Cinema Studies presents conference on film diplomacy

Penn Cinema Studies will present a one-day conference on Friday, April 18, exploring the role of film, video, and digital media as tools of social change and control in global politics.

Scholars, filmmakers, and government officials will gather in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center for the Second Annual Dick Wolf Cinema Studies Conference, “Film Diplomacy in the Digital Age,” which opens at 9 a.m. in the Kislak Center for Special Collections on the sixth floor.

Organized by Peter Decherney, director of the Cinema Studies Program, the conference will focus on how film and digital media are used by governments, NGOs, and grassroots movements in Iran, Russia, Japan, Turkey, and the United States, among others.

Film Diplomacy

Alec Ross, who previously worked as the senior adviser for innovation to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, will provide the keynote address. Ross was instrumental in shaping the State Department’s digital media policies under Clinton. A senior fellow at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, he served as an adviser on technology-enabled diplomacy.

Highlights of the conference include moderated discussions on the politics of the foreign language Oscar competition, Iran’s use of social media, “cool” media in Turkey and Japan, Russian musicians and activists Pussy Riot, Angelina Jolie in Bosnia, and the State Department’s global film projects.

The Dick Wolf Cinema Studies Conference is named after and supported by Dick Wolf, a 1969 Penn alumnus and creator of the hit television franchise “Law & Order.” Last year’s inaugural conference addressed “The End of Cinema and the Future of Cinema Studies.”

Decherney calls this year’s conference a “double sequel” to last year’s conference, and to a conference he organized in 2006 that also discussed film diplomacy. He says the United States and other countries have been using film to influence U.S. and international politics since the medium was invented.

The conference will also explore how film continues to be used to influence politics in the age of the internet.

“The web, and social networks in particular, have increased both participation from below and control from above,” Decherney says. “Often, even in the same example, it isn’t always clear which force we are looking at. But it is clear that visual images have the ability to circulate rapidly and stir political action. I think we have brought together some of the most qualified experts to give us a picture of how film is functioning as a political instrument around the globe today.”

Originally published on April 17, 2014