2006 Ann Arbor Conference


The “National”/ “Nation” and Early Cinema

The Ninth International Domitor Conference was held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and hosted by the University’s Department of Screen Arts & Cultures. The conference was devoted to exploring how early cinema became “national” or “nationalized,” and how such discourses overlapped and intersected with questions of European colonialism, American imperialism, race, gender, and many other concerns.

The Call for Papers

The Ninth International Domitor conference will be hosted by the Department of Screen Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA), 30 May-2 June 2006. Conference activities will take place in the auditorium and assembly hall of the Rackham Graduate School, lecture room B of the Modern Language Building, and the Michigan Theater (a restored 1928 palace cinema).

The subject or theme of the conference will be the concept of the “national,” or the “nation,” and early cinema. This subject is of particular importance for early cinema because it encompasses a great number of different issues. If early cinema developed principally as an international phenomenon, for instance, when, where, how, and to what degree did it become “national” or “nationalized”? What conceptions of the “national” in circulation in the late 19th and early 20th centuries became bound up with early cinema: for instance, how was the “national” aligned with (or against) European colonialism, American imperialism, and the phenomenon of oceanic migrations? Given the Atlantic pervasiveness of social Darwinism and eugenics, how did films racialize and gender national differences, for both ideological and commercial purposes? In what ways could specific practices from production and distribution to exhibition, programming, and promotion be characterized as “national”? In what ways were audiences “nationalized” (or not) through early cinema programming? How might certain emerging genres (e.g., westerns, historical films, comedies or comic series, mythologicals) be described as “national,” or how might one or more genres reveal something particular about a “national” culture or its construction of identity?  How might the “national” be figured in close textual analysis (including intertitles and sound accompaniment), or how might close textual analysis reveal something about a “national” culture or its construction of identity?

The conference will involve four days of individual presentations, roundtable discussions, and special screenings. Because Domitor is a bi-lingual organization (English and French), all presentations and discussions will be presented in one of the two languages and translated in the other. Several programs of films (including 35mm) will be screened during the conference. We welcome suggestions for particular film titles and/or events as part of those programs.

Proposals are welcome for standard presentations (20 minutes in length or 10 pages double spaced) or for short presentations of research projects. The deadline for submitting either kind of proposal is 21 October 2005 (receiving date).  Please send four copies of your proposal to Richard Abel, 8375 Pine Cross Lane, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48103 USA.

The program committee that will select presentation proposals includes Richard Abel, Chair (University of Michigan), Giorgio Bertellini (University of Michigan), Rob King (University of Michigan), and Don Crafton (Notre Dame University). The committee will work in close consultation with Frank Kessler, president of Domitor.


Early Cinema: National or Transnational?

Frank Gray (University of Brighton), “Our Navy and Animated Imperial Entertainment in 1900”

Ian Christie (Birkbeck College, University of London), “‘By Jingo’: early patriotic entertainments with film”

Jonathan Auerbach (University of Maryland), “Nationalizing Attractions”

National Exhibition

Kaveh Askari (Wayne State University), “Media Aesthetics in the American Lyceu”

Paul Moore (Ryerson University), “Nationalist Film-going without Canadian-made Films”

Early Cinema and Immigration/Assimilation

Marta Braun (Ryerson University) and Charlie Keil (University of Toronto), “Living Canada: Image and National Short”

Marina Dahlquist (Göteborgs University/Stockholm University), “Teaching Citizenship via Celluloid”

Giorgio Bertellini (University of Michigan), “National (and Racial) Landscapes and the Photographic Form”

Early Cinema and Regional vs. National Issues

Sheila Skaff (University of Texas-El Paso), “Early Cinema and ‘The Polish Question’”

John Welle (University of Notre Dame), “The Cinema Arrives in Italy: City, Region, Nation in Early Film Discourse”

Early Cinema: National or Transnational?

Nico de Klerk (Nederlands Filmmuseum), “The Colonial Institute of the Netherlands”

Joshua Yumibe (University of Chicago), “From Switzerland to Italy and All Around the World: The Joseph Joye and Davide Turconi Collections” n”

Pelle Snickars (Swedish National Archive of Recorded Sound and Moving Images), “Archival nationalism: the recycling of early cinema”

National nonfiction?

