UCL Film Studies Seminar: Rewritten (On) Film

23 November 2022, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

So Mayer Film Seminar

UCL Film Studies Seminar - Rewritten (On) Film: Doing Speculative Film Histories - with Speaker So Mayer.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Professor Deborah Martin and Dr Clive Nwonka – Film Studies


Haldane Room
Wilkins Main Building
Gower Street
United Kingdom

"I wanted to be where history was made. Where it is rewritten on film."
- Mignon Dupree, ‘Illusions’ (dir. Julie Dash, 1981) 

Julie Dash’s ‘Illusions’ opens with a voice-over quotation from Ralph Ellison’s 1964 essay collection Shadow and Act that asserts that ‘In the beginning was not the shadow but the act’, contrasting this to Hollywood’s dealing in illusions. Speculative film history, as an emergent practice, similarly suggests countering the illusion of dominant cinema by enacting what has previously been seen in and as shadows and gaps.

As Allyson Nadia Field writes in her introduction to this summer’s issue of Feminist Media Histories: 'Loosening our commitments to what was to ask what might have been? and what might be? allows for repressed narratives to surface and alternative possibilities to emerge. This is especially vital for people and subjects excluded from or denigrated by the historical record and thereby the act of writing history'. 

Drawing on Field’s exemplary issue and her work towards The Speculative Archive, this talk contextualises So Mayer's practice in developing and co-writing The Film We Can’t See, a BBC Sounds podcast that looks at and for pre-WWII European queer film history, asking not only what might have been? but what prevented it? to understand the perpetuation of censorship within practices of archival history and canonisation. Given that – as Field asserts – ‘the fate of the world is at stake’ due to the delimited imagination of dominant culture, this talk investigates the ethical and activist, as well as pedagogical, potentials of what could be called a reparative speculative cinema rooted in Black feminisms.

Bio: Chair

Dr Clive Nwonka is Associate Professor in Film, Culture and Society at UCL, and a Faculty Associate of the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation.

About the Speaker

So Mayer

So Mayer is the author of A Nazi Word for a Nazi Thing (2020), Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (2015), and The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love (2009), as well as several collections of poetry. Their BFI Film Classics monograph on Orlando is forthcoming in 2023. They are a regular contributor to Frieze; a member of the London-based queer feminist film-curation collective Club des Femmes; and a cofounder of Raising Films, a campaign and community for parents and careers in the film industry