Open City Documentary Festival

7 – 13 September 2022
in London

Politics and Poetics of Archival Filmmaking (Online)

Price £150

Location Online Distance Learning, Duration Tuesday evenings across 6 weeks 7-9pm BST, Dates  Nov 15 — Dec 20

The practice of making new films from recycled fragments opens exciting opportunities for exploring past events. And, crucially, it allows audiences to also reflect critically on the histories of image-making from which those fragments emerge.

This course will look at how we engage with archives, cultural memory, and history. We will look at films and videos whose source materials are drawn from state archives, from amateur, family, or ‘counter-archives’, that harvest material from the internet, or that steal from the history of fiction cinema production, as well as artists’ works that transform discarded junk into meaningful social documents.

The topics we will address include the ethical questions that confront makers and audiences alike when image and sound recordings are ripped from their original context and re-appropriated to new ends. We will consider the dehumanising or exclusionary gaze in the archive, as well as some of the creative strategies artists and filmmakers have used to produce ethical reworkings of materials associated with our troubled pasts.

All sessions will be online and will combine lectures, screenings, and group discussions. Optional readings will be shared at the end of each session.


  1. Compilation, found-footage and other remix practices
    Taking a historical perspective, we’ll look at uses of archival material in film and video production to reveal divergent attitudes to audio-visual media, to audience reception, and to history itself.
  2. Towards an ethics of appropriation
    We consider the radically shifting meanings of the recycled image fragment, from internet meme to archival film. What sort of ethical frameworks do we use when it comes to evaluating the creative use and misuse of film fragments? 
  3. The perpetrator’s gaze: film as repair and resistance
    What creative strategies have filmmakers and artists used to disrupt or reverse the cinematic gaze when working with materials that dehumanise and erase certain groups, while elevating and sanitising others?
  4. Listening to images
    Unlike written documents, image and sound recordings tend to contain unfiltered, uncensored ‘noise’ which exceeds the intention of the original filmmaker, and which resists full comprehension or interpretation. How can we use the ambiguous or disruptive qualities of recordings to give meaning to our perception of history?
  5. Fiction’s unconscious
    Some artists and filmmakers have raided the history of fiction cinema, transforming fragments of fiction film into documents that speak to us of the social relations embedded in the experience of cinema. What is it about this process that is so compelling?
  6. Questions of practice
    The first part of the session addresses practical issues, including legality and rights when using third party materials. In the second part, we will discuss student experiences of looking through archives and/or viewing archive-based film.


This course will be delivered via online distance learning, and students will require a computer or other internet connected device.

This online course takes place across 6 Tuesday evenings (7pm to 9pm) from 15thNovember to 20th December.

If you’d like to be notified about this course’s future running dates, please fill in this quick form. If you have any questions about the course, get in touch with

(Image: Still from Home Stories, Matthias Muller, Germany, 1990)



Miranda Pennell


Miranda Pennell is an artist, filmmaker and lecturer living in London. Her moving image work explores ways of engaging with repressed histories. She uses materials sourced from visual archives as a starting point for reflecting on Britain's colonial legacies. She combines archival images with those from her immediate environment to create slippages between past and present, between personal and collective history.
Recent screenings include Berlinale, New York Film Festival, Viennale, London International Film Festival in 2021. Recent group exhibitions include Intersectional Geographies (2022) Martin Parr Foundation, Bristol; Visions of Empire (2021) Padrao dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon; Tanzbilder (2019), New Museum for Art and Design, Nuremberg. Some of her films are available for streaming via the platform Doc Alliance Films.
Miranda has an MA in visual anthropology from Goldsmiths Colledge London, and her doctorate from the University of Westminster, explores the visual archive of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP) and personal, family photographs from Iran. She is currently artist-in-residence at Birkbeck’s Centre for Law and the Humanities.