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Accepted Paper:

Good fire, bad fire: Anomaly as a paradigm for future-making-oriented films  

Authors:

Pedro Afonso Branco Ramos Pinto (University of Brasília)
Guilherme Moura Fagundes (Universidade de Brasília)

Paper short abstract:

Building upon an analysis of how a subset of audiovisual treatments of fire foster a culture of fear that hinders public approbation of prescribed burning techniques, this paper makes the case for embracing anomaly as a paradigm for crafting films addressing fact-resistant beliefs and assumptions.

Paper long abstract:

As American environmental scholar William Cronon put it, fire is "a profoundly double-edged symbol both of our Promethean power to control the Earth… and of the frustratingly unexpected limits we repeatedly encounter in our exercise of that power" (2001:xiv). In the face of ambiguity, people differentiate between a good and a bad fire based on 'provisional prototypes' fashioned after 'best exemplars' of what constitutes each one (Bloch, 1991). An analysis of the contemporary media landscape reveals that a subset of audiovisual treatments of fire is either designed to construe forest fires of all kinds as hostile forces to be feared and contained, or do so unwillingly. The culture of fear fostered by these accounts hinders public approbation of prescribed burning techniques -regardless of their demonstrable adequacy as wildfire preventers- precluding, by extension, their full crystallisation as policies.

Since the future of environmental management must incorporate prescribed burning to its wildfire prevention toolkit, the assumption that forest fires are invariably bad must be dismantled. Beliefs and assumptions rooted in extreme emotions are extremely fact-resistant, and this paper makes the case for embracing anomaly as a paradigm for crafting films addressing them. For French philosopher Georges Canguilhem (1966), the emergence of the anomaly destabilises the uniformity of events that are commonly recognized and accepted by adding to them a phenomenon that is qualitatively different and, while improbable, certainly possible. Ultimately, we advance a theoretical and methodological framework for crafting the unusual and destabilising moving image-based experiences we call anthropological cinemas.

Panel P121
Filming Futures: ethnographic film and future-making in critical contexts [FAN and VANEASA]