Dr Simon Sigley staff profile picture

Contact details +64 (09) 414 0800  ext. 43340

Dr Simon Sigley

Senior Lecturer

School of English and Media Studies

My research, teaching, and media practice involve film and history, media aesthetics, film culture, the symbolic role of film in the cultural imaginary, and the use of new digital media in seeing and screening the flux of reality. My primary research and writing at the moment concerns the documentary work of the National Film Unit (NFU), from its establishment in 1941 to the advent of television in New Zealand in the 1960s. I have published several pieces on the NFU with the aim of writing a book-length cultural history of this influential documentary production unit. My book, Transnational Film Culture in New Zealand (2013), approaches cinema as a form of social practice and examines the reception of international film theories and discourses and shows how these ideas helped to shape distinct cultural practices, including new forms of reviewing; new methods of teaching; and new institutions such as film societies, art-house cinemas, and film festivals. I have extensive experience as a screen media arts practitioner, having worked in a variety of programme formats in France and New Zealand, and seek to develop innovative combinations of aesthetics and ethnographic explorations of reality in media practice. I am interested in supervising research projects that involve critical media practice, arthouse cinema, New Zealand and Australian films/film culture, screen representations of the South Pacific, and documentary production. Being a fluent French speaker, I can also (and would welcome) supervising French-langauge research projects involving the above.

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Professional

Contact details

  • Ph: +64 09 414 0800 x43340
    Location: AT2.45, Atrium
    Campus: Auckland

Qualifications

  • PhD - University of Auckland (2004)
  • Maîtrise - Université de Nancy II (1994)

Research Expertise

Research Interests

My PhD (2004) examined film culture in New Zealand; how international ideas about 'film as art' and the cinema were received here and evolved over a 50 year period (1920s-1970s), leading to the rise of various novel cultural practices, such as film societies, 'serious' film reviewing, film festivals, 'arthouse' cinemas, and the formation of specialized audiences. The research made a small but distinctive contribution to the history of New Zealand intellectual and artistic culture; the study of the dynamics of culture (how a culture develops); and the (international) history of ‘film culture’ and ‘art cinema’.

Since then my research has developed conceptually to include the symbolic role that New Zealand national cinema plays in the cultural imaginary of other countries. My research also extends into the production and distribution of New Zealand films – those produced by the government's documentary National Film Unit (1941-90), as well as others made independently, or with the financial support of the Film Commission.

A transnational dimension also informs my research as I seek to establish what links exist between various Commonwealth representations in documentary films made by the settler societies and former British Dominions of Canada and New Zealand, as well as the Commonwealth of Australia. Such work has also contributed to research into the role that film plays in the cultural imaginary; whether this be national (the work of the NFU in constructing local identities and images of the nation) or international (the way the French imagine New Zealand, specifically, and the 'antipodes', more generally, through film). 

Thematics

21st Century Citizenship

Area of Expertise

Field of research codes
Art Theory and Criticism (190100): Cinema Studies (190201): Film, Television and Digital Media (190200): Lens-based Practice (190503): Studies In Creative Arts And Writing (190000): Visual Arts and Crafts (190500): Visual Cultures (190104)

Keywords

Film culture, film criticism, documentary film, the National Film Unit, reception studies and aesthetics.

Research Projects

Summary of Research Projects

Position Current Completed
Project Leader 0 2

Completed Projects

Project Title: The National Film Unit: A Case Study in National and Transnational Cultural Production

Before television took hold on the public imagination, the National Film Unit (NFU) had a central role in New Zealand life, post-WW2 nation building and cultural colonization. This was represented each week at cinemas in the form of Weekly Reviews (1941-50), Pictorial Parades (1952-71) and in-depth documentaries, such as Journey for Three (1948), The First Two Years at School (1950) and Pumicelands (1954). The NFU was responsible for much of the footage that now documents (and represents) several decades of New Zealand history. Much debate and controversy surrounded the Unit as it played such an important part in articulating the nature and values of national life. My study has two principal strands. Firstly, it examines the extent to which the film unit productions contributed to national identity and gave Pakeha viewers a turangawaewae in a complex process of cultural colonization (a becoming 'native') which sought, possibly unconsciously, to settle Europeans into lands belonging to non-Europeans. However, national identity and cultural colonization are not the only major organizing principles of this study. The second strand aims to examine the Unit's Commonwealth connections (recycling discourses and producing images, perhaps unwittingly, from within that broader identity). As a result, this study will make a positive contribution to an emergent research field: transnational film cultures.
Read Project Description Hide Project Description

Date Range: 2012 - 2012

Funding Body: Massey University

Project Team:

