We are pleased to announce that the inaugural Cambridge Film & Screen Distinguished Lecture will be delivered by Prof Alisa Lebow from the University of Sussex, on Wednesday 5th June. Her lecture, “The Future Conundrum: On Time, Timeliness and Documentary Futurism”, will begin at 5:30pm and will be held at the McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College.

Still from Auto Immune Response East (Will Wilson)

The future is on everyone’s mind. Continuous, conditional or cancelled entirely: future imaginaries can betray or reveal the limits of our horizon. But what does documentary have to say about the future? Increasingly we are witnessing documentary incursions into the future tense, right when many imagine that very future to have been foreclosed. Our present moment of unprecedented catastrophe, emergency piled upon emergency, demands a discerning attentiveness to the registers and cadences with which the future is perceived and portrayed. While some documentary futurists — mainly from the global north — take recourse in an apocalyptic nihilism, those who are largely excluded from the benefits of the current neo-liberal, neo-colonial order and indeed may already have survived a version of apocalypse, offer us quite a different vision, one that can rupture notions of linear time and singular futures. New approaches in documentary that posit a quotidian futurity already sensible through a particular lens can offer alternative visions we dearly need.

Alisa Lebow is Professor of Screen Media at the University of Sussex. Lebow specialises in questions of “the political” in documentary, most recently thinking with and against representations of the anthropocene. Her books The Cinema of Me (Wallflower, 2012) and First Person Jewish (University of Minnesota Press, 2008) consider ways documentary has been transformed by the subjective turn. Other publications include A Companion to Contemporary Documentary, co-edited with Alexandra Juhasz (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015) and several special journal issues, including World Records Volume 5 (2021), “Beyond Story”, which challenges the political efficacy of certain popular formal strategies in documentary. Lebow is also a scholar-practitioner whose ground-breaking interactive digital humanities project, Filming Revolution (Stanford University Press, 2018) won the SCMS Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award in 2020. She is currently developing the first ever documentary studies podcast series called Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, launching in Summer 2024.

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