Clues, Mysteries, Histories, and Mystories: Essay Filmmaking Approaches to Family History
Birkbeck Cinema, April 28th 2018,
1.00pm to 5.30pm

A Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image Event with The Centre for Birkbeck Research in the Aesthetics of Kinship and Communit

The essay film dealing with family history is a not uncommon form of first-person filmmaking. Recent prominent examples have included Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell and Alina Marazzi’s For One More Hour With You. Family historiography is also increasingly at the centre of approaches to filmmaking research in the academy. For example, in a statement accompanying the academic publication of her short autobiographical and auto-ethnographic film Lunch with Family, filmmaker and essay film scholar Romana Turina asks the following two research questions about essayistic film practice around family histories:

  • Can the mediation of silenced history in film constitute a platform for the revelation of the mechanism behind the personal negotiation of postmemory?
  • How can an epistemological investigation reveal the impact of loss on the formation of identity?


In this event, we will screen some examples of work engaging with these and connected questions around first-person filmmaking on family-related history projects in an academic research context: San Sabba (2017), another film about her family written and directed by Turina, and Clues (1995) by US scholar filmmaker Christian Keathley, who is revisiting his family history in new work The Signature Effect (in production). Of his earlier film, Keathley has written

[Romana Turina, “Lunch with Family”, Screenworks, 8.1, 2018.

Clues […] was modeled on Greg Ulmer’s concept of ‘mystory’ – a genre that brings together various discursive realms that are typically kept separate: the professional, the social/public, and the personal. My video worked together these three: an adaptation of the first part of [Carlo] Ginzburg’s essay [“Clues”]; the story of the Lindbergh baby’s kidnapping; and my personal story of having been adopted.

[Christian Keathley in Grant and Keathley, “The Use of an Illusion: Childhood cinephilia, object relations, and videographic film studies,” Photogénie, 0, June 2014:]

Both filmmakers will introduce and discuss their work with fellow invited participants from Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image and the Centre for Birkbeck Research in the Aesthetics of Kinship and Community, including Dr Andrew Asibong and Dr Silke Arnold de Simine.

Filmmaker Biographies:
Professor Christian Keathley
. Professor in the Film and Media Culture Department at Middlebury College, USA, Keathley received his Ph.D. in Film Studies from the University of Iowa, and his M.F.A. in Filmmaking from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He received a B.A. and an M.A. in English and Film Studies from the University of Florida. He is the author of Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees (Indiana University Press, 2006), and co-author (with Jason Mittell) of The Videographic Essay: Criticism in Sound & Image (caboose, 2016).

Dr Romana Turina. Screenwriter, scholar, journalist, director. She has recently been appointed as Senior Lecturer in Screenwriting at the Arts University Bournemouth. Her 2016 film Lunch with Family was shortlisted for the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s 2016 Research in Film Awards in the Inspiration Award public category. Her essay films, created for festivals and online distribution, explore the essay film form as a medium for the expression of silenced history, memory and postmemory.

Chair/Organiser: Professor Catherine Grant (Digital Media and Screen Studies, Birkbeck, University of London).