“Anthropocene Cinema” with Selmin Kara

Join us Friday, October 9, 2015 for the next instalment of ‘The Future in Question’ Speaker Series with Selmin Kara from the Ontario College of Art and Design.

“Anthropocene Cinema”

Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller Gravity (2013) introduced to the big screen a quintessentially 21st-century villain: space debris. The spectacle of high-velocity 3D detritus raging past terror-struck, puny-looking astronauts stranded in space turned the Earth’s orbit into not only a site of horror but also a wasteland of hyperobjects, with discarded electronics and satellite parts threatening everything that lies in the path of their ballistic whirl. In the same year, techno-industrial waste made another center-stage appearance in South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho’s international sci-fi film Snowpiercer (2013), this time as an anarchic agent of revolution. Snowpiercer depicts the class struggles among the survivors of an accidental ice age triggered by a human experiment aimed at counteracting global warming, but which left the remnants of humanity confined to the claustrophobic space of a train ceaselessly circling the globe. The cruelty of the technofixes put in effect in order to maintain the carefully bio-engineered mini-ecosystem on board the train eventually lead to a revolt. The revolutionary cause calls for extreme measures, thus prompting one of the main characters to fashion a bomb out of the highly addictive and also highly combustible drug Kronol, which is made of industrial waste. The bomb annihilates (almost) everyone aboard the train – which is to say: nearly all of humanity.

In her talk, Selmin Kara uses these two films’ fantasies of waste as an entry point to talk about the emerging Anthropocene imaginary in cinema. More specifically, she argues that we can now speak of a cinema of the anthropocene, which is as much a product of new filmic technologies in post-cinema as the conditions of global capitalism that have sped up the catastrophic impacts of human geo-engineering.

Still image from Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller Gravity (2013).
Still image from Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi thriller Gravity (2013).

Bio: Selmin Kara is an Assistant Professor of Film and New Media at OCAD University. She has critical interests in digital aesthetics and tropes related to the anthropocene and extinction in cinema as well as the use of sound and new technologies in contemporary documentary. Selmin is the co-editor of Contemporary Documentary and her work has also appeared and is forthcoming in Studies in Documentary FilmPoiesis, the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Image in Digital Media, Music and Sound in Nonfiction Film, Post-Cinema, and The Philosophy of Documentary Film.

Selmin Kara
Selmin Kara