-1958) writings on the cinema explore a single, yet profound question: what is a human? For the famous French film critic, a human is simultaneously a rational animal, and an irrational being. Bazin's "idea" of the cinema is a mind-machine where the ethical implications have priority over the aesthetic issues. By arguing that this dissident Catholic's world-view is anti-anthropocentric, Angela Dalle Vacche concludes that Andre Bazin's "idea" of the cinema recapitulates the histories of biological evolution and modern technology inside our consciousness.

Respondent: Sam Di Iorio, Hunter College, CUNY

03/12/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM
meeting cancelled

04/16/2020 Faculty House, Columbia University
7:30 PM