January/February 2023
Fridays, 10:15-11:45
P1 (Philosophicum)

Screening the Past – American Slavery in Film

Students and faculty are invited to a student lecture series on cinematic representations of slavery in recent American feature films, Fridays, 10:15-11:45 in lecture hall P1 (Philosophicum).
Historical films on slavery such as 12 Years a Slave provide fictionalized accounts of historical events and introduce audiences to the experiences of enslaved individuals in the past. In this series of student lectures, presenters will investigate significant and/or contentious aspects of a film’s reconstruction of slavery and its history.

This series is part of Dr. Frank Obenland’s course Cultural Studies VI “Screening the Past – American Slavery in Film”. If you have further questions about the event, please contact Dr. Frank Obenland.

Fri, Jan 13
10:15-11:45, Lecture Hall P1 (Philosophicum)
Georgia Conti and Tobias Waßmund
Amistad (1997) – Spielberg’s Representation of Slave Rebellion and the Middle Passage

Only very few major Hollywood films on the history of slavery have directed their focus beyond the United States. One such film is Stephen Spielberg’s retelling of the Amistad Rebellion, a cinematic representation of the often forgotten horrors of the middle passage. In this lecture, we will examine how Amistad (1997) tells a historical story of resistance and generational trauma.

Fri, Jan 20
10:15-11:45, Lecture Hall P1 (Philosophicum)
Frederica Hrdina and Jonas Salz
12 Years a Slave (2013) as Cinematic (Neo-)Slave Narrative

Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave retells the story of a free Black man who was kidnapped from the North and sold into slavery. An adaptation of Solomon Northup’s autobiographical slave narrative, McQueen’s movie depicts the horrors of the daily life of an African American slave. While many films on slavery fail to provide a realistic portrayal of slavery, 12 Years a Slave introduces the first-hand experience of Solomon Northup’s original narrative to a contemporary audience.

Fri, Jan 27
10:15-11:45, Lecture Hall P1 (Philosophicum)
Amé Beert and Milosz Zbikowski
History as Biopic: The Underground Railroad and Fugitive Slaves in Harriet (2019)

Harriet (2019) is the first mainstream production about the life of former slave and female abolitionist Harriet Tubman. For historical films – and in this case a biopic – it is always hard to decide between staying true to history or prioritizing historical education or offering captivating entertainment. That is why in this lecture we will examine the changes to the historical events in Harriet and how they help to shed light on the historical reality of the Underground Railroad and fugitive slaves.

Fri, Feb 3
10:15-11:45, Lecture Hall P1 (Philosophicum)
Elias Apel and Milena Traumann
Memory and Trauma – The Psychological Effects of Slavery in Beloved (1998)

The cinematic adaptation of Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved does not so much bring a realistic depiction of the living conditions and dehumanization of the enslaved to the screen. It rather explores the traumatic character of remembering slavery and bondage. This lecture will discuss Beloved as an exceptional example for the cinematic portrayal of slavery by discussing the story of Sethe and her family, and the ways their past continues to affect them individually and in their relationships.

You can download the poster for this talk here.

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