#DETECt2021 – Day Two
#DETECt2021 – Day Two
A reportage of #DETECt2021 Conference. Written by Nicola Pimpinella and Lavinia Sansone, Students of the Dams Degree Course (Link Campus University).
The second day of the DETECt Conference at Link Campus University started with several panels taking place in rooms A, B and C.
PARALLEL SESSION 3
Panel A3: Crime Narratives: A Crossborder Perspective
Starting with Stefano Sollima’s work as the first authentic Italian showrunner, this panel mentioned: “Romanzo Criminale – La serie” (2006-2008), “Gomorrah” (2014-present) and “ZeroZeroZero” (2020-present). In the first case, characters still embody the struggle between good and evil; in “Gomorrah”, they become highly complex in a claustrophobic world. Unlike the novel by Roberto Saviano, from which the series was adapted, the absence of that figure who guides us through the events and who represents the alternative to crime should be noted. Instead, a more global dimension can be found in “ZeroZeroZero”, a series in which deep human feelings (e.g. desire for power and revenge) lead to the eventual dehumanization of characters. Finally, aesthetically speaking about the role of landscape, although the representation of Southern Italy is authentic, none of the clichés of the Campania region (e.g. sea, sun and Vesuvius) is present.
Panel B3: Crime Narratives, Periphery and Multiculturalism
Analyzing the concept of “peripheral locations”, which “does not exclusively imply a distance from Rome” (Coviello and Re 2021), this panel focused on some recent examples of films set outside of primary tourist routes. For instance, over the last thirty years, the Po Valley has become a “particularly dark crime setting”, as it is full of unexplored areas that are ideal for hiding mysteries: not surprisingly, it has been described as a “Padanian-Gothic landscape” (Cappi 2007). In the case of “Human Capital” (2013), the director Paolo Virzì “transplants a novel set in Connecticut to Brianza” (Bertarelli 2014), proving that local specificities can be integrated into innovative but also challenging ways. In fact, locals have accused Virzì of painting an inaccurate picture of the area. As in the case of “Mediterranean noir”, the label “Padano noir” can be interpreted also in terms of glocal narratives, transnational identity, and cosmopolitism: ultimately, “the river has no centre […], it is the elsewhere” (Belpoliti 2021).
Panel C3: The Geography of Crime Fiction: Local / Global
Mentioning the works of Spanish authors like José Luis Correa, Antonio Lozano, Dolores Redondo, Ibon Martín and Eva García Sáenz de Urturi, this panel reflected on the description of routes taken by characters, which add realism and also contribute to follow the steps of the investigations. Moreover, in the case of “La Ceguera del Cangrejo” (2019) by Alexis Ravelo, the author promotes sustainable tourism in Lanzarote: in fact, the description of natural and artistic heritage of the island occupies more than six pages in the novel, that is therefore located halfway “between narration and transmission of knowledge”. And as more and more readers wish to visit the story’s locations, literary routes have been organised with the involvement of the writer himself. The fertility of regional crime fiction in Spain shows how Madrid and Barcelona are no longer the main settings: in fact, always more writers choose to set their stories in territories they know very well and wish to make known. If similar phenomena can be found in Italy, France and other European countries, instead of a literary movement tout court, one can talk about “exchange and openness in the mosaic of Europe, whose cultural unity emerges strongly”.
PARALLEL SESSION 4
Panel A4: Crime Narratives: a Transmedia Perspective
This panel reflected on how the subgenre of noir narratives have become perhaps “the most critically and commercially successful case of transnational TV seriality in Europe”, as is shown by series like “Inspector Montalbano” (1999-2021), “Wallander” (2008-2016), “Babylon Berlin” (2017-present), “Money Heist” (2017-present) and “Witnesses” (2014-present). Taking as an example the noirification of the Italian TV “giallo”, which took place first in the field of literature, the panel reflected on the equivalence between this process and that of complexification. As “the act of labeling something noir, particularly a visual fiction, is a way of insisting on its status as art” (Steenberg 2017), these series have achieved the status of “quality” products and therefore present recognizable elements that can “gain audiences and circulate transnationally”. And if “the Italian public broadcasting system didn’t take long to follow this model”, similar trajectories can be seen in other countries, too.
Panel B4: New Takes on the Police Procedural
Through the analysis of series like “Criminal” (2019-present) and “In Treatment” (2008-present), this panel went on to investigate the modus operandi of the “chamber play” as a transnational format and how it articulates popular geopolitics and social or psychological realities linked to crime and criminality. Either the police interrogation room and the therapist’s office show the so-called “aesthetics of the closed place”, but each local series has its peculiarities. For instance, in the case of “Criminal”, even if the criminal act stays the same, there is a difference in terms of framing and/or social status (e.g. the depiction of sexual abuse in “Criminal: UK” and “Criminal: Spain”). Furthermore, the panel showed how “Western chamber plays highlight the crisis of modern democracies’ institutions”, whereas “Eastern chamber plays highlight how multiple modernities reframe the institutions of modern democracies”.
Panel C4: Crime Narratives and Ecocriticism
Analysing the novel “Earthly Remains” (2017) by “eco-detective writer” Donna Leon, this panel reflected on the “use of crime fiction formula to orientate some of its conventions into environmentalist discourse”. Talking about global issues, while also succeeding in reaching exoticism, the ecocriticism conducted by Leon starts in the Venetian lagoon and concretizes the “large-scale effects of climate catastrophe”, thus reaching a worldwide audience. The crime novel also underlines “the connivance between local criminal organizations and large international corporations”. The panel went on with the role played by the Mediterranean in making these “complex scalar tensions” visible: they also contribute to the global circulation of the author’s work and ecocriticism, indeed a vast and challenging topic, closely related to the theme of narrative delocalization, too.
