Art History: Film History Meets Environmental History: Nation, Continent and the Archive
Film History Meets Environmental History: Nation, Continent and the Archive
Belinda Smaill, Monash University
The Valley is Ours (John Heyer, 1948) is the most celebrated film produced by the Australian National Film Board in the 1940s. It conveys both the abundance of the Murray River Valley and the optimism of post-war technological progress.
Producing meaningful histories of the past and unfolding present is crucial for understanding the anthropogenic dimensions of environmental change. Cultural histories, including film and media histories, need to be understood as a constituent part of environmental histories. The moving image has played a complex role in this aspect of Australian history, both denaturalising taken for granted assumptions about how we live and impact on the more-than-human world and promoting narratives of modernity that have facilitated the human domination and exploitation of the continent and its species. This presentation will offer an overview of a project that has grappled with film production and circulation in the post-war decades, particularly nonfiction film. The project has developed a methodology to synthesise concerns in film studies and environmental history. The broader aim of this research is to enhance our knowledge of the way cultural production strategically shapes the changing relationship between people and the Australian environment.
Belinda Smaill is an Associate Professor in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University. She is the author of The Documentary: Politics, Emotion, Culture (2010) and Regarding Life: Animals and the Documentary Moving Image (2016). She is currently researching an ARC Discovery Project titled “Remaking the Australian Environment Through Documentary Film and Television.”