The Truth 24 Times Per Second

The Carsey-Wolf Center’s Spring 2019 screening series at UC Santa Barbara explores the international legacies of cinematic New Waves, including films from France, Cuba, China, Italy, and Iran. Whatever their disparate eras or sources, these selections share an emphasis on stylistic and narrative experimentation, a rejection of traditional film conventions, a sympathetic response to youth culture, an insistence on emotional verisimilitude, and a critical examination of contemporary social and political issues.

Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour (France-Japan/1959), written by novelist Marguerite Duras, uses the post-war affair between a French actress and a Japanese architect as the basis for a poignant meditation on memory and forgetfulness. The two struggle with their differing perceptions of the Hiroshima bombing and its lingering effects, both societal and personal (one of which is the end of their affair). Resnais, a former editor, employs a dense, elliptical narrative structure that includes documentary footage and brief flashbacks to the lovers’ previous lives, among other innovations. Resnais was a generation older than Truffaut, Godard, and other French New Wave filmmakers, but his innovations proved influential on their work.

Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment (Cuba/1968) is a complex character study set in Havana during a period of social turmoil, between the Bay of Pigs invasion and the missile crisis. The protagonist, Sergio, is a wealthy bourgeois aspiring writer who elects to remain in Cuba after his wife and friends flee to Miami. Living a rootless existence in an atmosphere of anomie, Sergio is soon caught up in the social and political Cold War forces engulfing Cuba, and the post-revolution economic upheavals that are causing his privileged class to disappear. As in Renais’ film the narrative which unfolds is fragmented and highly subjective, in a style meant to evoke the process of memory and that requires active participation from the spectator.

Zhang Yimou’s Red Sorghum (China, 1987), based on the novel by Nobel laureate Mo Yan, chronicles life in a rural Chinese village during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Though seemingly more conventional in style and narrative structure than other New Wave films, Red Sorghum shares its determination to challenge Hollywood conventions, eschewing ersatz sophistication and easy sentimentality in favor of simplicity and emotional directness, expressed in unromanticized depictions of poverty, sexual abuse, and sudden violence. The overall effect at times approaches a state not unlike magic realism. The film was also distinctive for its time and place in centering its story on a young girl, an emphasis which abetted a critique of Chinese society’s traditional sexual mores and treatment of women.

Though diverse in their blending of themes and techniques, what emerges from viewings of these and other New Wave films is a renewed sense of the cinema’s potential as a narrative art form, one illuminating aspects of the human condition far surpassing the boundaries of Hollywood storytelling.

Browse more programs in Carsey-Wolf Center.

The Fallen Angel

“I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel…”
— Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

Since its first (initially anonymous) publication in 1818, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein has intrigued successive generations of readers and critics while inspiring dozens of cinematic adaptations and re-imaginings. In honor of the novel’s 200th anniversary the Carsey-Wolf Center at UC Santa Barbara presented Frankenstein: Afterlives, a series of screenings and interviews that explored the lasting impact of Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece on popular culture.

The inaugural program in the series uses the 2017 biographical film Mary Shelley as a springboard for discussion about the author’s relationship to her most famous work, and the various interpretations of Frankenstein arising from scholarly examination of her life. UC Santa Barbara’s Professor Julie Carlson frames Shelley’s story, both personal and fictional, as a series of oppositions – radicalism vs. conformity, class distinctions vs. egalitarianism, intellect vs. imagination, pragmatism vs. idealism, art vs. commerce – while noting that it is only fairly recently that scholars and commentators have begun to fully grasp the complexities of Shelley’s life and work. Frankenstein is key to any such discussion, not merely because of its iconic status but because it was one of the first popular texts to foreground the post-Enlightenment confluence of art and science. The story’s resulting conflict between pure scientific inquiry and philosophical concerns constitutes an early treatise on bioethics, a topic of increasing urgency today.

Frankenstein has also been championed by modern scholars and critics as an early feminist text, but Carlson cautions that this interpretation is dependent upon a consensus definition of “feminism” and is therefore debatable. According to Carlson it may be argued with equal validity that the novel was autobiographically-inspired, an allegorical reaction to Shelley’s own upbringing as, in Carlson’s words, “an experiment of radical parents.” Shelley was doubtless keenly aware of the oppositions mentioned above and incorporated them into her work, but she doesn’t resolve them neatly for the reader; rather than a destination, her interest was in the exploration. The many other possible interpretations of Frankenstein – as cautionary fable, post-revolutionary tract, political allegory, critique of English Romanticism, etc. – are a tribute to the novel’s many facets and confirmation of its status as a vaunting work of imagination.