PARALLEL SESSION 5
Panel A5: Crime Narratives and Politics
Analysing “Suburra” (2017-2020) through the concept of “New Italian Epic” by literary group Wu Ming, this panel reflected on the series’s political plot, which is also evident by the presence of a character of a corrupt, professional political figure. Still, in reality, “every level of community in Suburra is basically rotten to the core” (e.g. church, police and industrial corruption). The solution then is either revolution or apocalypse: in fact, Stefano Sollima’s film “Suburra” (2015) is punctuated by chapters entitled “7 days before the apocalypse”, “6 days before the apocalypse”, etc. A similar atmosphere is also reflected in advertisement, as in the dark clouds in the background of the series’s poster. The panel concluded that “the apocalyptic vision of crime and politics is a shortcut for spectacularizing Italian plots in the New Italian Epic TV”, as proved by the idea of interconnection between criminality and the fertile ground it finds in recent Italian political history.
Panel B5: Crime Narratives and Gender
Analysing Turkish crime drama miniseries “Persona” (2018), which takes the form of a critique of social justice while focusing on gender inequalities, this panel reflected on gender representation in cultural identity, stereotypes and roles. Female roles generally present passive characteristics as wives, mothers or daughters; the male ones, on the other hand, are more dominant in the shoes of workmen, husbands and fathers. The “male-dominated social order” is also represented by the fictional, conservative town of Kambura, where a male-dominated culture pressures women. Concerning social memory, the character of Reyhan witnesses and concretises through his diary the suppression of social memory perpetrated by men: in fact, protagonist Nevra Elmas “forgets what was traumatic for her” and this inability to remember is compared to Alzheimer’s disease, since “if the facts are forgotten or made to be forgotten, there is neither a crime nor a conscience”.
Panel C5: Netflix and the Popularity of TV Crime Drama
Focusing on pop songs as relevant tools on both narrative and production sides of TV series, this panel considers their role in building genre identity, as proved by Netflix’s local productions. The two main functions of pop songs in crime TV series are enhancing the mood (e.g. fear) and changing the mood (e.g. love song in a murder scene): in the second case, pop songs can be used to “contradict the typical dark tone of crime series in contrast with stereotypical song choices”. Examples of sound branding include Italian partisan song “Bella Ciao” (in “Money Heist”) and “Red Right Hand” (in “Peaky Blinders”). In Italian crime series, it can also be noted the presence of electronic sounds and lyrics in Neapolitan dialect (e.g. “Gomorrah”) and dark, blues-rock theme songs (e.g. “Rocco Schiavone”. The panel concluded that pop songs have become “a quality trademark, a production tool through which a crime series can display its originality and modernity”.
Keynote by Janet McCabe
“Divided Bodies, Crossing Borders, Transnational Encounters: Towards a Feminist Approach of Transnational TV Studies”
Dr Janet McCabe from Birkbeck, University of London started with a case study of the high-concept scripted TV format of “The Bridge” (2011-2018) to discuss on feminisms in the world, locational feminism and new ways of feminism thinking. By showing a series of audio-visual essays (“Flow/Cut”, “Body/Matters” and “Law/Fear” by McCabe and Grant, 2018), she went on with the theme of cultural legitimacy in relation to crime stories involving women, especially complex female detectives with borderline personalities. Later, Dr McCabe moved to the concept of locational feminism, which translates in different spatial-temporal contexts (Stanford Friedman 2001).
During the discussion following the keynote speech, Associate Professor Pia Majbritt Jensen from Aarhus University, answered the questions with Dr Janet McCabe, hinting at structures of representations and other available tools to tell different stories.
PARALLEL SESSION 6
Panel A6: Crime Films and Transnationalism
Stressing that crime fiction communicates Europeannes at a transnational level like no other genre, this panel reflected on the complex structure of European crime films in relation to the more prosperous case of TV production. Claiming that crime is “a national genre” whose international reach does not depend solely on its autonomy, the panel mentioned national and supranational support schemes like the Selective Distribution one: even though crime is the most popular genre, it obtains less funds than drama (52%) and comedy (12%); for instance, French drama takes as much budget as the total of comedy and crime all over Europe. The panel concluded that “supranational supports in distribution could help a broader circulation of European crime films”, which seem to become European only when associated with an authorial figure.
Panel B6: The Other in TV Crime Dramas
Mentioning the importance of the crime genre in Hungary, this panel wanted to systematise a large amount of data in relation to the representation of international relations and foreigners: Italy and France, mainly associated to the drug trade, are countries where Hungarians go to study; Austria, Germany and the UK are countries where they go to work, therefore are connected to immigration; Luxembourg represents the banking centre of incomes in many Hungarian storylines; from Russia and Ukraine come, for instance, many Hungarian characters trained in the former KGB; Thailand and New Zealand, at the end of the world, represent an “escape route for criminals”, and South America comes across as a place where “everything illegal can happen”.
Panel C6: Generic and Narrative Hybridity in European Crime Television
Mentioning films like “Almanya: Welcome to Germany” (2011), “Jupiter’s Moon” (2017) and “District 9” (2009), this panel reflected on the detection of the “Other” through the figure of the “Intermediary”. For instance, “Diamantino” (2018) suggests that “the African refugee has always been part of the country [Portugal]”, therefore he is a constant reminder of Portuguese colonial history, implying that “the external is just the internal in disguise”. In the case of “Morgen” (2010), the fear of the refugee is conceived through that of the internal other. The panel concluded that, in European cinema, the representation of the “Other” is not new, since it can be traced back to German Expressionism; some have even ventured to argue that “immigration is simply the new term for race”.