European Cinema: Engaging Audiences

Submitting Institution

University of Exeter

Unit of Assessment

Modern Languages and Linguistics

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Creative Arts and Writing: Film, Television and Digital Media
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Research by film specialists in Modern Languages (ML) at the University of Exeter promotes the artistic value, diversity and continuing social, cultural and political relevance of European cinema to a variety of audiences in the UK and abroad. Their research has advanced community cohesion through memories of cinema-going (impact 1), informed the teaching of European cinema in secondary schools and HE (impact 2) and enhanced cultural life, promoting public appreciation of European cinema nationally and internationally (impact 3). This has been achieved through contributing to online archival studies of cinema audiences, participation in film festivals, introductions to film screenings, public lectures and DVD commentaries.

Underpinning research

To UK audiences, the term `European cinema' might be associated with elitist, intellectual art cinema with little popular appeal or interest to a crossover audience. In fact, as the popular success in this country in the past 20 years of directors such as Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Alejandro Amenábar, Agnès Jaoui, Mathieu Kassovitz and Tom Tykwer, as well as stars such as Javier Bardem, Juliette Binoche and Audrey Tautou shows, European cinema's cultural and economic reach is actually much wider. European cinema has also always been a cultural space in which filmmakers have explored, and in which audiences have engaged with, key contemporary socio-political issues. Reflecting this diversity, the interdisciplinary research outputs and projects by ML film specialists have led to impact beyond academia, covering a wide range of both popular and art cinema in Europe from the 1920s to the present day, and drawing on a range of historical, sociological, industrial, and cultural approaches to these films and filmmakers. This research can broadly be divided into three areas:

1) The place of the audience in European cinema

This strand of research pays particular attention to how public discourses around films are shaped and consumed by audiences and is directly related to the AHRC collaborative research project `In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity' for which Dr Danielle Hipkins (Senior Lecturer, Italian; appointed 2004) is the CI, working with colleagues from Bristol and Oxford Brookes Universities (£693,950 awarded, 3.7). The research focuses on memories of cinema-going in Italy in the 1940s and 1950s, addressing the ways cinema audiences are understood within local and national community frameworks (3.1).

2) Studies of popular European cinema (genres and stars)

This includes AHRC-funded research (3.8) by Professor Susan Hayward (Professor of French and film studies 1996-2000; currently emeritus Professor) on the popular French star Simone Signoret as cultural sign (3.2), which has fed into her more general work on stardom and genre in film theory (3.3) and her more recent publications and British Academy-funded research on the hitherto ignored political significance of French Costume Dramas of the 1940s and 1950s. Similarly, Dr Will Higbee (Senior Lecturer, French; appointed 2002) published an AHRC-funded study (3.9) of the transformation of the popular in contemporary French cinema as symptomatic of wider shifts in French popular culture in the works of director Mathieu Kassovitz (3.4). In addition, Professor Sally Faulkner (Associate Professor, Spanish; appointed 2001) has completed AHRC-funded research into popular Spanish cinema of the 1960s (3.5 and 3.10), as well as further AHRC-funded research into middlebrow cinema in Spain (3.11), which she is currently developing in international contexts. Faulkner's research has been recognised in the award of the 2013 Philip Leverhulme Prize. Dr Fiona Handyside's (Senior Lecturer, French; appointed 2007) work on spatiality in her analysis of the representation of the beach in French cinema since the 1950s (3.6) also includes a focus on the female star body.

3) A consideration of films as vehicles for articulating and challenging exclusion and inequality (especially in relation to questions of gender and ethnicity)

This includes both Hipkins's AHRC-funded research into the representation of gender in Italian cinema 1945-65, in particular the figure of the female prostitute (for which she was awarded an AHRC research-leave grant of £24,227 in 2008-09) as well as AHRC-funded research by Higbee (3.8) into the representation of social fracture, immigration and ethnicity in the cinema of director Kassovitz (3.3) and Handyside's work on sexuality and gender politics in contemporary French film (3.6).

References to the research

All items have been through a vigorous process of peer-review. 2, 4 and 5 were funded by the AHRC. Faulkner has been awarded the Philip Leverhulme Prize 2013 for her work on Spanish film.

