3 March 2023

What is the relationship between experimental film, genre studies and the body? How do makers experiment with and challenge some key conventions of the road movie, often identified as one of the most genuine and enduring Hollywood genres? Is there the “feminine” road movie aesthetics that counteracts the genre’s gendered and masculine nature? What makes road travel embodied in cinematic terms? Read about the research of Dr Kornelia Boczkowska, Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan.

Avant-garde filmmaking

The research has been funded by the National Science Center, Poland, under the project Lost highways, forgotten travels: The road movie in the postwar American avant-garde and experimental film through the lens of women and men filmmakers (grant no. UMO-2018/31/D/HS2/01553 within the SONATA 14 funding scheme; funding period: 2019-2023; funding amount: 75000 USD). – Although the focus on road travel can be seen as a rather persistent trend in avant-garde filmmaking, the road movie has never been explored as an experimental film genre – Dr Boczkowska explains to Research in Poland.

Dr. Kornelia Boczkowska – private archive

To fill this gap, the project offers a comprehensive study of the road movie in the history and present-day of experimental film and video and situates it within the corporeal turn in avant-garde cinema, so far mostly associated with body genres and sexually explicit films, due to most films’ articulation of a sensuous, embodied experience of automobile travel. In doing so, it covers works spanning over 60 years of the avant-garde filmmaking practice and puts the special focus on women’s work and a vast range of artist-made moving images, many of which are located on the periphery of the experimental film scene.

As Dr Boczkowska emphasises: “consequently, the project sheds new light on material so far hardly or never explored in film criticism, which encompasses a variety of subgenres as well as filmmaking styles and techniques, including found footage films, home movies, diary films, structuralist films, digital road movies, eco-road movies, animated road movies, collaborative road movie, video installations, city symphony films or landscape films”. Approached through the lens of the materiality of the film medium and other theoretical approaches, such as ecocriticism, gender studies or expanded cinematic practices, this work is analysed in the larger international and comparative context that transcends a solely national perspective.



International research

The research, carried out between 2019 and 2022 at University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University, Academy Film Archive, Canyon Cinema Foundation, San Francisco Cinematheque and Prelinger Library, has resulted in the publishing of several articles and preparation of two book manuscripts. The first book (tentatively titled: Lost Highways, Embodied Travels: The Road Movie in American Experimental Film and Video; currently under review in Brill) celebrates American experimental filmmaking and the road movie tradition through an engaging discussion of over 80 unique and often forgotten films and videos, usually seen somewhat in opposition to Hollywood and independent cinema, which present automobile travel as an integral and significant aspect of on-screen storytelling. Dr Boczkowska’s second book (tentatively titled: Planes, Trains, Bicycles: (Other) Mobilities in Experimental Film and Video; in preparation) will discuss other mobilities in experimental film and video and cover a wide array of largely underrepresented works and genres, such as train, bike, plane and walking films.

Asked about the most innovative site of her research, Dr Boczkowska claims: “ it significantly broadens the range and perspective of the road movie scholarship through investigating the motif of (road) travel in modes of filmmaking other than mainstream and independent, and credited with re-evaluating the genre’s conventions in an alternative, non-narrative form, which eschews the traditional road narrative and redefines its place in film history.” It also highlights the work of artists working on the margins of the avant-garde. Dr Boczkowska hopes that the project will appeal to a broad spectrum of readers, ranging from scholars, makers and artists to film buffs and anyone whose interests revolve around the history and practice of experimental filmmaking.





Boczkowska, Kornelia. 2022. “Do Gender, Genre and the Gaze Still Matter? Toward a Feminine Road Movie in Women’s Experimental Film.” Feminist Media Studies 22 (published online). DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2021.2004194

Boczkowska, Kornelia. 2021. “Easy Rider and Goodbye Thelma Revisited, or on Experimental Film Remakes of the Road Movie.” Journal of Adaptation in Film & Performance 14(2), 145-161. DOI: 10.1386/jafp_00050_1

Boczkowska, Kornelia. 2021. “From Car Frenzy to Car Troubles: Automobilities, Highway Driving and the Road Movie in Experimental Film.” Mobilities 16(4), 524-536. DOI: 10.1080/17450101.2021.1895673

Boczkowska, Kornelia, editor. 2021. Landscape, Travel and the Gaze in Experimental Film and Video, special issue of Papers on Language and Literature 57(1), pp. 116. ISSN: 0031-1294