Beyond the money shot; or how framing nature matters? Locating 'Green' at Wildscreen

Sullivan, S (2016)
Taylor & Francis
Natural history films use technological mediations to frame aspects of nature so as to communicate information, in part through engendering particular viewer affects. As an entertainment industry embedded in capitalist social relations and concerned with competition for finance and ratings, natural history film-making is also a search for “the money shot” – associated with extremes including rarity, sensational behavior, and otherwise un(fore)seen views. I highlight this sensationalizing impetus through ethnographic fieldwork conducted at the biannual UK Wildscreen film festival in 2010. Here, wildlife films were frequently presented as action dramas with a rhythm of anticipation, climax and satisfaction. I argue that, through stimulating significantly disconnective affects, such framing may work against composition of a caring ecocultural ethics that entwines human with more-than-human natures and futures; and that this tendency parallels the similarly disconnecting effects documented for pornographic film. In contrast, I engage with the differently constructive frames guiding the low budget, open access, activist film Green, which, perhaps paradoxically given the thrust of much of the natural history film industry, won the prestigious WWF Gold Panda Award at Wildscreen 2010. I follow framing theorist George Lakoff to emphasize that since cognition is both embodied and embedded in diverse inter-relationships, affective registers generating mimetic connection are as significant in communicating information regarding “the environment” as the text and words by which nature might be framed. I conclude that attention to affective registers and embodied (dis)connections in natural history film may enhance a turning of capitalist spectacle against itself, so as to work more effectively in service to the composition of abundant socionatural futures.

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