A global approach to documentary cinema

A global approach to documentary cinema

The bulk of my work as a research assistant for the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help her build a portfolio of documentaries from various regions around the world. This is part of an ongoing process for Professor Funari, who hopes to pitch a new class to hopefully begin teaching by the spring of 2018. The focus of the class revolves around the similarities and differences of national cinemas in respect to documentaries. The repository of films and associated readings that I’ve created during the summer is meant to inform Professor’s Funari as to the structure and syllabus of this proposed class. Since the distribution of films has only become more widespread throughout its history, the ideas behind certain cinematic techniques are carried far beyond the national cinema where it is released, prompting filmmakers to adapt and appropriate such techniques when necessary. In addition, film movements that focus primarily on fiction films, such as the French New Wave, can still have immense and noticeable influences on the style and technique of their documentary counterparts. Often times, documentaries can point towards critical aspects of local culture and identity, but beyond that can also inform audiences of the power of globalization, and the dynamic nature of the film medium in general. Springboarding of the heavy connections one can find between films from vastly different regions, I initially made the suggestion that Professor Funari structure the class around thematic similarities between films. I felt it would be more compelling to look into the relationship between films rather than focus on segregating films by geographic origin and contain them within literal...
Buddhist Fundamentalism

Buddhist Fundamentalism

This summer, I have been researching how violent Buddhist fundamentalism in Sri Lanka, in part led by the monastic community, was made to be consistent with religious beliefs. In turn, this discussion also depends on how the political nature of the fundamentalism was influenced by the foundational philosophy and ethics of Buddhism. Hence, most of my readings have been social-theory texts on modeling fundamentalism, works on the politics and religious history of Sri Lanka, and of  Theravada...
Stupid Erotic Lines

Stupid Erotic Lines

It’s 3am. I’m exhausted from another night of puzzling over Barthes. I don’t understand what he tells me about drawing, so I close my book, take a pen, and instead draw to understand. “[T]he stupid line is one made in order to resemble or one made in order not to resemble: for example, the line made to undulate so as not to resemble a simple straight line” he writes. I clench my pen as I recall this and try so hard not to offend him by drawing a stupid line. To Barthes the only unacceptable line, it seems, is the stupid one; it makes me wonder at the cause for his disgust/abhorrence for such lines. Does Barthes perhaps think he draws stupid lines? “TW’s line is inimitable ( try to imitate it: what you will make will be neither his nor yours: it will be : nothing)”, he writes just a few pages before. Is this perhaps Barthes confessing his failure to imitate TW’s (Cy Twombly’s) line? I finish my drawing and hold it up next to the image of TW’s “Virgil.” And it looks fabulously stupid indeed. It lacks that excess that remains after writing in TW’s drawings, that “indolence,” that “la fatigue amourseuse: that garment dropped in a corner of the… canvas.” Barthes was certainly no artist; a prominent theorist, he spent most of his life writing, only taking to drawing in the privacy of his study whenever he grew weary of writing. “Marginal” is what he terms his practice in drawing. An amateur, he took pleasure in it as “drift”, “detumescence of the body”, and “exercise.”...
The importance of digitization amidst technological progress

The importance of digitization amidst technological progress

If your family has made any home movies, chances are they’re stored on something archaic like VCR tapes. Capturing media has progressed at an incredible pace, completely phasing out older methods day by day. Part of my research assistantship under the Hurford Center’s artist-in-residence, Vicky Funari, is to help digitize various videos she’s accumulated throughout her years of work as a filmmaker. Digitizing media is the process by which video and sound on tapes are converted into binary data to be stored and accessed on computers. Vicky aims to have her older work preserved in order to possibly use them in ongoing and future projects. However, different types of video storage formats, i.e. Hi8, DV, 1/4″ audio cassettes, each have their own digitization process. Currently, I’m working with DV tapes, which requires me to log and capture all the shots on the tape before running them through a video editor to start encoding them. The conversion of DV tapes is at a 1:1 ratio, meaning the duration of the media on the tape is equal to how long it will take to digitize. Most of the DV tapes have upwards of 62 minutes of film on them, making the total time to digitize one tape is around 2.5 to 3 hours. Furthermore, because modern software doesn’t have features built in the accommodate older video formats, older software like Final Cut Pro 7 must be used. I’ve been lucky enough to have done a bulk of my video recording on modern and user-friendly formats like SD cards, so my media is easily preserved wherever I go. My work with digitization has shown...
Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Translating Early-Modern Astrology

Hello friends! My name is James Truitt, and this summer I’m working with professor of history Darin Hayton through the Hurford Center’s Student Research Assistantship program. My work centers around translating a 14th century Latin text on astrometeorology, Firmin de Beauval’s Handbook of Changes in the Weather (available, conveniently enough, through Google Books). What’s astrometeorology, you ask? Well, people have been looking at the sky for a long time to figure out future weather conditions—after all, who wants to get caught in a thunderstorm unprepared? What might come as a surprise is the parts of the sky they’ve paid attention to—astrometeorology used the stars (well, mostly the planets) to predict future weather. The practice goes back to the Ancient Greeks, and was situated in the wider field of astrological knowledge, the complexities of which I’ve been familiarizing myself with in order to make sense of the text.   This brings us to my role in the project—translator. I have a long-standing fascination with translation, and Firmin’s Handbook gives me an excellent opportunity to explore all sorts of questions and issues about the act of rendering a text into another language. In particular, most of the translation I’ve done previously has been of literary texts, so working with something as technical as Firmin is giving me a good deal of new things to consider. That’s all for now, but you can expect another post from me before the summer’s out. Until...