B-Film: The Birmingham Centre for Film Studies creates a scholarly space for forceful argument and keen collaboration. Shifting this scholarly space online because of the pandemic has even resulted in a surge of activities and audiences for what is, after all, a screen-based research centre.

Its annual events, which include a PGR symposium and an annual guest lecture giving by a leading academic in World Cinema, both ran online in recent weeks and attracted massive audiences that included participants from all over the world. Even events run at a local level, such as the monthly PGR seminars for postgraduates engaged in research on film and television studies at the University of Birmingham, have resulted in thriving, inclusive debates.

Unsurprisingly, all this scholarly activity and collaboration has resulted in a series of collaborations, outputs and activities with global impact. For example, special events such as its seminar on how to make video essays given by Film Technician and PhD student Nina Jones and Professor Rob Stone have found huge audiences on the day and continue to spread online in its edited version.

A screengrab of a zoom meeting

The spirit of collaboration is also behind the publication of a new article that provides an original framework for the dynamics of World Cinema and our ethical approach to the subject. ‘World Cinema between the Rock of the Unknowable and the Hard Place of the As yet Unknown’ is a 10,000 word article that was co-written over two years by Professor Stone and Luis Freijo, a PhD student who holds an M4C DTP Scholarship within the AHRC and was Research Assistant with B-Film throughout 2018-20.

Thanks to the support of the University of Birmingham, this article has just been published in open access with downloadable PDF in the Transnational Screens journal dedicated to publishing research aimed at breaking down traditional geographical divisions on any aspect of transnational film, television, streaming culture and screen media practices.

The article questions what is unknowable and as yet unknown about World Cinema and argues that the answers lie in how World Cinema gains meaning(s) through Derrida’s process of différance (difference and deferral of meaning), particularly through genre. Analyses of Wind River (Sheridan 2017), Chung Hing sam la/Chungking Express (Wong 1994), Faa yeung nin wa/In The Mood for Love (Wong 2000), Moonlight (Jenkins 2016) and Widows (McQueen 2018) target the logjam of ethical hesitancy in approaching World Cinema and posit empathy and its deferral as essential to an understanding of the dynamics of the cinemas of the world.

a collage of film stills

The established and growing reputation of B-Film as a centre of excellence in the study of World Cinema, film genres, theory and practice of adaptation, television and performance, film and philosophy, and a wide variety of creative practice as research will no doubt be enhanced by recent and forthcoming invitations and publications. Dr Lester recently gave an invited lecture to the University of Sussex on the subject of her research, Dr Watts spoke to the French Balzac Society on the subject of Balzac on Screen, and Professor Stone was interviewed on international Korean television about the impact of Korean cinema on the world.

Three new books with Bloomsbury include The History of French Literature on Film by Dr Andrew Watts, who co-directs B-Film, and Professor Kate Griffiths (Cardiff), Sense8: Transcending Television co-edited by Professor Stone and Professor Deborah Shaw (Portsmouth), and Horror Films for Children: Fear and Pleasure in American Cinema by Dr Cat Lester, all of which will enjoy online launches with B-Film.

three book covers side by side