An interview with new CSI Faculty member, Brett Story

January 3, 2023 by Denise Ing

Prof. Brett Story recently joined the Cinema Studies Institute, and is teaching CIN370H1S - Canadian Cinemas: Experiments in Nonfiction and CIN440H1S - Carceral Screens and Abolitionist Cinema. We asked her to tell us a bit about herself.

What is your background in cinema? What are your areas of specialization, and what drew you to those areas?

I am self-trained as a documentary filmmaker, and so consider myself still to be a student of cinema. I came to film circuitously, following a love of literature, theory, politics, photography, and music and seeing in the world of cinema a space where all these forms merge together. My academic background is mainly in human geography - the critical study of space as it is produced and produced us. I consider filmmaking a political act and am interested in how the study and production of cinema is also a method of making and re-making the social world. I continue to direct films, and so will teach cinema from the perspective of a maker as well as a viewer.

What are your top three favourite films of all time? Why?

I am definitely not a list or a top three anything person, but here are three films that are dearly beloved by me:

Le Joli Mai, by Chris Marker
O’er the Land, by Deborah Stratman
Handsworth Songs, by the Black Audio Film Collective

These are formalist, political films that celebrate image and montage and sound without debasing their audience; films that treat viewers as intelligent and curious, and that celebrate the strange and delightful alongside the violence and the pain.

Which is your favourite film festival?

My favorite film festivals are those without markets, where food and gathering is of primarily importance. Among those, I’d name DokuFest (Kosovo), the Viennale (Austria), and True/False in Missouri, USA. These are places to celebrate not only films but filmgoing: the way films organize an event and bring people together for discussion, debate, napping (it’s ok!), eating, and placemaking.

Tell us about your courses in Winter 2023.

I’m taking students on a geographic journey across the uneasy landscape of Canadian non-fiction cinema in the Canadian Cinemas class. We’ll watch documentaries, art videos, and experimental films that contextualize as well as contest the ideas of nation, territory, and home.

I am also teaching a fourth year seminar class called Carceral Screens and Abolitionist Cinema, which I’m very excited about. I’ve created the course from scratch, and it’s designed for us to work through texts and films that ask how carceral logics, including those that uphold the institutions of policing, prisons, and property, are embedded and/or contested in moving images across time and space.