Small Cinemas

Mette Hjort’s seminal book on Danish film culture (Small Nation, Global Cinema, 2005) set up the prototypical model for exploration of small cinemas. I have been interested and committed to the small cinemas project ever since. By the time I came to be aware of this work, I was already well advanced in editing the volume Cinema of the Balkans, piblished in 2006 — for it, I had to research in detail and weigh difficult decisions of what to include in a volume featuring 24 films from more than ten different countries. I had become all too aware of the specifics and idiosyncrasies of small cinemas. In 2007, I contributed a chapte on Bulgaria for a book on the specifics of small countries film industries that Hjort and Duncan Petrie co-edited (Edinbirgh University Press). Other books that followed, equally conscious of the importance of the ‘small cinemas’ paradigm, include the edited collection Cinema at the Periphery (2010, Wayne State UP, with Belen Vidal and David Martin-Jones) and the collection Moving People, Moving Images (2010, St Andrews Film Studies, with William Brown and Leshu Torchin).

For more than a decade I have also been involved with the peripatetic series of conferences on small cinemas, having been a featured speaker at the events in Timisoara (Romania), Krakow (Poland), and Bilbao (Spain). I have been privileged to be able to travel to many other ‘minor’ countries and get acquainted with the local film culture — places like Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Morocco, Israel, Australia, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Hungary, Czechia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, and others. Witnessing the dissolution of multi-ethnic state entities such as the USSR and Yugoslavia, and the emergence of multiple new singular national cinemas, gave me food for thought (I wrote about these matters in a 2005 collection edited by Aniko Imre and published by Routledge). Being based in Scotland has made me acutely aware of the specific conditions under which film industries and cultures evolve in places that are relatively independent and yet part of a bigger national film tradition — as we see in Quebec or Kurdistan, or in places such as Nagorno Karabakh or Sakha autonomous republic. I am also influenced by the approach that requires that diasporic groups are included in the study of national film traditions, so in working on the series of books on film festivals I routinely commissioned work that reflected on these dimensions (tables on diasporic Indian, Kurdish, and Palestinian film festivals, for example). I also gave priority to commissioning work that would reflect film festivals that provided platform for such cinemas.

In 1998, as a young lecturer for a programme offered by distance learning, I traveled to Israel and Palestine to deliver teaching to postgraduate studies there. These days in Jerusalem and Ramallah shaped my enduring interest in the cinema of the region; one of the important resulting projects was the web-site, which Eva Jorholt (Copenhagen) and I maintained over several years. Later on, as honorary professor at the University of Hong Kong, I came to know and appreciate the cinema of this small territory, beyond its martial arts blockbusters. The edited project on the four Asian ‘Ten Years’ films and the new political cinema of Asia, realised in collaboration with Gina Marchetti, came as a result of these involvements (Frames CInema Journal, 2019). And, it is all to be continued (TBC).

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PALESTINEDOCS.NET (2014, with Eva Jørholt)


TEN YEARS: FOUR FILMS FROM ASIA (2019, with Gina Marchetti)


THE CINEMA OF “THE OTHERS”, 1960s (2021)