Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image: Winter term 2016

Kelli Weston, MA Film, Television and Media Studies graduate, reports on the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image’s (BIMI) recent events. 

This season the Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) has hosted a variety of collaborative events, from special screenings to horror film-inspired lectures. From its inception, BIMI has aimed to address a broad range of issues within an interdisciplinary context. Here are just a few highlights from the past year:

  • On October 14, BIMI hosted the annual University of Pittsburgh lecture with Adam Lowenstein, who spoke to guests about the urban spaces of Detroit, Michigan and all its implications in the recent horror film It Follows (2014). The discussion touched on the film’s framing of scarcity within an unconventional landscape and contemporary connotations. Listen to Lowenstein’s talk and the following conversation.


  • BIMI partnered with Birkbeck’s Sci/Film on October 28 to present a special Halloween screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) followed by a talk from Professor Alex Kacelnick of Oxford University on the nature of birds, complete with recordings.
  • On November 4, in collaboration with the Birkbeck Institute for Social Research and Dogwoof Pictures, BIMI presented The End of the Line (2009), a documentary based on Charles Clover’s 2006 book of the same title about the widespread decline in fish stocks around the world. After the screening of the film, Clover was in conversation with the BISR Guilt Group’s James Brown. You can find more information about the Guilt Group on their website.
  • On November 7, with the London Korean Film Festival, BIMI presented ‘Detours through the History of Korean Cinema’ a focus on essay films – My Korean Cinema (2006) by Kim Hong-Jun and Cinema on the Road: A Personal Essay on Cinema in Korea (1995) by Jang Sun-woo –  which both explore and interrogate the history of Korean cinema.
  • On November 11, just in time for filmmaker John Berger’s 90th birthday, BIMI and the Derek Jarman Lab presented Seasons of Quincy: The Four Portraits of John Berger followed by a symposium the next day where a group of panellists discussed Berger’s legacy as a broadcaster, activist, artist and art critic while showing clips of his work over the years.


  • On December 2, BIMI and Dogwoof Pictures presented The Age of Stupid (2009), Franny Armstrong’s drama-documentary-animation hybrid film starring Pete Postlethwaite about the last man on earth pondering the consequences of human apathy toward climate change.
  • On December 10, as part of the Children’s Film Club and the Irish Film Festival, BIMI screened Song of the Sea (2014) followed by a free shadow puppet theatre.
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Pricing players: Measuring football players’ media coverage merits

This post was contributed by Nick Eisen, Business Engagement Reporter, Birkbeck School of Business, Economics and Informatics

Image under CC courtesy of Eva Rinaldi via

Image under CC courtesy of Eva Rinaldi via

Media coverage of individual footballers may be as good as – or even better than – sporting performance as a criterion for estimating those players’ monetary value in terms of the return they can bring to their teams.

This view emerged from a talk on 18 January by Dr Pedro Garcia-del-Barrio, senior lecturer in Economics and Vice-Dean at the Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (UIC Barcelona).

Titled Economic Evaluation Of Football Players Through Media Value, the talk was presented by Birkbeck’s Sport Business Centre (BSBC) and facilitated by the Department of Management’s Dr Giambattista Rossi at the British Medical Association in Tavistock Square.

Measuring ‘non-sport skills’

In his talk, Dr Garcia-del-Barrio described a footballer’s media value score as the number of news stories referring to a player expressed as a multiple of the number of news stories of the average player in a sample derived from the top 2,500 individuals in a data set of more than 5,000 players. In recent years, this data set has been selected from the top English, German, Spanish, Italian and French leagues, as well as Portugal, Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and teams playing in the European Championship.

According to the speaker, this method, known as MERIT (Method for Evaluation and Rating of Intangible Talent), gives an estimate of a player’s “non-sport skills”. This Merit rating could also be used to estimate a theoretical value of transfer fees for professional footballers, and could offer a basis for estimating a media value ranking of teams and leagues.

Media value can be seen as connected to sporting performance but distinct from it, and Dr Garcia-del-Barrio noted that a player’s media value is important in determining that player’s market value, because that media value could be vital in areas such as team branding, and in increasing sales of tickets, TV rights and advertising space.

Other factors affecting the calculation of transfer fees, apart from sporting performance, include contract duration, the economic status of the hiring team, the player’s age at the end of the contract and years of experience, and the player’s media value as a proportion of the team’s media value.

MERIT – advantages and shortcomings

One advantage of Merit is that it enables comparison across sports: for example, the media value of a footballer versus that of a tennis player, who could never meet in a sporting arena, but may both appear in the media arena, where their respective presences can be compared.

At the same time, different Merit values (local, regional, international, time-related and others) could be calculated for one individual. For example, the same player could have one Merit value in one country and another Merit value in a different country, where coverage of the same player could differ between the media of the two countries.

The speaker also considered Merit’s potential shortcomings, one being that it does not currently distinguish between positive and negative coverage (although what constitutes “positive” and “negative” here might perhaps require further definition).