Watch Frankenstein: Afterlives – Mary Shelley

The Filmmaking Process

8232New programs from the Carsey-Wolf Center at UC Santa Barbara go behind the scenes with filmmakers, directors, screenwriters and others involved in the film industry. From blockbuster, oscar-nominated films to independent foreign gems, enjoy fascinating stories and insights into the filmmaking process.

82327 Islands & a Metro with Director Madhusree Dutta
Director Madhusree Dutta and UCSB Department of Film and Media Studies Professor Bhaskar Sarkar discuss the film 7 Islands and a Metro, a fascinating documentary on Bom Bahia / Bombay / Mumbai.

8232Arrival with Screenwriter Eric Heisserer
Arrival screenwriter and executive producer Eric Heisserer talks about adapting the the award-winning short story by Ted Chiang to the big screen.

8232Hidden Figures with Theodore Melfi and Kevin Costner
Writer/producer/director Theodore Melfi, actor Kevin Costner and president of Fox 2000 Pictures, Elizabeth Gabler discuss the Oscar-nominated film based on the true story about three brilliant African-American women working on John Glenn’s launch into orbit at NASA.

8232The Last Aristocrats with Kenneth Pai and Michael Berry
The Last Aristocrats is a film based on a short story by Kenneth Pai, UCSB Professor Emeritus. It follows four young Chinese women from elite Shanghai families who become stranded in the US when the communists take over Shanghai in 1948.

Browse more Carsey-Wolf programs

In Their Own Words: Writers and Authors

8232Explore new interviews and readings from your favorite authors as well as up and coming authors and students from the University of California.

Writers explain in their own words the process of creation, how they stay motivated, and what it takes to go from an idea to a completed piece of writing. Listen as they read new and popular excerpts of their work and discuss the writing life during in-depth interviews. From poetry to prose, memoirs to fiction, screenplays to blogs – whether your passion is reading, writing, or both – with our latest collection, you’ll discover new books to explore and perhaps find the inspiration to write one of your own.

Featuring:

Joyce Carol Oates
Joyce Carol Oates
Jane Hirshfield
Jane Hirshfield
Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis
Joseph Stiglitz
Joseph Stiglitz
Destin Daniel Cretton
Destin Daniel Cretton
Lysley Tenorio
Lysley Tenorio

… and more!

Browse our collection of Writers & Authors today!

Fourth Season of Script to Screen a Big Success

8232The UCSB Script to Screen series just completed its fourth and most successful season to date. We hosted three special Academy screenings (Whiplash, The Theory of Everything, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) where we connected Oscar nominees with students and the Santa Barbara Academy/Guild community. We also expanded our series to include a focus on television with our 10th Anniversary of Lost with Executive Producer/Director Jack Bender. This season our guests of honor shared key lessons about the importance of personally connecting to the material as well as having a family-esque support system to help bring the script to the screen.

Here are some special quotes from our guest artists:

29040The Theory of Everything with Oscar-nominated screenwriter Anthony McCarten:

“In 2004, that was the real catalyzing moment for me when I read Jane Hawking’s auto-biography. Everything I thought I knew about Stephen Hawking was displaced by everything I didn’t know. This was a unique, emotional insight into his private life. This incredible love story, very much one of a kind, unprecedented in some ways, challenging, heartbreaking, triumphant. I thought if I can get the rights to that book and marry it with the public world and what we know of Stephen and his public story, you know we would really have something special.”

29315Whiplash with Oscar-nominated writer/director Damien Chazelle:

“I was a drummer when I was in high school, and I had a teacher that was very much in this mold. It was the sort of thing where drumming had been this sort of hobby for myself that I did not take that seriously. As soon as I got in the orbit of this conductor/this teacher and his big band that he ran, he suddenly felt like life or death everyday. I felt the worse thing possible would be to screw up a hit or a beat. I just remember the daily dose of dread that I would feel during that time. I don’t play that much anymore, but you get a lot of fodder from that sort of emotional experience. It occurred to me that there might be a subject for a movie there.”

28922500 Days of Summer with screenwriter Scott Neustadter:

“This was very much a cathartic thing. I’d been broken up with, didn’t understand why, could not accept that it was just that she didn’t feel the same and then a minute later she got engaged, and I was like, What in the world? I was writing to put it all out there.”

The UCSB Script to Screen series returns in October 2015 for its 5th season. This coming year we will be expanding to include more actors on the stage with the screenwriter. Plus, we are currently planning a major event with a frontrunner to the 2016 Best Picture nominee and with a very special guest.

Browse all programs in the Script to Screen series.