Cinema and The Edgy City: Johannesburg, Carjacking, And The Postmetropolis

Oliver Schmitz’s Hijack Stories (2000) is a story of cross-over cultures and mixed genres set in Johannesburg. In this blurring of boundaries, he presents us an interplay between the dangerous city of both fact and fiction. Schmitz’s cinematic depiction of the city, weaves in and out, as well as to and from yuppie neighbourhoods and Soweto. Thus, we see how post-apartheid Johannesburg is a place of hybrid identities not only in the different spaces of the city, but through the influence of global hip-hop cultures, as well as the real and imagined perceptions of the city’s ‘citizens’. This paper examines the way in which Schmitz’s film intersects these relationships in this edgy city.

Fortification and Philip K. Dick: Southern California’s Boundaries

My paper involves film, literature, and architecture as expressions of the vernacular landscape across time. Philip K. Dick’s dystopian visions, although often set in distant futures, reveal a great deal about the role space plays in late capitalist society (particularly in Southern California). Although the main emphasis of my paper is on Total Recall(1991), my paper will also briefly mention some other Dick-inspired films such as Blade Runner (1982), Minority Report (2002), Paycheck (2003), and the soon to be released Scanner Darkly (2006). What is interesting to me is that these films draw on local source material, and the architectural styles used in filmmaking reflect local architectures and uses of space. The security of brutalist buildings found in the films have parallels with the anti-drug and immigration policies of the United States at the time Dick wrote the original stories. Even more important, these themes still resonate today.

Presentation for the International Visual Sociology Association @ Universita degli Studi di Urbino “Carlo Bo” (July 4, 2006)

Fortification and Visual Culture in Southern California

  • Presentation for Crossing the Boundaries XIV @ SUNY Binghamton (April 22, 2006)
My paper specifically focuses on the relationship between literature, film, and architecture since the 1970s as being constitutive of the experience of Southern California. Specifically, it is about the ways in which visual representation and the built environment have been centered around the notions of fortification and boundary. Southern California has long been thought of as a frontier, and arguably it did not close at the close of the 19th century. As a result the built environment and visual culture as continuously organized space similar to frontier outposts – from the U.S. Mexico Border to LAX.

Rethinking Cinematic Boundaries in Hong Kong Cinema

  • Presentation for the New York Conference on Asian Studies at Bard College (October 30, 2004)
This paper will focus on the historical ephemerality of boundaries in regards to Hong Kong’s cinema in order to understand the multi-leveled negotiations that make up its cinematic vernacular. The role of place and location is both integral to the understanding of cities, as well as cinematic narratives. Although this paper mentions readings of specific films, this is not my emphasis. Rather the focus of this paper is an examination of how the pre- and post- 1997 movie industry reflects not simply the city’s engagements with the issues surrounding postcoloniality. Furthermore, I shall situated the local in long term historical processes.