Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Forthcoming Publication from Mercedes Chavez: Vernacular Landscapes: Reading the Anthropocene in the Films of Kelly Reichardt

Forthcoming in the March 2021 edition of Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, Volume 48, Issue 1, a new article by Mercedes Chavez on developing a film studies specific methodology for the Anthropocene. The article may be accessed at the Afterimage site, or downloaded from Mercedes Chavez's site at

"Vernacular Landscapes: Reading the Anthropocene in the films of Kelly Reichardt" Abstract:

This essay employs Anthropocene frameworks to examine United States independent director Kelly Reichardt’s quiet vignettes of American precarity through the interpretive cinematic apparatus. Reichardt’s slow style and lingering gaze are primarily read as affective interpretations of human exhaustion or as a critique of capital temporalities. However, the critical attention paid toward the human in Reichardt’s films overlooks the primacy of landscape as a site of knowledge in the visual aesthetic. It is the entanglement between the human and the landscape in Reichardt’s films that invites an Anthropocene reading based on core concepts of time, scale, and the disruption of the modernist nature/culture binary. In Old Joy (2006) and Wendy and Lucy (2008), local, global, and planetary scales are made explicit and conflict with human structures such as gender and neoliberal economies. Reichardt’s work explores the manufactured landscape of Oregon and the Florida Everglades (respectively) in Night Moves (2013) and River of Grass (1994), pointing toward larger structural issues at play in traditional conservationism and narratives of progress. Finally, in her Western-influenced films Meek’s Cutoff (2010) and Certain Women (2016), Reichardt’s use of environmental sound provides the critique of American expansionist ideology’s depiction of and attempt to consume Indigeneity. Taken together, Reichardt’s filmography presents a compelling case for cinema’s role as mediator of the Anthropocene crisis.

KEYWORDS Anthropocene, slow cinema, landscape, time, Indigeneity, Kelly Reichardt

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