With a wealth of graphic presentations and data, Dr Garcia-del-Barrio also illustrated how Merit valuations compared with completed transfer fees.

An attentive audience responded with some complex questions to a fascinating and demanding field of study.

Find out more

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London Connections: ‘The Mediated City: A Tour of Media and Mediation in West End London’&‘London: A Renaissance City ?’

This post was contributed by Jeremy Mortimer, a student on Birkbeck’s MA Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance.

Scott Rodgers and tour participants in Fitzroy Square

Scott Rodgers and tour participants in Fitzroy Square

Birkbeck Arts Week on Wednesday featured a double bill of London events. First off a West End walking tour guided by Dr Joel McKim and Scott Rodgers who promised us that we’d be using the city to rethink the way we use media, and using media to rethink the way we see the city. From Fitzroy to Leicester Square (both spaces re-fashioned to reap the rewards of film industry activity, from ‘Georgian’ location to Red Carpet stargazing) we tracked the spores of London’s media creatures. We inspected a protected Banksy under the shadow of the BT (formerly GPO) Tower and submitted ourselves to airport-type security to peer in at the ants nest that is the BBC Newsroom. Whereas George Val Myer’s Broadcasting House (1932) looks like an Art Deco liner bearing down on Oxford Circus, the Apple Store occupies Regent House (1898), built on the site of the former Hanover Chapel in Regent Street, like a cathedral. Scott pointed out the Venetian mosaics over the ubiquitous logo, showing that when it was built the building already had connections with Paris, New York, St Petersburg and Berlin.

Venturing into Soho we passed the artisanal post-production houses, rendering, digitising and generally buffing up the raw material for untold hours of viewing, and in Soho Square found the ducal palaces of film production, the address for the likes of Twentieth Century Fox.  Joel told us how the film and tv industries had benefitted from the fibre-optic digital networks installed by banks for high-speed transfers, and how companies like Sohonet were now enabling post-production on the same film to take place simultaneously in London and Los Angeles. Meanwhile, just round the corner in Dean Street is Rippon Newsagent’s, which has been distributing media from its Georgian storefront  since 1791.

Joel McKim and tour participants in Clipstone Street

Joel McKim and tour participants in Clipstone Street

Dodging the crowds round the Eros Statue, we learned about the history of advertising in Piccadilly Circus, where flashing lights have been selling soft drinks since 1908. Perhaps, suggested Joel, the Piccadilly screens may at some future point be used for purposes other than advertising, as in the innovative Times Square Arts collaboration with contemporary artists, or the transnational project that used public screens to link Seoul and Melbourne. We reached Leicester Square in time for the five o’clock serenade from the Glockenspiel Clock to hear about the plans for the replacement of the Odeon West End  with a 10-storey hotel and cinema complex which Rowan Moore, in the Guardian, describes as being ‘the architectural equivalent of the premium-priced vats of tepid Coke on sale in the foyers of multiplexes’.

The re-development will mean the end of the Hand and Racquet, the pub in Whitcomb Street which is apparently named after a nearby tennis court used by Charles II, a sports facility roughly contemporary with the publication of Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667) which Dr Stephen Clucas considers to be the final flowering of the English Renaissance.

In the session which asked the question ‘London: A Renaissance City?’ Stephen Clucas spoke up for some of the powerhouses behind discoveries in the Natural Sciences in the mid-to-late Sixteenth Century as coming not from the city, but from the periphery of London. Specifically the mathematician and astronomer Thomas Harriot, who lived in the grounds of his patron Henry Percy’s  Syon House in Isleworth, and the astronomer and astrologer Dr John Dee who lived just downstream at Mortlake. We heard how in 1575 Queen Elizabeth called on Dr Dee in order to have a look at his ‘scrying glass’ but didn’t disturb him because he had just come from his wife’s funeral. Dee had a library of over 2000 printed books in Mortlake, and Henry Percy had one of the largest libraries in Europe, although the ‘Wizard Earl’ had to make do with regular deliveries of books when he did a seventeen-year stretch in the Tower for his part in the Gunpowder Plot.

The Earl was lucky to get away with his life. Dr Brodie Waddell told us how in 1590’s London, anyone found guilty of Grand Larceny, which meant the theft of anything of the value of one shilling or more, was sentenced to death. Those found guilty of lesser thefts would be tied to a cart and whipped through the streets. The population of London had doubled in the years from the mid-16th Century, to reach over 140,000 by the year 1600. Refugees from religious persecution in Holland flocked to the city and provided cheap labour. Bad harvests led to a three-fold increase in the price of flour between 1594 and 1597, and following the ruinous attempts to contain the Tyrone rebellion in Ireland, demobbed soldiers added to problems of vagrancy, crime, social disorder and sedition.

