The impact on awareness, understanding and public engagement with the possibilities of audio-visual exploration and expression of collective cultural and political memory, genres and narratives

Submitting Institution

University of West London

Unit of Assessment

Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management 

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

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

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Summary of the impact

This case study refers to the impact of the work of one member of the submitting unit. The assertion is that the work of Zubillaga has had impact on civil society, cultural life and public discourse. It has: illuminated a repository of cultural capital (through archival research) and interrogated cultural values (specific to a Latin American context) enriched the imaginations of those who have viewed his films; enhanced sensibilities with regard to the cultural themes they explore; and extended the range and improved the quality of evidence, argument and expression to enhance public understanding of Venezuelan and more broadly Latin American cultural and political memory.

Underpinning research

The nature of the research insights and findings that underpin the impact claimed in the case study:

The research undertaken by Zubillaga is grounded in his previous studies in philosophy and anthropology. He brings to the discipline of filmmaking a level of intellectual enquiry informed by these interests. His research outputs as a filmmaker can be broadly identified as possessing a film essay dimension — a widely recognised style or genre of socially engaged filmmaking. As an artist with an identity forged between Venezuelan and Argentinian contexts, but as a resident of the UK during the period of impact, Zubillaga could also be classified as an `accented' filmmaker as defined by the film theorist Hamid Naficy (Accented Cinema, Princeton UP 2002). The pursuit of a voice within contemporary filmmaking — grounded in the tradition of artists' films but with a view to crossing over into art cinema — has led Zubillaga to archival research. The archival research has in turn led him to the excavation of meanings in lost or peripheral cultural outputs. Through these acts of restoration and reframing, Zubillaga's work amounts to the performative and material reimagining of, on the one hand, the suppressed avant-garde movements of Latin America, and on the other, a critical exploration and interrogation of the legacy of the right wing dictatorships of Venezuela and Argentina which decimated the utopian hopes of the avant-garde. In this way the work operates both discursively and symbolically to communicate to the public the possibilities which film art possesses to engage collective and cultural memory.

The underpinning research for this case study, centred on Zubillaga's work, spans the period 2007 (with preparatory research for work later completed) to the present, and comprises films and versions of the films often reframed as gallery installations (at, for example, the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art and the IMT Gallery in London) and contributions to exhibitions. In addition there is underpinning research conducted by Dowd (also submitting in this UOA) in the shape of his writing on film theory or film criticism in the theoretical tradition. This has led Dowd to collaborate in a significant consultancy capacity with Zubillaga, and to write on Zubillaga's work.

The key researcher, Luciano Zubillaga has held a post at the university since 2002; Dowd undertook key supporting research in film studies of direct relevance to Zubillaga's work, having a material contribution to its impact between 2002 and 2011.

References to the research

Zubillaga (2008), Music for a Missing Film - 30 minute film essay
Zubillaga (2012), The Arousing of Thought - short animation film
Zubillaga (2013), Cosas por Venir - long format artist's film
Dowd (2003) Leos Carax, Manchester University Press, French Film Directors Series. Co-author: Fergus Daly.
Dowd (2010) `Pedagogies of the Image Between Daney and Deleuze', New Review of Film and Television Studies 8.1, pp. 41-56.

Evidence of the quality

Several quantitative indicators of evidence of impact may be cited, including grants and awards.

• Zubillaga was the recipient of a London Artists' Film and Video Award (LAFVA) in 2008 to conduct the research which led to the completion of the film Music for a Missing Film (£21,000).

His selection for festivals, achieved through a process of peer review, provides further evidence of the quality of his work:

The Arousing of Thought was an official selection for the Ann Arbor Film Festival, March 2012.

Music for a Missing Film was an official selection for the Buenos Aires International Film Festival (BAFICI), April 2010; it was in the official selection for the Havana Film Festival in December 2010; the film received a Mention Award from the Association of Documentary Filmmakers when screened at the 21st Festival Internacional de Curtas-Metragenes de São Paulo. The film has the endorsement of a member of the selection committee of the London Film Festival, Helen de Witt, who conducted an interview with Zubillaga for the Filmmarmalade DVD release of the film.

