Spaces of Memory

International Workshop 16th-17th March 2023

The Symposium under the title Spaces of Memory was held on 16 and 17 March 2023, in the Dekantssitzungssaal, University of Vienna. The Symposium forms a part of the FWF Lise Meitner Project Reframing Space: Film as History led by Dr. Milja Radovic.  

The speakers included professors and researchers of various disciplines both from Vienna and internationally, as well as the world filmmakers, most significantly Amos Gitai. We reflected on the meanings of memory and space, in theological, political, historical and cinematic contexts. The presentations was followed by the Q&As and the panel discussions. The second day of the symposium “In conversation with…” hosted primarily the prominent filmmakers, including Andrei A. Tarkovskij, and the experts from the field of film, media and religion, who continued to explore the relationship between filmic space, memory, time and the “cinema prayer”. The second day was an opportunity for a lively discussion with the filmmakers.


Abstract of the Project

Reframing Space: Film as History (REFACE) is the first study to examine the cinematic representations of religion in the early documentary film of the Yugoslav space from 1896 to 1939. REFACE approaches film as a primary source to examine the importance, place, and role of religion in the everyday life of religious communities as depicted by the camera-eye. The early documentary film provides us with rare historical material which remains solely preserved on the reel. In the state-of-the-art religion in Yugoslavia has been examined primarily in relation to ethnicity and nationhood. However, the abundant scholarly work lacks the study that employs the early documentary film in studying religion at the turn of the twentieth century. In that sense, REFACE is a pioneering study that employs the early documentary film to examine religion and specifically the everyday life of religious communities in the Yugoslav space. In doing so, REFACE opens new ways for studying religion in society, providing at the same time the first systematic study on one of the richest documentary traditions in world cinema.

REFACE addresses the following research questions: 1) How is religion conceived and transcended within the filmic space? 2) How are the religious communities represented in the early documentary films: who is represented, in what way and in which context? 3) What can we learn about the co-existence of the diverse religious communities and the importance of religion both in everyday life and the wider society from the films? 4) Can the context (off-screen) be understood from the ‘reel’ (on-screen) and in what ways? The hypothesis of REFACE is that the role of religion in society can be assessed through film and specifically through the analysis of film language. REFACE introduces frame as the method of critical analysis which comprises close examination of film language that expands historical readings of film.

The objectives of REFACE are: O1. To examine how the early documentary film depicted and represented religion and the diverse religious communities: the ways in which they are conceived and framed in the filmic space, O2. To identify the ways in which content and context correspond through the concept of frame, O3. To produce the first systematic study on the representations of religion in the early documentary film of the Yugoslav space from 1896 to 1939. In positing frame as the method of analysis REFACE places the study of film language at the heart of scientific research on religion in film. REFACE thus assesses religion in film in an innovative way, furthering our scientific inquiry into the (historical) role of religion in the Yugoslav space. In turn REFACE will advance our understandings of the continuous yet changing role of religion in the Yugoslav successor states and the Balkan peninsula today.


About Dr. Radovic

Dr Milja Radovic is an international interdisciplinary scholar in religion, media and culture. Dr Radovic conducts specialised research in theology and film and her scientific work traverses theology of ascesis, visual arts, citizenship, nationalism, conflict and peacebuilding. She is the author of numerous scientific articles and authored monographs (Routledge, Ashgate, De Gruyter, JRFM, Edinburgh University Press). She holds lectures and keynotes internationally (Bologna, London, Edinburgh, St Andrews, Rome, Oxford, Cambridge, São Paulo, Nairobi, Boulder, Durham, Kent) and is the recipient of prestigious grants and awards for ground-breaking research in her field. Dr Radovic is actively engaged with the public sector, being an active member of Interfilm and serving as both president and member of the Ecumenical Jury at leading international film festivals, including Berlinale, Locarno, Karlovy Vary, Cottbus, and Oberhausen.

Dr Radovic works at the Research Centre Religion and Transformation in Contemporary Society in Vienna. She is leading the FWF-funded Project "Reframing Space: Film as History" ("Transformationen des Raums: Film als Geschichte").