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Unfamiliar places: “heterospection” and recent French films on children

Powrie, PP (2005) Unfamiliar places: “heterospection” and recent French films on children Screen (Oxford), 46 (3). pp. 341-352.

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In 2002, two French films about children were released within two weeks of each other. Although Être et avoir (Nicolas Philibert, released 28 August) was a documentary focusing on a village school, and Les Diables (Christophe Ruggia, released 11 September) was a drama about two institutionalized children on the run, they had in common the fact that they focused on pre-adolescent children. While there are plenty of films about adolescents in most national cinemas, there are fewer proportionately that focus on pre-adolescent children (Spanish cinema being a notable exception). These films therefore exemplify a trend: since the 1990s, there have been an unusually large number of films in French cinema whose protagonists are young children. This essay will start by placing such films within a production context. Subsequently, it will be less concerned with explaining why there may have been a surge in such films during the last decade, than in theorizing their effect on spectators, with specific reference to Être et avoir and Les Diables. It will do so by working with concepts of space, as used by Michel Foucault and Henri Lefebvre, familiar to theorists of the postmodern working in architecture, but not as yet particularly developed by theorists working in Film Studies. Using Foucault’s spatially-focused ‘heterotopia’, the essay will develop a nexus of arguments focusing on the viewing position established by films with child protagonists. It will argue that the pre-adolescent child’s view brings together time past and an alternative space. We will first consider retrospection, linked with the familiar idea of nostalgia, before moving on to what will be called ‘heterospection’, a coinage which attempts to bring together issues of time and space in these films. Heterospection, the essay will argue, involves a different way of seeing, and of conceiving of the spectator’s reaction to a film. In that respect, the essay will return us to ‘screen theory’, but from a different perspective, as well as illuminating how the child film functions.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages
Authors :
Powrie, PP
Date : 2005
DOI : 10.1093/screen/46.3.341
Related URLs :
Additional Information : This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Screen (Oxford) following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Powrie, P. (2005). Unfamiliar places: “heterospection” and recent French films on children. Screen, 46 (3), 341-352, is available online at:
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 08 May 2012 10:13
Last Modified : 07 Mar 2019 11:25

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