Cosas por Venir has had three public screenings to date (see details in section 4 below); Zubillaga has been invited to submit the film to the 2014 Berlinale (and will do so in early December 2013).

Details of the impact

The research described in section 3 underpinned the impact outlined in section 1 in a variety of ways. The process of research into methods and means by which to explore the themes of his work led to exploration of archival sources, cultural capital (in the shape of the work of the composer Luis Zubillaga; the lost Venezuelan film El Huerco), and locations resonant (for example the Centro Cultural de la Memoria Haroldo Conti and the Ente Espacio Memoria y Derechos Humanos in Buenos Aires in the film Cosas por Venir1) of the political and cultural memory targeted by Zubillaga. The research processes resulted in multiple methods of dissemination and impact. For example, one of the research methods adopted by Zubillaga derives from his consideration of himself primarily as an artist. The specificity of the intended output (film) did not preclude the artist framing and staging his work in sections, and in formats which allowed for a fragmentation and multiplication of modes of engagement by the audience (the latter being linked to Zubillaga's interest in a form of historiography marked by plurality). This he has done in the shape of gallery installations and exhibitions. In so doing he extended the range of engagement with his audiovisual work beyond the film festival context and into the realm of the gallery. This has been true for the majority of his film outputs.

Dowd's research into theories of cinema has contributed also, in a material way, to generate impact. As part of the research process, during the development of both Music for a Missing Film and Cosas por Venir, Dowd engaged with Zubillaga concerning narrative and the conceptual vocabulary used in the voiceovers for each film. He has also published a text about Music for a Missing Film (cited in the 300 word statements on Zubillaga's work and included in the portfolio accompanying Zubillaga's submission).

Several constituencies have been affected by the work, and those constituencies are diverse. The Latin American audiences who benefitted from exposure to Music for a Missing Film at its three festival screenings in South America were a cine-literate group engaged by a recognisable testamentary strand in Latin American culture. The worldwide beneficiaries of the film through its DVD distribution and other public screenings are numbered at in excess of 4,000. The impact of Cosas por Venir is in its early stages, but nonetheless can be measured via the engagement of audiences through gallery and theatre exhibition (at the IMT Gallery in London, the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art) and debate (as took place following the screening of parts of Cosas por Venir at the Theater Vierte Welt in Berlin). The film was invited for consideration by the selection panel for the forthcoming Berlinale Film Festival (in February 2014) and the most recent iteration of this work will be submitted as a 2K DCP (Digital Cinema Package) screener to the selection panel in early December 2013.

A key element in the dissemination of the research processes that inform and thereby in part constitute the research outputs, is indicated in the research and development aspect of collaboration between Zubillaga and industry representatives. In this context his work with RAW and Assimilate constitutes an exposure of his research to industry, with benefits both to industry by way of publicity and artist endorsement, and to the public through the joint collaborative element.

The extent of the impact

The impact of Zubillaga's work may be evidenced by the invitation at the Bienale de la Imagen en Movimiento (BIM) to select a series of films screened at the event:

The impact of his work is further evidenced by the invitation to curate an event: Memorias Perdidas at the Buenos Aires Museum of Modern Art in April 2010.

Music for a Missing Film has been viewed by a worldwide audience of more than 4,000 people (source: Film London)

Attendances at public screenings: BAFICI: 1,200; São Paulo: 500; Armory Volta (New York): 200; BIM: 150

Cosas por Venir has been screened at the Museum of Modern Art in Buenos Aires (to an audience of 85), at the IMT Gallery in London (50) and at the Theater Vierte Welt in Berlin (25).

Sources to corroborate the impact

  • Curator and former Head of Moving Image Collections, Tate Modern;
  • Director BIM and Continente (Latin American distributor for Cosas por Venir);
  • Founder and Curator of Filmarmalade (UK distributor for Cosas por Venir);
  • London Film Festival producer and selection committee member;
  • Employee of University of Kent;
  • Program Director, Ann Arbor Film Festival;
  • Two members of staff at Film London;
  • Two members of staff at LUX, London;
  • Head of Assimilate Inc.

1 The second of these institutions is housed in the former premises of the ESMA (Escuela de Mecánica de la Armada) which was between 1976 and 1983 the site of detention, torture and extermination under the military dictatorship.