USC Book Prize in Literary and Cultural Studies


Honorable Mention

Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military

Honorable Mention: Alice Lovejoy
Title: Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military (Indiana University Press)

Alice Lovejoy’s Army Film and the Avant Garde: Cinema and Experiment in the Czechoslovak Military throws light on a remarkable collection of films made between the 1930s and the late 1960s that were mostly shelved after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Lovejoy’s sophisticated analysis of this corpus of films would have constituted an important accomplishment in itself. However, Army Film and The Avant Garde does much more: it inserts these films within the history of the Czech New Wave, of Eastern European Socialist Realism, and of international documentary in such thought-provoking ways that scholars in these major fields in film studies will be challenged and enriched by Lovejoy’s work. For instance, through her focus on the military studio, Lovejoy “locates some of the New Wave’s roots in instructional filmmaking,” thus “shedding light on the Czechoslovak film miracle of the 1960s, underlining its deep and systematic links to governmental and industrial media practices.” (8-9) As a result, she is able to show how “moments in the chronology of East European cinema and media history that are traditionally seen as caesurae in fact represent points of continuity” (10). Well versed in the history and theory of cinema, Lovejoy is singularly able to show us the larger stakes of her unique archive in ways that point toward an “international history of postwar documentary.” Such an ambitious history undermines old Cold War dichotomies and instead highlights “common roots and similarities between nonfiction film East and West;” it also powerfully rearticulates the relationships between cinema and the state as “institutional actors with multiple dimensions.” Few books thread archival work and theoretical argumentation as rigorously and productively as Army Film. Congratulations on a solidly grounded, ambitious book!

Winner: Stephen Lovell