The backing track to the extraordinary developments on the Elizabethan stage was more likely to be the sound of apprentices rioting, or the plague bell, than the colloquy of classical scholarship. Dr Gillian Woods made the point in an analysis of Shakespeare’s most brutal play, Titus Andronicus that in the early 1590s, Shakespeare shows his villainous characters, the rapist brothers Chiron and Demetrius and their provocateur Aaron, ransacking classical authors for a guide to depravity and then adding new tortures of their own devising. And in a marked departure from classical convention, Shakespeare presents much 0f the violence on stage ‘thereby forcing the audience to examine a development of what is at the heart of the Renaissance endeavour’.

Dr Susan Wiseman concluded the session by paying tribute to a group of dedicated (or perhaps obsessed) men and women who took it upon themselves in the late 19th Century to record and preserve London’s ancient monuments and buildings. Chief amongst them was Charles Robert Ashbee, editor of the Survey of London. As Sue pointed out, many of the buildings photographed for the Survey are commonly used to illustrate Dickens’s London, whereas they actually provide an extraordinary visual record of London before the Fire. The 1590’s façade of Sir Paul Pindar’s house in Bishopsgate has been preserved in the V&A, but The Oxford Arms, a 17th Century coaching inn, was demolished in the late 1870s.

England came late to the Renaissance party, and none of the speakers at the session seemed confident to give a full affirmative to the ‘Was London a Renaissance City?’ question. But one thing was clear, that from Dr Dee plotting the course of Jupiter’s moons from the roof of Northumberland House on the Strand, to today’s digital pioneers developing the future’s equivalent to Dee’s ‘scrying glass’, London has incubated a pursuit of knowledge and artistic endeavour with all the energy and innovation of its classical antecedents.

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HOLD THE FRONT PAGE! Spanish media representations of violence against women

This post was contributed by Barbara Grut, a research student in Birkbeck’s Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies.

On Friday 2 November 2012, I attended a Centre for Iberian and Latin American Visual Studies (CILAVS) lecture given by Visiting Professor Dolors Comas d’Argemir, from the University of Tarragona, on a subject that is close to my heart: the media representation of violence against women in Spanish society.

Violence against women (and its representation in Spanish films) had been my chosen subject for my MA dissertation with Birkbeck’s Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies in 2011, and whilst I have chosen a different (and less harrowing) subject for my MPhil this year, listening to Professor Comas’ lecture in some ways felt like coming home. She made me realise how strongly I still felt about the issue – and indeed, it is difficult to remain dispassionate about the issue of gender-based violence.

I was particularly impressed not only by Professor Comas’ academic research into this field, but also by her political commitment to the issue. As a member of Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds, Dolors Comas has been both a City Councillor and a Member of the Parliament of Catalonia, and in that capacity, she has worked on various pieces of legislation to advance women’s rights. She is living proof that the old clichés about academics sitting in their ivory tower and politicians having lost touch with reality need not always be true – at least not in Catalonia!

From impunity to retribution: a long journey

In her lecture, Professor Comas gave an overview of how violence against women has been perceived by Spanish society over the course of history. For a long time, it was considered just a private issue: isolated domestic incidents between a man and his wife, behind closed doors. The male perpetrators went unpunished, and the female victims were to some extent “blamed” (she must have done something to deserve this?).

As women began to occupy positions of authority and responsibility in Spain’s post-dictatorship Transición, they started raising awareness about what were clearly not just isolated private incidents, but rather a fairly widespread societal phenomenon: the concept of “battered women” was born. Shelters were put in place. Women were identified as the victims of this phenomenon, but the perpetrators remained a nebulous entity.

However, a sea change took place around 1997, with the spine-chilling case of Ana Orantes, an ordinary housewife who appeared on television to talk about her experience of domestic violence, and who was beaten and burned alive by her husband a few days later. The brutality of the case rocked the nation, arguably because Spanish society could relate the phenomenon of violence against women to a real human being, with a name, a face, and an articulate voice – not just to a statistical figure.

In 2004, the statute books finally recognised that this was a form of violence overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against their female partners. Female victims could henceforth seek protective measures (such as restraining orders) and male perpetrators were brought to justice.

The media’s role: an ambivalent position

Having established that violence against women had become “an affair of state”, Professor Comas then went on to examine media representations of the phenomenon. She noted, first of all, an increase in the amount of reporting (all fatal incidents are now reported in the news), as well as a more informed way of representing the problem (looking not only at individual cases, but also investigating the root causes behind this societal phenomenon).

However, Professor Comas also drew the audience’s attention to some decidedly unhelpful media tactics, such as bringing victims and violent perpetrators together “for a reconciliation” on day-time chat shows (one such case in 2007 led to a young woman, Svetlana Orlova, having her throat slit by her jilted boyfriend, whose wedding ring she had refused on live television), or newspaper columnists who on occasion showed “understanding” for the formerly-humiliated-now-turned-violent boyfriend (Salvador Sostres “Un chico normal” article for El Mundo in 2011 had to be pulled, following public outrage).

With her recent experience as a member of the Audiovisual Media Council of Catalonia, Professor Comas concluded that media self-regulation had its pitfalls – an argument her audience could but agree with.

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