1. Hipkins, Danielle, with D Treveri Gennari, C.G. O'Rawe (2011), `In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, genre and national identity', Participations, 8:2, 539-53.

2. Hayward, Susan (2004), Simone Signoret: The Star as Cultural Sign, New York: Continuum.


3. Hayward, Susan (1996), Cinema Studies: the Key Concepts, London/New York: Routledge.

4. Higbee, Will (2006), Mathieu Kassovitz, Manchester: Manchester University Press.

5. Faulkner, Sally (2006), A Cinema of Contradiction: Spanish Film in the 1960s, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


6. Handyside, Fiona (2012), `Possibilities of a beach: Queerness and François Ozon's beaches', Screen, 53:1, 54-71



7. D. Hipkins (CI), `In Search of Italian Cinema Audiences in the 1940s and 1950s: Gender, Genre and National Identity', AHRC Research Project, £693,950, 2013.

8. S. Hayward, (PI), `Simone Signoret: the Star as Cultural Sign', AHRC Research leave, £12 010, 2002-03.

9. W. Higbee (PI), `Mathieu Kassovitz: an Auteur on both Sides of the Camera', AHRC Research Leave, £14,102, 2004-5.

10. S. Faulkner, (PI) `A Cinema of Contradiction: Spanish Film in the 1960s', AHRC Research Leave, £14,013, 2004-05.

11. S. Faulkner, (PI) `A New History of Spanish Film: Middlebrow Films and Mainstream Audiences', AHRC Fellowship, £65,937, 2011.

Details of the impact

Impact 1. Community Cohesion through Memories of Cinema-going

With initial findings published in 3.1, and in collaboration with colleagues at Bristol and Oxford Brookes, Hipkins analyzed 20 interviews commissioned by the group on memories of cinema-going in Italy in the 1940s and 1950s, which have been archived online at Memoro (, a non-profit organization dedicated to the collation of oral history in Europe. Since its launch in 2008, Memoro's website has attracted over 11 million page views. From May 2010 to July 2013 the videos of the interviews linked to Hipkins's research project uploaded to the Memoro site have been viewed 8,676 times (5.1). The project also considers the experience of interviewees within community frameworks in the present day, and in October 2011 findings from the original research were presented by members of the team at a national meeting of the Italian University of the Third Age in Turin (5.2), to encourage Italy's older population to access the interviews and debate the role of cinema-going in Italy's past.

Impact 2. Teaching Film in Schools and in HE

The research produced by film specialists in ML has informed and influenced the teaching of European cinema and film theory at both secondary (A/AS) and HE level. Hayward's book Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts, is now in its fourth edition [text removed for publication] (5.3). As the sales figures indicate, the book has become an essential reference text for film studies students at both A-level and in HE. The first edition of Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts was published in 1996, just before Hayward's arrival in Exeter. Revisions to the three subsequent editions of the book (the latest, fourth edition was published in Spring 2013) have all been completed since Hayward's appointment to Exeter. They comprise significant revisions and additions to the first edition. The length of the book has increased from c.150,000 words (first edition, 1996) to c. 240,000 words (fourth edition, 2013). Sizeable new entries, which reflect new research, have been added since the second edition in areas such as Postcolonial Cinema, World Cinema, Action Movies, Cult Cinema, Digital Cinema, CGI and 3-D Technology. Hayward's book was the first publication in what is now an established series of `Key Guides' for its publisher, Routledge, which now extends to nearly 100 titles. Cinema Studies: the Key Concepts has been translated into Korean and Chinese, with advances paid on licences for further translation and publication in Arabic, Greek and Turkish (5.3).

Higbee's monograph on French director Mathieu Kassovitz (3.4) is listed as required reading on numerous HE modules in the UK relating to film studies, French Studies, and Cultural Studies. La Haine (Kassovitz, 1995), which is analysed in detail across two chapters in Higbee's monograph, is taught widely as an optional text across numerous A-level French syllabuses (AQA, OCR, Edexcel) and as a set text in the WJEC examination board. (In June, 2010, 2480 students were entered for WJEC nationally.) Higbee's monograph is cited as a reference text in the bibliography of Cornerhouse Study Guide for students of AS/A2 French (5.4). In October 2008, Higbee delivered a mini-lecture and workshop on La Haine to 30 A-level students from Torquay Girls' Grammar School (TGGS) in October 2008. The Head of French at TGGS said of the event: `Our students found the lecture very inspiring and there was definitely a "buzz" in the following lessons' (5.5).

