234 episodes

Interviews with Scholars of Film about their New Books
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Interviews with Scholars of Film about their New Books
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    Debashree Mukherjee, "Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    Debashree Mukherjee, "Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City" (Columbia UP, 2020)

    In 1935, the writer Baburao Patel writes the following about Bombay’s film industry:
    “In India, with financing conditions still precarious, the professional film distributor thrives. . . . He comes with a fortune made in share and cotton gambling, advances money to the producer at a killing rate of interest plus a big slice of royalty and recovers his investment by blackmailing the exhibitors into giving heavy and uneconomic minimum guarantees. His only aim in life is to multiply his rupee and in prosecuting this aim he does not worry about the future of the industry or about the existence of the producer or exhibitor.”
    It’s a hectic time for India’s film industry, as it is for films everywhere, as the silent era becomes the talking era. Debashree Mukherjee’s Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (Columbia University Press: 2020) examines this key period of India’s film industry, from finance and casting to screenwriting and production, and brings into view the experiences of the marginalised film workers and forgotten film studios that made up this early period of industry.
    In this interview, Debashree and I talk about the transition from silent to talking movies in Bombay, along with the historical context and working conditions for those in the city’s historical film industry.
    Those interested in learning more about the film industry in 1930s Bombay can visit the Wildcat of Bombay Instagram account at @wildcatofbombay (recommended by Debashree!)
    Debashree Mukherjee is Assistant Professor of film and media in the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. Debashree edits the peer-reviewed journal BioScope and has published in journals such as Film History and Feminist Media Histories. In a previous life Debashree worked in Mumbai’s film and TV industries as an assistant director, writer, and cameraperson. More information can be found on Debashree’s website, and she can be followed on Twitter at @Debashree2017.
    You can find more reviews, excerpts, interviews, and essays at The Asian Review of Books, including its review of Bombay Hustle. Follow on Facebook or on Twitter at @BookReviewsAsia.
    Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
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    • 43 min
    J. Lahti and R. Weaver-Hightower, "Cinematic Settlers: The Settler Colonial World in Film" (Routledge, 2020)

    J. Lahti and R. Weaver-Hightower, "Cinematic Settlers: The Settler Colonial World in Film" (Routledge, 2020)

    The medium of cinema emerged during the height of Victorian-era European empires, and as a result, settler colonial imperialism has thematically suffused film for well over a century. In Cinematic Settlers: The Settler Colonial World on Film (Routledge, 2020), Drs. Janne Lahti (Academy of Finland Fellow in history, University of Helsinki) and Rebecca Weaver-Hightower (Professor of English, Virginia Tech University) bring together a collection of scholars from a variety of disciplines to examine how film has been used to both justify and, in some cases, push against global systems of settler colonial conquest. The essays in the collection are truly global, stretching from Australia to central Asia to Hawaii, the American West, and beyond, and cover film history from the early twentieth century up to the “final frontier” of early twenty first century science fiction films. Together, Lahti and Weaver-Hightower make a strong case for further settler colonial cultural studies as a means of understanding how entertainment can be a force for resistance or a tool for colonial oppression.
    Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.
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    • 49 min
    I. Stavans and J. Lambert, "How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish" (Restless Books, 2020)

    I. Stavans and J. Lambert, "How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish" (Restless Books, 2020)

    Is it possible to conceive of the American diet without bagels? Or Star Trek without Mr. Spock? Are the creatures in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are based on Holocaust survivors? And how has Yiddish, a language without a country, influenced Hollywood? These and other questions are explored in this stunning and rich anthology of the interplay of Yiddish and American culture, entitled How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish (Restless Books, 2020), and edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert.
    It starts with the arrival of Ashkenazi immigrants to New York City’s Lower East Side and follows Yiddish as it moves into Hollywood, Broadway, literature, politics, and resistance. We take deep dives into cuisine, language, popular culture, and even Yiddish in the other Americas, including Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. The book presents a bountiful menu of genres: essays, memoir, song, letters, poems, recipes, cartoons, conversations, and much more. Authors include Nobel Prize–winner Isaac Bashevis Singer and luminaries such as Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick, Chaim Grade, Michael Chabon, Abraham Cahan, Sophie Tucker, Blume Lempel, Irving Howe, Art Spiegelman, Alfred Kazin, Harvey Pekar, Ben Katchor, Paula Vogel, and Liana Finck.
    Readers will laugh and cry as they delve into personal stories of assimilation and learn about people from a diverse variety of backgrounds, Jewish and not, who have made the language their own. The Yiddish saying states: Der mentsh trakht un got lakht. Man plans and God laughs. How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish illustrates how those plans are full of zest, dignity, and tremendous humanity.
    Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020).
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    • 48 min
    An interview with Sydney Stern