Research Outputs

Journal

Sigley, SA. (2017). Making Neighbours of the Natives: Colonial Development, Political Independence, and Documentary Depictions. Studies in Australasian Cinema.
[Journal article]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2017). The Adventures of Jonathan Dennis: Bicultural Film Archiving Practice in Aotearoa New Zealand. Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies. 5(1)
[Book Review]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2016). In order that they may attain ease, confidence, and comfort: myth and history in "Moana Roa" (1951) and "Drums Across the Lagoon" (1960). Studies in Documentary Film. 10(3), 233-251 Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rsdf20
[Journal article]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2016). Programming (Bi)Cultural Memory: Remembrance, Reinvention, and Commemorative Vigilance at the Film Archive, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Reconstruction: studies in contemporary culture. 16(1), 1-16 Retrieved from http://reconstruction.eserver.org/test/161/Sigley.shtml
[Journal article]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2014). Observations: Studies in New Zealand Documentary. Journal of New Zealand and Pacific Studies. 2(2)
[Book Review]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2012). Film Criticism as Cultural Fantasy: the Perpetual French Discovery of Australian Cinema. Metro. 172(Autumn), 133-135
[Book Review]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2012). Book review: Film Criticism as Cultural Fantasy - the perpetual French discovery of Australian cinema. Metro Magazine.
[Book Review]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2010). Remaking the Tasman World. SITES: a Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies. 7(1), 158-162
[Book Review]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2008). How 'the road to life' (1931) became the road to ruin: The case of the Wellington film society in 1933. The New Zealand Journal of History. 42(2), 196-215
[Journal article]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2007). Good or bad, it deals with life: Antipodean engagements with French film culture. British Review of New Zealand Studies. 16, 57-90
[Journal article]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Book

Sigley, SA. (2014). Imperial relations with Polynesian romantics: The John Grierson effect in New Zealand. In Z. Druick, & . Williams, Deane (Eds.) The Grierson Effect: Tracing Documentary's International Movement. (pp. 121 - 138). London: British Film Institute
[Chapter]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2013). Transnational Film Culture in New Zealand. Bristol (UK) / Chicago (US): Intellect Books
[Authored Book]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2011). Rites of passage in post-Second World War New Zealand cinema: migrating the masculine in 'Journey for Three' (1950). In A. Fox, BK. Grant, & H. Radner (Eds.) New Zealand Cinema: Interpreting the Past. (pp. 153 - 174). Bristol, United Kingdom: Intellect
[Chapter]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2009). 'Comme une invitation au voyage': French reception of Jane Campion, 'An Angel at My Table' and 'The Piano'. In H. Radner, A. Fox, & I. Bessiere (Eds.) Jane Campion: Cinema, Nation, Identity. (pp. 207 - 231). Detroit, USA: Wayne State Universisty Press
[Chapter]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Creative Work

Sigley, SA.(2017). Roa from Tochigi. Wakefield
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2016). Mark from Waikari.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2016). Pam from Kaikoura. [Ultra high definition video].
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2016). Ken from Dunedin. [Video]. Interview Project New Zealand website
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2016). Lorne from Wellington. [Video]. Interview Project New Zealand website
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2015). Katrina from the Bay.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2015). John from Mamaku.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2015). Waiharakeke from Whakatane.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2015). Duncan from Auckland.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2014). Ross from Hikurangi.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.Edited by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2014). Joshua from Rotorua.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.Edited by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2014). Anna from Copenhagen.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.Edited by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2014). Jo from Taipa.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.Edited by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2014). Thomas from Kaikohe.
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.Edited by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2001). The mighty civet. Dunedin, NZ: Natural Geographic Society
[Film or Video]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Thesis

Sigley, SA. (2003). Film culture: Its development in New Zealand, 1929-1972. (Doctoral Thesis, University of Auckland)
[Doctoral Thesis]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Conference