Wolfgang Fuhrmann (University of Kassel), “Film and Ethnography in Germany, 1900-1930”

Oliver Gaycken (Temple University), “The National Character of Popular Science Filmmaking”

Frank Kessler (University of Utrecht), “Representing the National in Early Non-fiction”

National Exhibition

Canan Balan (University of St. Andrews), “As the Train Arrives: Promotion and Reception of the First Films in Istanbul”

Gunnar Iverson (NTNU, Trondheim), “The Norwegian Municipal Cinema System & the Development of a National Cinema”

Joseph Garncarz (University of Siegen), “The Emergence of a National Cinema in Germany, 1911-1914”

Sound/Language in Early Cinema: National or Transnational?

Charles O’Brien (Carleton University), “Sound-on-disc cinema and electrification in Britain, Germany, and the USA, 1907-1910”

Germain Lacasse (University of Montréal), “Joseph Dumais et la langue du cinéma muet canadien français”

Daniel Sánchez (Rey Juan Carlos University), “A National Voice? Spanish Lecturers and Their Attempt to Naturalize Films”

Genre: National or Transnational?

Matthew Solomon (CUNY-State Island), “Transnational Magic: Theatrical Orientalism and the Trick Film”

Amanda Keeler (Indiana University), “Seeing the world by staying at home: Slapstick, Modernity, and American-ness”

Rob King (University of Michigan), “‘A Purely American Product’: Tramp Comedy and White Working-Class Formation in the 1910s”

Genre: National or Transnational?

Dominique Nasta and Muriel Andrin (Université libre de Bruxelles), “European Melodrama and World War I: Narrated Time and Historical Time as Reflections of National Identity”

Jacques Polet (Université de Louvain-la-neuve), “Des vues animées au film historique: le referent national, entre representations identitaires et universalisantes

Gender: National or Transnational?

Andrea Haller (University of Trier), “Who is the ‘right’ star to adore? Nationality, masculinity, and the female audience in Germany during the First World War”

Mark Hain (Indiana University), “Black Hair, Black Eyes, Black Heart: Theda Bara and Race Suicide Panic”

Hollywood/national discourse

Wyatt Phillips (New York University), “The Material Preconditions of Genre Consciousness in American Silent Film and Subliterature”

Jennifer Bean (University of Washington), “The Hollywood Imagination: ‘Movie-Land’ and the Magic Cities, 1914-1916

Early Cinema as “Window on the World”

Tom Gunning (University of Chicago), “Early Cinema as Global Cinema”

Pierre Véronneau (Université de Montréal), “Au-delà national: une filmographie en question”

Jane Gaines (Duke University), “All the Kingdoms of the World: Women’s Dreams of Technological Dominance”

Language in Early Cinema: National or Transnational?

Rudmer Canjels (University of Utrecht), “Localizing American Mysteries: Translating Daily Life”

Torey Liepa (New York University), “Mind-Reading/Mind-Speaking: The Emergence of the Linguistic Consciousness in American Silent Cinema”

Early Cinema and Colonialism/Imperialism

David Mayer (University of Manchester), “Fights of Nations and national fights”

Panivong Norindr (University of Southern California), “Enrolling Early Cinema in the Service of the French Nation”

Greg Waller (Indiana University), “The Japanese Invasion, 1909-1915”



Dozens of early films were shown at the Michigan Theatre, courtesy of four major international archives. Click here to download a copy of the 2006 Schedule of Screenings (PDF) for a complete listing of archival titles.

Multi-Media Show
David Francis (US Library of Congress, retired) and Frank Gray (University of Brighton) presented a show entitled “Our Empire, 1900 (London),” featuring magic-lantern slides, films, lecture, and songs

Travelogues and Selected Non-fiction Films
Bryony Dixon (National Film and Television Archive) presented a selection of films in color from the Joye Collection, and Nico de Klerk (Nederlands Filmmuseum) presented a selection of films from the Colonial Institute.

American and European Comedies Series
Featuring such titles as Max Pedicure (Pathé, 1914) and The Riot (Keystone, 1913).

National “Epics” and Sensational Melodramas
Featuring such titles as The Story of the Kelly Gang (Tait, 1906) and Indian Massacre (101-Bison, 1912).