Welcome to Issue 108 of Senses of Cinema, where we begin the year by looking backwards. Our World Poll brings together film-goers from all corners of the globe to reflect on what cinema stood out in 2023. Amid a turbulent, crisis-ridden world, images continue to be propelled into motion as the dialogue between audiences and auteurs remains. We extend our gratitude to Joanna Batsakis, who provided editorial support to this years edition of the World Poll.

Pivoting our gaze to the future, we have a special dossier spotlighting the next generation of film critics. Guest editors (and lecturers at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, RMIT)  Djoymi Baker and Lucie McMahon mentored five emerging film writers and RMIT students to put together a thoughtful, incisive, and well-researched series of essays on the status of genre as an operative concept in cinema scholarship and criticism today. Film Genre Now: RMIT University Student Dossier assembles short, annotation-like entries on films as historically and aesthetically varied as Holding the Man (Neil Armfield, 2015) and Tetsuo: The Iron Man (Shinya Tsukamoto, 1989), examining the interactions of authorship, genre, and industrial convention as lenses of film analysis. Whether taking up issues of queer-coding, Australian adolescence, or German Expressionism as an antecedent to psychological horror, the featured writers – Drew Baker, Lachlan Campbell, Malachy Lewis, Ji Li, and Amy Maher – illustrate in fresh, heterogeneous ways that the serious study of film genre is alive and very well.

Our Features include the first English-language translation of Orlando Senna’s memoir on the production of Iracema – Uma Transa Amazônica (Iracema: An Amazonian Transaction, Orlando Senna, Jorge Bodanzky, 1974), an outstanding Cinema Novo piece. Here, a group of filmmakers smuggled themselves onto the Trans-Amazonian roadway to document the hardships and corruption spread by the military regime’s construction. The guerrilla-like film crew roam the jungle, creating documentary-infused fiction that reflects and refracts dictatorship-sicken Brazil. Looking further north, Callum McGrath examines how Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, 2015) and The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones, 2005) envision the American/Mexican border. Frontiers draw a line in the sand, but they divide rather than communicate. McGrath considers the very many differences and distances between the US and Mexico, in cinema that can criminalise Mexicans and embellish their ambiguous reality.   

Long-form interviews with an eclectic range of filmmakers populate Issue 108. Dirk de Bruyn interviews Australian experimental filmmaker Paul Winkler; Savina Petkova discusses cinema and desire with Catherine Breillat; Nolan Kelly highlights the creative output of Portland-based indies Steven Doughton and Jon Raymond, and Hamed Sarrafi probes the cinematic universe of Argentine filmmaker Rodrigo Moreno. The focus on Argentine filmmakers continues with James Vaughan’s interview with Martín Rejtman and Gary Kramer’s interview with Martin Shanly. Other highlights include Susana Bessa’s interview with Leonor Teles and Maja Korbecka’s interview with Wei Shujun.

The Great Directors section features two long overdue entries: Frankie Kanatas discusses the life and work of Greek director Yannis Dalianidis, perhaps the most influential and prolific voice of the Golden (Modern) Age of Greek cinema, while Ryan Akler-Bishop looks at the provocative work of French director Bertrand Bonello.

The ever-crowded festival circuit continues to churn; cinema-going persists, despite some markets struggling to recover to pre-pandemic levels and with cinema closures still taking place. Choosing which festivals to cover in this journal feels both more and less arduous with writer preference often leading the way. The arts are always political, and the recent crisis in Gaza has brought some festivals into focus for their refusal to stand with Palestine. IDFA’s initial statement – condemning protests at their opening night for including a banner that read “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” – prompted several filmmakers to withdraw their films from the festival. Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen and its Director Lars Henrik Gass also prompted this Message to the International Film Community with close to 2000 signatories, following an inflammatory Facebook post in October that Gass has since expressed regret for in a statement on the festival’s website. Without listing every statement from every festival that has recently weighed in, suffice it to say that how arts institutions and events respond to the types of global oppression and violence that are enacted in the real world matters every bit as much as their programming. 

To that end, this edition of the journal sees some of those significant films and moments captured, including regular contributor Kohei Usuda’s excellent writing on Zar Amir Ebrahimi and Guy Nattiv’s Tatami (2023) from the Tokyo International Film Festival and filmmaker James Vaughan’s brilliant discussion of Al-makhdu’un (The Dupes, Tewfik Saleh, 1972) from the New York Film Festival’s Revivals strand. Resistance and history take centre stage in Neil Young’s thorough report on DOK Leipzig’s focus, Film and Protest: Popular Uprisings in the Cold War; through Maja Korbecka’s continued examination of the films and structures of Chinese film festivals at Pingyao; and through Sneha Krishnan’s report from Indian Feature Film Festival Bhubaneswar. The issue also includes Łukasz Mańkowski’s writing on San Sebastian, Daniel Ribas on DocLisboa and Joshua Bogatin on Black Nights Film Festival Tallinn. Finally, in what we believe is a first for this section of the journal, we have our first collaborative festival report from a group of young critics who, under the tutelage of Senses regular Saige Walton, provide a survey of both the big and small titles making waves at last year’s Adelaide Film Festival. 

And now, in our Book Reviews section Tony McKibbin revised late Gilberto Perez’s The Eloquent Screen, not at all a news-flash, yet a relevant evaluation of his key approach to the critic’s rhetorics of film, both an intellectual and an affective enterprise worthy of consideration. The section also features an assessment of Efrén Cuevas’ microhistorical approach to documentary by Vladimir Rosas-Salazar, and a biting evaluation of Foster Hirsch’s take on 1950s Hollywood by Tom Ryan.

Last but not least, we’re thrilled to bring Nace Zavrl into the fold as our new managing editor. Nace is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies at Harvard University. His thesis looks at nonfiction cinema in the territories of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and he guest edited the After Yugoslavia dossier for Senses of Cinema in 2022, which examines the construction of truth in the region. Welcome Nace! 

As for you, dear reader, enjoy our 108th edition of the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema.

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