The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses
Duke University Press, 2000

still from History and Memory: For Akiko and Takashige (1991) by Rea Tajiri

Memories that evoke the physical awareness of touch, smell, and bodily presence can be vital links to home for people living in diaspora from their culture of origin. How can filmmakers working between cultures use cinema, a visual medium, to transmit that physical sense of place and culture? In The Skin of the Film Laura U. Marks provides an answer, building on the theories of Gilles Deleuze and others to explain how and why intercultural cinema represents embodied experience in a postcolonial, transnational world.
Much of intercultural cinema, Marks argues, has its origin in silence, in the gaps left by recorded history. Filmmakers seeking to represent their native cultures have had to develop new forms of cinematic expression. Marks offers a theory of “haptic visuality”—which functions like the sense of touch by triggering physical memories of smell, touch, and taste—to explain the newfound ways in which intercultural cinema engages the viewer bodily to convey cultural experience and memory. Drawing on almost two hundred examples of intercultural film and video, she shows how the image allows viewers to experience cinema as a physical and multi-sensory embodiment of culture, not just as a visual representation of experience. Finally, this book guides readers to many hard-to-find independent films and videos by Third World diasporic filmmakers now living in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada.

"Postcolonial history is necessarily an investigation of fossils. We are constantly discovering inexplicable factoids on the surface of represented history that invite us to cut through the layers and connect them to their source, cutting between private recollection and official discourse. More often than not, the investigator contracts their infectious quality. The 'piece of the rock' that contains our own lives disintegrates into unstable, seething sands, and we have no choice but to sift through, looking for clues."—From Chapter Two, "The Memory of Things"

"'He said he didn't recognize me, but he said that if I'd eaten sweet potatoes, he had planted them.'"—from Great Girl (1993) by Kim Su Theiler

Reviews of
The Skin of the Film:

Melanie Swalwell, "
The Senses and Memory in Intercultural Cinema," Film-Philosophy, 6 (October 2002)

David Martin-Jones,
Screen 43:4 (Winter 2002)

Tamara Vukov, "
Intercultural Sensoriums," Topia, 8 (Fall 2002)

Tara Forrest, "'Intercultural Cinema' and the Rubble of History,"
The UTS Review: Cultural Studies and New Writing, 7:1 (2001): 210-212.

Donato Totaro,
Canadian Journal of Film Studies 10:1 (2001): 106-109.

Tollof Nelson,
Cinémas 11:2-3 (Summer-Autumn 2001): 293-301.

Avi Santo,
The Velvet Light Trap 47 (Spring 2001): 80-82.

Sarah Leisdovich,
AS (Netherlands; 2001): 14-23.

Martha P. Nochimson,
Quarterly Review of Film & Video 17:4 (December 2000)

John Belton,
Choice 38:1 (September 2000)

Claire Perkins, "
Cinephilia and Monstrosity: The Problem of Cinema in Deleuze's Cinema Books," Senses of Cinema (2000)

still from
Lumumba: La mort du prophète (1992) by Raoul Peck