Looking In, Looking Out is a new film festival being held between 27th June and 7th July in the historic venue of London’s Conway Hall. The festival promises its audience will get to examine and enjoy a wide range of modern and classical cinema, but instead of focusing on a certain group of films; such as silent, horror, or Taiwanese, they will be focusing on a way of thinking about films – through philosophy.
Actually, that’s a bit misleading. The festival will be screening these films within the context of philosophy, which is far more than simply a way of thinking about film. This is where things get exciting – and confusing. Film and Philosophy as a combined subject is one of the most up-and-coming fields of academic study with new postgraduate courses starting more and more frequently. King’s College London, for example, is initiating an MA Film & Philosophy pathway this year. For the uninitiated, the combination of the seemingly approachable ‘film’ with the sometimes distant and impenetrable ‘philosophy’ can be daunting. What is meant by ‘film and philosophy’? Is this different from ‘film philosophy’? Where does ‘filmosophy’ come into it? Is this the same as ‘thinking cinema’? It seems that as soon as you add ‘philosophy’ things start getting a little bit more complicated. But rest assured, it isn’t as bad as it may look – in fact it can be pretty straightforward. It essentially boils down to the idea that film and philosophy can be used to mutually illuminate each other, e.g. watching Minority Report (2002) can illuminate arguments and thought experiments around free will, whilst reading philosopher Gilles Deleuze’s books can provide new ways to look at film in its entirety.
Maybe that’s a bit misleading as well. It is true that film can illustrate philosophical ideas – just think about how a film like The Matrix (1999) can make people question what is and what isn’t real. It is also surely true that films can represent phenomena that call for philosophical scrutiny – consider vigilante films like Death Wish (1974), previously mentioned here, that prey on unconscious or unwanted desires for revenge. But what about films that do philosophy on their own? Are there such films that can induce philosophical thoughts that are unique to the act of watching, that cannot be recreated by discussion or argument as in conventional philosophy?
These are just some of the many questions that will no doubt be discussed and potentially even answered by the esteemed speakers and audience members at the inaugural Looking In, Looking Out Festival in a few weeks time. My personal highlights include:
- Julian Baggini exploring the moral philosophy of the films of the Coen Brothers.
- The London School of Philosophy investigating what heroes, anti-heroes and superheroes can tell us about human nature.
- The politics of Hollywood’s golden era getting unpicked by Dr Richard Rushton and the philosophy of Etienne Balibar.
Not to mention the wide range of films being screened including L’Humanite (1999), Waking Life (2001), A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Eraserhead (1977), Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), The World of Apu (1959), Into Eternity (2010), and Mirror (1979).
Looking In, Looking Out is shaping up to be one of the most stimulating film events of the Summer, and to make it all the more appealing they are offering an early bird ticket offer that allows you to attend all the events for only £35. To find out more about the festival you can find their website here and buy tickets here. You can be sure to expect regular R|R reports throughout the festival.