Sigley, SA. (2017, November). Documentary Depictions of Samoa in "Samoa" (1949), "A New Day in Samoa" (1959), and "Samoan Family" (1961). Presented at Oceanic Memory: Islands, Ecologies, Peoples. Christchurch.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2017, July). Making Neighbours of the Natives: Samoan Development, Independence, and New Zealand's National Film Unit. Presented at Contested Territories in the Pacific. Strasbourg.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2016, November). The National Film Unit, Islanders, and Governance. Presented at Sea Change: Transforming Industries, Screens, Texts. Victoria University of Wellington.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2015, November). Moana Roa (1951): the National Film Unit: mythic visions meet historical conditions. Presented at Cinema at the End of the World. Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2015, November). Programming (Bi)Cultural Memory. Presented at Pacifique(s). University of Le Havre, Le Havre, France.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2014, December). Adaptations and relocations: The national film unit, mythic visions and historical condition. Presented at Visible Evidence 21. New Delhi, India.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2013, June). Parsing the Pacific(s): The national film unit’s colonising gaze. Presented at The 19th annual conference of the New Zealand Studies Association together with the Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies. Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2012, December). Creating a (Bicultural) Memory Site: the New Zealand Film Archive / Nga Kaitiaki o nga Taonga Whitiahua. Presented at 16th Biennial Film & History Association of Australia & New Zealand Conference: Screen, Memory, History. Melbourne.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2011, September). 'Film Festival Culture in New Zealand, 1980-2011'. Presented at World Cinema Now,Second Biennial Conference from the Research Unit in Film Culture and Theory. Monash University, Melbourne, Vic.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2010, November). Migrating the Masculine and Nation Building in 'Journey for Three' (1950). Presented at Cinema, Modernity and Modernism, the XVth Biennial Conference of the Film and History Association of Australia and New Zealand. University of New South Wales (Sydney).
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2010). Migrating the masculine in journey for three (1950). In The XVth Biennial Film and History Conference:Cinema, Modernity and Modernism(pp. 2 - 2). , The XVth Biennial Film and History Conference:Cinema, Modernity and Modernism: University of New South Wales, Australia
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2010). Migrating the masculine in journey for three (1950). . Sydney, NSW, Australia
[Conference Paper]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2008, November). Beyond the middle distance: Notes towards a history of trans-Tasman film culture and criticism. Presented at Remapping Cinema, Remaking History. University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2008). Beyond the middle distance: Notes towards a history of trans-Tasman film culture and criticism. In Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Conference of the Film and HIstory Association of Australia and New Zealand(pp. 91 - 91). , Proceedings of the 14th Biennial Conference of the Film and HIstory Association of Australia and New Zealand: University of Otago
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2006, December). ‘Knowing New Zealand by Knowing Jane: how French film critics imagined the one through the other, and vice versa’. Presented at Jane Campion: Cinema, Nation, Identity. University of Otago (Dunedin).
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2006, November). The practice and purpose of film criticism in New Zealand 1930s-1960s’. Presented at Telling Stories: Cinema, History and Experience, the XIIIth Biennial Conference of the Film and History Association of Australia and New Zealand, Monash University & RMIT University, Melbourne. Melbourne (Australia).
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2006, June). Antipodean Thoughts on French film, 1930s-1950s. Presented at New Zealand, France, and the Pacific, 13th Annual Conference of the New Zealand Studies Assocation, with the Centre de recherche sur les identités culturelles et les langues de spécialités, University Paris Dauphine, Paris. Paris (France).
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2006). Knowing New Zealand by knowing Jane: How French critics imagined the one through the other, and vice versa. In Jane Campion: Cinema, Nation, Identity(pp. 21 - 22). : University of Otago
[Conference Abstract]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2006). Knowing New Zealand by knowing Jane: How French critics imagined the one through the other, and vice versa. . University of Otago, Dunedin, NZ
[Conference Paper]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2006). Local responses to French film, 1930s-1950s. . University Paris Dauphine, France
[Conference Paper]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA.(2006). The practice and purpose of film criticism in New Zealand, 1930s-1960s. . Melbourne, VIC
[Conference Paper]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2005, November). HIgh culture in the provinces: How The Road to Life (1931) became the Wellington Film Society's road to ruin in 1933. Presented at The New Zealand Historical Association Biennial Conference. The University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2003, November). Editing the rushes: The making of film cultures. Presented at 15th NZASIA International Conference - Asia: Images, Ideas, Id. The University of Auckland, Auckland, NZ.
[Conference Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Other

Sigley, SA. (2011). Book review: Observations: Studies in New Zealand Documentary. Victoria University Press
[Other]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Sigley, SA. (2010). Book review: Remaking the Tasman World. (pp. 158 - 162).
[Other]Authored by: Sigley, S.
Moine, R., & Sigley, SA. (2009, August). The contribution of a state-funded national cinema to culture and identity: France and New Zealand compared. In TThe New Zealand Film and Television School.. Presented at Vivien Street, Wellington.
[Oral Presentation]Authored by: Sigley, S.

Consultancy and Languages

Languages

  • French
    Last used: Daily
    Spoken ability: Excellent
    Written ability: Excellent

Media and Links

Media

  • 02 Sep 2016 - Radio
    The National Film Unit
    The National Film Unit closed down in 1990, leaving us hundreds of documentaries, films and TV dramas, tourism promos and newsreels covering wars and sporting events through to very personal stories.
  • 02 Nov 2014 - Newspaper
    Kiwi Film-makers Laugh Fear Off
    Siena Yates, a journalist with Sunday Star Times, interviewed me for an article on the popularity of New Zealand genre cinema.

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