Elsewhere, drawing on her work on Spanish cinema of the 1960s (3.5), Faulkner participated in a Study Day linked to the Spain (Un)censored' Film Festival at the BFI in 2008, aimed at the general film-going public, teachers of Spanish cinema and A-level students, attracting 122 attendees (5.6).

Impact 3. Enhancing Cultural Life and Public Appreciation of European Cinema culture

(a) DVD commentaries

As a result of her research on the film's star, Simone Signoret, Hayward was invited to provide an audio commentary for the UK DVD/Blu Ray release of Les Diaboliques (Clouzot, 1955) by Arrow Films in 2007. [text removed for publication] (5.7).

(b) Film Festivals

Drawing on her research into 1960s Spanish cinema (3.1), Faulkner was invited to participate in the `Spain (Un)censored' Film Festival at the BFI in 2008 (5.6). She introduced La caza (Saura, 1966) to a public audience of 116 people. Linked to research for his monograph on Kassovitz, which also deals with broader questions of multicultural and immigrant identity in French cinema (3.5), Higbee was invited to participate in a symposium `Cinemas of the Maghreb' as part of the 2010 Carthage Film Festival (JCC).The symposium attracted c.100 attendees, a mixture of academics, journalists and industry professionals, and was reported on the Africultures website (5.8). Handyside organised a `Beaches' film season at the Plymouth Arts Centre centre in 2012. Drawing upon on her methodology for analysing cinematic representations of beachscapes in (3.3). Handyside wrote introductory notes to three screenings that attracted c. 900 spectators in total (5.9).

(c) Introductions to Public Film Screenings

In September 2012, Higbee co-founded the Exeter Screen Talks, a partnership between film specialists in the College of Humanities, University of Exeter, and the national chain Picturehouse Cinemas. Working in collaboration with the Picturehouse's national programmer and the manager of the cinema in Exeter, film specialists from the College of Humanities design a programme of fortnightly screenings, deliver introductions to each film and host a discussion with members of the public after the screenings. Faulkner, Handyside, Higbee and Hipkins have delivered six introductions between September 2012 and June 2013 as part of the `Hidden Classics of European Cinema' strand of the Exeter Screen Talks, attracting a total of 210 spectators. The project also has impact beyond the region, particularly through the use of social media (Facebook and Twitter) as well as the blog entry (written by the academic giving the talk) that is published online at least a fortnight before the screening and remains on the blog as an archive of each talk (5.10).

Sources to corroborate the impact

  1. Details of numbers of views for each video on the Memoro site can be found at: Select the tab marked `Le Interviste' on this page to see number of views.
  2. Università della terza età (Italian University of the Third Age),
  3. Impact of Cinema Studies : the Key Concepts can be corroborated by the Senior Editor of Media and Culture Studies, Routledge. See factual statement 1.
  4. Higbee's book can be found on reading lists for FREN2205 (University of Leeds); LT336 (University of Essex); HUV-220 (Salford University) and FM2006 (Brunel University). Details of the number of students studying on WJEC A-level French can be found at : (p. 18) [Accessed 24 June, 2012]. The Cornerhouse Study Guide to La Haine where Higbee's book is referenced in the bibliography can be found at:
  5. Impact of Higbee's workshop can be corroborated by the following document:
  6. `Spain (Un)censored' at the BFI: Details of impact can be corroborated by factual statement 2.
  7. Impact can be corroborated by the Label Manager at Arrow Film Distributors. See factual statement 3.
  8. [Last accessed 31 July 2013]. Higbee's event reported here: [Last accessed 31 July 2013].
  9. Figures for attendance to screenings curated by Handyside can be confirmed by factual statement 4.
  10. Exeter Screen Talks blog: includes links to Facebook page and Twitter feed: Audience figures for screenings with introductions by ML academics can be corroborated by the manager of Exeter Picturehouse. See corroborator contact 1.