Above: Two instances of wind from Tarkovsky's "Zerkalo" (Mirror), spliced together


New book due Aug 2012: Ecocinema Theory and Practice


‘Most academic film studies professionals don’t take nature film seriously, either historically or theoretically. Indeed, there are few better indications of the educationally counterproductive gap between the humanities and the sciences’, Scott Macdonald, Adventures of Perception (2009) p. 156.

A new academic book, published by Routledge is due out in a couple of months and will add to the small field in which I’m working.

Book cover: ecocinema theory and practice 2012

Two of the author/editors, Stephen Rust and Salma Monani are part of the US led ecomediastudies.org site which I’ve recently been asked to contribute. This upcoming title will join Paula Willoquet-Maricondi’s 2010 book Framing the World: explorations in ecocriticism and film, probably the most comprehensive book to date on the area, although Scott MacDonald, a film theorist with a literary background, had signalled attention needed to be paid to nature films in several articles in mid 2000s; he also coined the word ‘ecocinema’ in 2004. My own area, investigating experimental cinema that reference ecological perspectives, is a subset again of this new field. I  expect most of the texts in the new book will be looking at feature length documentary or mainstream films. Nevertheless, its encouraging that more work is been done in this area. Key ideas of ecocriticism are coming from literary theory and only recently have been taken up by other cultural disciplines such as cinema.

Ecocinema Theory and Practice (2012) described as the first of its kind, will be  ‘an anthology that offers a comprehensive introduction to the rapidly growing field of eco-film criticism, a branch of critical scholarship that investigates cinema’s intersections with environmental understandings. It references seminal readings through cutting edge research and is designed as an introduction to the field as well as a sourcebook. It defines ecocinema studies, sketches its development over the past twenty years, provides theoretical frameworks for moving forward, and presents eloquent examples of the practice of eco-film criticism through essays written by the field’s leading and emerging scholars. From explicitly environmental films such as Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow to less obvious examples like Errol Morris’s Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the pieces in this collection comprehensively interrogate the breadth of ecocinema. Ecocinema Theory and Practice also directs readers to further study through lists of recommended readings, professional organizations, and relevant periodicals’.

Note the image on the cover is from Tartovsky’s feature length film ‘Stalker’ – I love how Tartovsky has moments where natural phenomena have such a central role in his films, as seen in the wind clips above. ‘Andrei Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, and is widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century’.

About the Editors

Stephen Rust is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Oregon where he teaches film history and media aesthetics. His research explores the intersections of media, culture, and environment. His work has appeared in such journals as Film & History, ISLE, and Jump Cut. He is currently writing an article on ecocinema for the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Literature and Environment and a book on the representation of global environmental change in contemporary Hollywood cinema.

Salma Monani is Assistant Professor at Gettysburg College’s Environmental Studies department. As a humanities scholar her research and teaching include explorations in literary ecocriticism and cine-ecocriticism. She has published in peer reviewed journals such as ISLE and Local Environments, co-edited a special collection devoted to ecomedia and just sustainability for Environmental Communication: The Journal of Nature and Culture, and is currently working on a book project examining contemporary indigenous ecocinema expressions in the Americas.

Sean Cubitt is Professor of Global Media and Communications at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, Professorial Fellow in Media and Communications at the University of Melbourne and Honorary Professor of the University of Dundee. His publications include Timeshift: On Video Culture, Videography: Video Media as Art and Culture, Digital Aesthetics, Simulation and Social Theory, The Cinema Effect and EcoMedia. He is the series editor for Leonardo Books at MIT Press. His current research is on digital light technologies, media art history and ecocriticism.

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