    An interview with Sydney Stern

    Herman J. (1897–1953) and Joseph L. Mankiewicz (1909–1993) wrote, produced, and directed over 150 pictures. With Orson Welles, Herman wrote the screenplay for Citizen Kane and shared the picture’s only Academy Award. Joe earned the second pair of his four Oscars for writing and directing All About Eve, which also won Best Picture.
    In The Brothers Mankiewicz: Hope, Heartbreak, and Hollywood Classics (University of Mississippi Press, 2019), Sydney Stern draws on interviews, letters, diaries, and other documents still in private hands to provide a uniquely intimate behind-the-scenes chronicle of the lives, loves, work, and relationship between these complex men. The book is part of the Hollywood Legends Series of the University of Mississippi Press.
    Despite triumphs as diverse as Monkey Business and Cleopatra, and Pride of the Yankees and Guys and Dolls, the witty, intellectual brothers spent their Hollywood years deeply discontented and yearning for what they did not have—a career in New York theater. Herman, formerly an Algonquin Round Table habitué, New York Times and New Yorker theater critic, and playwright-collaborator with George S. Kaufman, never reconciled himself to screenwriting. He gambled away his prodigious earnings, was fired from all the major studios, and drank himself to death at fifty-five. While Herman drifted downward, Joe rose to become a critical and financial success as a writer, producer, and director, though his constant philandering with prominent stars like Joan Crawford, Judy Garland, and Gene Tierney distressed his emotionally fragile wife who eventually committed suicide. He wrecked his own health using uppers and downers in order to direct Cleopatra by day and finish writing it at night, only to be very publicly fired by Darryl F. Zanuck, an experience from which Joe never fully recovered.
    Joel Tscherne is an Adjunct History Professor at Southern New Hampshire University. His Twitter handle is @JoelTscherne.
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    • 1 hr 13 min
    Paola Bonifazio, "The Photoromance: A Feminist Reading of Popular Culture" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Paola Bonifazio, "The Photoromance: A Feminist Reading of Popular Culture" (MIT Press, 2020)

    Paola Bonifazio’s The Photoromance. A Feminist Reading of Popular Culture (MIT Press, 2020) is the first feminist reading of photoromances that examines both its industry and its fandom, arguing for their relevance as transmedia narratives in a transnational market. The photoromance, a form of graphic storytelling that uses photographs instead of drawings, reached a readership of millions in the 1960s. Despite its popularity, the photoromance was—and still is—widely scorned as a medium, and its largely female audience derided as naïve, pathetic, and uneducated. Bonifazio reframes and problematizes the “natural” association between this genre and the female readers, claiming that the photoromance is relevant to both feminism and media culture. She investigates how female readers powered the Italian photoromance’s industry success and discusses the photoromance as the precursor of the phenomenon of convergence culture—as in the case of Senso, a photoromance inspired by director Luchino Visconti’s Senso.
    Nicoletta Marini Maio is professor of Italian and Film Studies at Dickinson College.
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    • 59 min
    Tavia Nyong’o, "Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life" (NYU Press, 2028)

    Tavia Nyong’o, "Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life" (NYU Press, 2028)

    Tavia Nyong’o's Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (NYU Press, 2018), examines a broad range of artists and disciplines, from Adrian Piper to Kara Walker to the meaning of the auroch's in the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Throughout the book, Nyong’o draws the reader's attention to the ways Black and queer artists construct alternative worlds in a context of brutality and discrimination. Negotiating between the twin poles of Afro-futurism and Afro-pessimism, Nyong’o summons the poetic powers of queer world-making that have always been immanent to the fight and play of black life.
    Andy Boyd is a playwright based in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of the playwriting MFA at Columbia University, Harvard University, and the Arizona School for the Arts.
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    • 53 min

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