Critical Perspectives on the Films of Adam Curtis is a one-day, interdisciplinary online conference hosted in collaboration with the University of Nottingham's Institute for Screen Industries Research and sponsored by the Institute of Historical Research which critically examines the films and ideas of the controversial documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis.

The keynote speakers for the conference are Professor Laura Rascaroli and Professor Brian Winston.

Professor Rascaroli is Professor of Film and Screen Media at University College Cork, where she lectures on film theory, on documentary and on European and world cinema. She is the author of The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and the Essay Film and How the Essay Film Thinks, and is the General Editor of Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media. She has delivered over eighty invited lectures internationally in universities, cultural institutes and at film festivals and has taught courses in Cuba, Italy and Spain.

Professor Winston is the Chair of the Lincoln School of Film and Media, founding chair of the British Association of Film, Television and Media Studies and has served as a governor of the British Film Institute. He has published over 17 books and received a US prime-time Emmy for documentary script writing as well as a Special Jury prize from the British University Council for Film and Video.

Adam Curtis is one of Britain's most prominent and controversial documentary filmmakers. From 1992's BAFTA award winning warning about the dangers of technocracy in Pandora's Box to his critical analysis of the ideological origins of Islamic terrorism in 2015's Bitter Lake, Curtis ranges over a vast historical, cultural and intellectual canvas.

For some cultural commentators, Curtis' documentaries, like the recent six-film BBC series Can't Get You Out of My Head, are 'dazzling masterpieces' which bring to life concepts and approaches borrowed from the history of emotions, sociology, psychology and philosophy. For others, Curtis uses his privileged access to BBC archives to patch together discrete phenomena - from the Sex Pistols' Who Killed Bambi to the revolutionary operas of Chairman Mao's wife, Jiang Qing - into an incoherent and misguided grand narrative of historical and sociological change.
Despite this prominence (or perhaps because of it), Curtis' films and the history of ideas they present has received very little academic scrutiny. This scrutiny could extend to the range of material collated by Curtis, how these are presented or constructed, as well as the reception of his ideas among critics and a broader public.

The films of Adam Curtis serve as a useful vehicle to explore broader intellectual questions: how do scholars approach film as a historical text? How do filmmakers convey political concepts and ideas? How are documentary films related to more conventional sources of political thought?
Potential approaches and topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • The History of Emotions
  • Intellectual History/History of Ideas
  • Conceptions of the Self
  • Capitalism/Power
  • Patterns/Time in History
  • Memory
  • The Screen Archive in Historical Practice
  • Critical Reception and Audiences
  • The BBC and Public History
  • iPlayer and YouTube as Forms of Distribution
  • Historiography/Narrative
  • Locating Curtis in Film Traditions

It is intended that some contributors to the conference will have the opportunity to publish papers as part of an edited collection.

To submit a paper for this conference please email a biography (of no more than 300 words) and an abstract (of no more than 300 words) for presentations of 20 minutes per paper to Dr David Robinson. The call for papers will close on the 1st July 2021 and the successful applicants will be notified no later than the 14th July 2021. Full details about the call for papers is now available.

This event is supported by the Institute for Screen Industries Research, University of Nottingham.

Follow Critical Perspectives on the Films of Adam Curtis on twitter

View on Twitter