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Associate Professor Leigh Mercer | ALCESXXI conference in Zaragoza, Spain

October 1, 2017

I spent July 3-7 at the ALCESXXI conference in Zaragoza, Spain. The organization of this conference roughly follows that of the ACLA conference, with seminars that run over the course of a week and are attended by 5-10 participants. Seminar attendees present a piece of writing that they are developing and workshop it over the course of the week; they help their co-participants do the same. The title of my presentation was “How Should We Critically Position Home Movies? The Case of Madronita Andreu-Klein.”

The seminar I attended was titled “Cine español y pensamiento crítico: En defensa de la teoría” (“Spanish Cinema and Critical Thinking: In Defense of Theory”) and was organized by Steven Marsh from the University of Illinois, Chicago. There were 8 participants in my seminar, including a fiction filmmaker from the Canary Islands, several U.S.-based academics from such universities as Brown and the University of Oregon, a professor from the University of Vienna, and a doctoral cinema studies student from Spain. The diversity of the group was far greater than that of any other conference panel on which I had presented in the past; it was incredibly enriching to be surrounded by such a range of voices working in Spanish cinema studies.

Beyond the immediate impact this conference had on the journal article that I am currently preparing, there were numerous takeaways for me in terms of my pedagogical practice. I regularly teach a graduate seminar on Spanish national cinema as well as an undergraduate survey of Spanish film. While in both of these courses I introduce theory to complement the films that students screen outside of class, this seminar exposed me to a significant number of new theoretical readings, on the fictional representation of children, on the one hand, and on documentary filmmaking, on the other, and I am looking forward to sharing these new readings with my students. Though theoretical topics such as “el otro cine español” (“the other Spanish cinema”) and Spain’s positionality with regards to transnational cinema have a regular place in both my undergraduate and graduate seminars, many of my fellow presenters were working with experimental or avant-garde film, or documentary filmmaking, and I am encouraged to incorporate more of these genres in my classroom, thanks to our discussions about how to frame them for undergraduate students particularly. Finally, much of the discussion at my ALCESXXI seminar centered on imploding the idea of national or even transnational cinema, since all of the films on which the participants presented outlined the inadequacies of this organizational paradigm in some fashion. For this reason, the most significant impact this ALCESXXI seminar will have on my teaching is that I am inspired to rethink both of these courses beyond the framework of national cinema.