An interview with new CSI Faculty member, Nadine Chan

February 16, 2022 by Denise Ing

Prof. Nadine Chan joined the Cinema Studies Institute in January 2022, and is teaching CIN451H1S - Media and the Environment and CIN1102HS - Key Developments in Film History. 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?

My first forays into cinema were sparked as an undergraduate in Singapore when I first picked up a film camera, borrowed from the university library, to shoot an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet set in one of the island-states many high-rise housing development apartments. It was a terrible film but an eye-opening moment for me. I was an English major and looking through the lens of the camera opened up a new way of thinking (temporally and spatially) about questions that still inform my research today—that is, questions of coloniality, the environment, and racial-capitalism. My work, very broadly, is invested in the question of how cinema and other visual and sensory media have both been historically complicit in these colonial and environmental violences, but also offer possibilities of imagining otherwise.

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

This is a hard one! My favourite films constantly change with what’s on my mind and what I’ve been researching and writing. Outside of the realm of scholarship though, I suppose an all-time favorite is Ang Lee’s Life of Pi. There is something therapeutic about the film for when I need to see something beautiful and calming. A close second would be Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar for its scientific visualizations of an event horizon in a black hole, and for the sheer majesty of its imagination. I also quite love Barbash and Castaing-Taylor’s Sweetgrass, again there’s something calming about these continuously bleating sheep amid the mountains.

What films are you looking forward to seeing in the future?

I’m looking forward to seeing more environmentally themed sensory ethnographies. Also, the screen adaptation of Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem.

Tell us about your courses for Winter 2022.

I’m excited to be teaching two courses in Winter 2022. CIN451H1S - Media and Environment explores the many relationships between media and the environment, including not only questions of environmental representation and mediation in film, photography, video games, and digital media, but also the material entanglements of media technologies and infrastructures with environments local and global. CIN1102HS - Key Developments in Film and Media History, explores various critical approaches to media historiography; observing, in particular, how feminist, postcolonial, and “Global South” historians work from within and beyond the traditional archive. It also emphasizes developing methodological skills in primary source research and analysis.