Welcome to this year’s first issue of Senses of Cinema. Who could have imagined that a mere twelve months after we last published a World Poll the planet would be a very different place. The COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term repercussions not only in social and political life, but also in how culture and art are produced, distributed and consumed. As filmmakers worldwide find new ways to continue making films in a safe manner, distributors, festival organisers and exhibitors have been forced to reimagine cinema’s business model.
Many of us long for an afternoon at the movies, while others find solace in the expansive catalogue of quality cinema on streaming service catalogues. 2021 will be a pivotal year in cinema history as new voices, markets and ways of watching emerge. We will be here to document, chronicle and reflect on this artform that we love. This year will bring incredible challenges, but also exciting opportunities for a cultural form that thrives on experimentation and disruption. In the next few years there will surely be films exploring connection and disconnection, solitude and solace, individualism and solidarity in the face of tragedy.
As in previous years, we begin the year with our massive World Poll, a collection of entries by critics, programmers and film enthusiasts from across the globe, each sharing their favourite film experiences of the year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to note down must-see titles and to read about obscure films that may be inaccessible but still of interest. This year, almost every entry reflects on the disruption to viewing circumstances caused by COVID-19 – there is a lament for the cinema sensorial experience but also a sense of joy toward the increased access to film festivals and curated events that might not have been otherwise available. For many contributors, films in 2020 took on unintended meanings as a result of the unique social context. Cinema also proved to be an important salve in 2020, a time of isolation and upheaval.
In addition to our traditional World Poll, we have festival reports, interviews and book reviews that will kick start your year in cinema. We are very happy to feature interviews with Dieudo Hamada by Wilfred Okiche, Matthew Victor Pastor by Fiona Villella, James Scott by Sofie Cato Maas and Kazuo Hara by Łukasz Mańkowski.
Festival reports this issue include the Viennale by Leonardo Goi, Busan by Marc Raymond, Dharamshala by Sucheta Chakraborty, Golden Horse by Maja Korbecka, and two reports on Adelaide (by Saige Walton and Stuart Richards), while we also have reviews of books on Fassbinder, Kobayashi, Cary Grant, the London Arts Lab, and the notion of “expanded cinema”.
We at Senses also mourn the loss of Tom O’Regan, one of the seminal figures in Australian academic film studies, who died last year at the age of 64. A professor at the University of Queensland, Tom was an inspirational guide for multiple generations of film scholars and appreciators, and his presence will be sorely missed. Ben Goldsmith has penned a touching tribute to him, which we are proud to publish.
Lastly, we welcome to the team our new webmaster Varun Sanjeev Kalia. Welcome Varun!