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Individual Testimonies of Trans-individual Crisis: The Covid-19 Confinement Essay Film



The COVID-19 pandemic, and the unprecedented confinement measures it prompted governments to take, has led to a boom of audiovisual testimonies of the numerous facets this global phenomenon has assumed. Some of the testimonies have taken the shape of essay films which embrace the topic of the restrictions imposed on access to the outside world, turning them into organizational principles and formal devices. In this article, I will comment on some of the specificities of the audiovisual by-products of the COVID-19 confinement and their approach to filmic representation of the spatial sense of self and to the audiovisual making of the political subject. I will approach a sample of these films, namely the “cinematic letters” proposed by the Cinémathèque Française during last spring’s national lockdown, via two phenomena. The first is carceral experience and its various enunciations which, notwithstanding the overwrought parallels sometimes made with the pandemic-induced lockdown, can provide useful context for analyzing the relation between the forcibly secluded individual and the outside world. The second is the recording of voluntary social isolation—a particular thematic configuration of the essay film which converges with the COVID-19 confinement films in terms of discursive strategies and spatial problematization.

Keywords: pandemic media, essay film, carceral experience, (self-)confinement film, lettres de cinéma

DOI: 10.24193/ekphrasis.26.7