Video Essays: Curating and Transforming Film Education through Artistic Research

  • Estrella Sendra Film and Screen Studies at SOAS - University of London


This article seeks to foster reflection on film pedagogy and research, encouraging academics to engage in artistic research and
teaching methods. It specifically focuses on the video essay as a teaching and learning method, one that requires the willingness
to take risks, but also, that can lead to a transformative experience in a still hierarchical educational system. The increasing
openness to video essays in film journals shows an awareness of the way in which artistic research may contribute to decolonise
academia. The practice of video essays leads to an inclusive, collaborative and polyphonic research environment, which
dismantles the idea of a film canon. It contests the privileged position of the written ‘text’, when this is just understood as the
written word. It also contributes to blurring the distance between the status of students and that of researchers. It invites them
to assimilate work practices, curating and filmmaking, which sometimes happen simultaneously, curating through filmmaking.
This article shares the example of the design of the video essay as a creative assessment method for two film modules in the
MA Global Cinemas and the BA Creative Arts at SOAS, University of London. It stresses the importance of connecting research,
practice and teaching, that is, the recursive study of film through film. It suggests that through making video essays class members
become co-curators of the course, where learning is a multi-directional and collaborative experience.

Author Biography

Estrella Sendra, Film and Screen Studies at SOAS - University of London

Estrella Sendra is a scholar, teacher, filmmaker, journalist and festival organiser, currently working as Senior Teaching Fellow in Film and Screen Studies at SOAS, University of London; and as Teaching Fellow in Global Media Industries, at Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton. She engages with creative and innovative teaching methods, such as assessment through video-essays, informed by her research and practical experience in the creative industries. Her research interests include festival studies, film festivals, global screen media, African cinema, audiovisual representations of migration, transnational communities and cultural contributions from rooted cosmopolitans, and gender. Since 2011, she has been developing regional expertise in Senegal. In 2018, she completed her PhD in African Languages and Cultures at SOAS. This traced, for the first time, the history of festivalisation in Senegal, and focused on a music festival in a rural region, the Festival International de Folklore et de Percussion(FESFOP) in Louga. Her publications include ‘Displacement and the Quest for Identity in Alain Gomis’ Cinema’ in Black Camera: An International Film Journal(2018), and ‘50thAnniversary of the Festival Mondial des Arts Nègres: A Comparative Study of the Engagement of the Population in 1966 and 2010 Festivals,’ in Interventions-International Journal of PostcolonialStudies (2018), co-authored with Senegalese sociologist Saliou Ndour.