Introducing Filmakers Library

Check out FILMAKERS LIBRARY, a multidisciplinary international collection of over 1,400 documentaries, 1974 to the present. The collection, from Alexander Street Press, can be streamed via computer and is a growing one (8 titles from 2014 so far).

“Topical coverage is diverse and relevant across the curriculum—anthropology, race and gender studies, human rights, globalization and global studies, multiculturalism, international relations, criminal justice, the environment, bioethics, health, political science and current events, psychology, arts, literature, and more. Titles originate from independent filmmakers and prominent producers alike. Select content partners include HBO, CBC Learning, BBC, the Dramatists Guild, Journeyman Pictures, and IFC Films/Sundance Selects. Newly added, exclusive titles from Oscilloscope Films, First Run Features, and Zeitgeist Films include award winners and film-festival favorites, all hand selected for their caliber and relevance to academic audiences.” —Publisher’s description   
Navigating the database is a delight with the flexible, intuitive interface that affords searching on words and phrases in the metadata as well as in “fulltext/transcripts.” Indeed, “live” transcripts run beside the video as it plays. I couldn’t help duck into Something Wonderful May Happen: New York School of Poets and Beyond, a refreshing distraction to have running in one’s office on a sober weekday!

These independent documentaries are on a wide range of browsable topics.  Titles of note for  communication studies include: Baghdad Blogger (2006), The Compassionate Eye: Horace Bristol, Photojournalist  (2007), Cyberwar in Egypt (2013), Cyberwar in China (2013), Ethnic Cleansing: The Media and World Opinion (2001), Primetime War (2000), No Sex, No Violence, No News  (2001), Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust (2013), Cinema Korea (2009), 30 Seconds of Gold: Advertising on Chinese TV (2006), The Machine That Made Us (2009), The Forgotten Man: Private Bradley Manning and the Wikileaks Controversy (2011), Our Nation: A Korean Punk Rock Community (2002), Out of Print (2013), Indie Game (2012), What Killed Kevin? (2012), and Cybersex Addiction (2006).

I plan to make time soon for Fanny Bräuning’s No More Smoke Signals (2009), having seen the first few minutessmoke.

Synopsis: Kili Radio, the “Voice of the Lakota Nation,” is broadcast out of a small wooden house in the vast countryside of South Dakota. There, people converge to speak to the community about daily concerns and in doing so, strengthen their sense of identity. Daily existence on America’s poorest reservation is hard. We meet people like Roxanne Two Bulls, who’s trying to start over again on the land of her ancestors after a difficult life nearly destroyed by alcoholism; and Bruce, the white lawyer who for thirty years has been trying to free an American Indian militant who’s been fighting for equal rights for his people. Everything comes together at Kili Radio. Instead of sending smoke signals the radio station transmits its own signals across a vast and magnificent landscape with a delightful combination of humor and melancholy. We hear native hip hop and complaints about broken windshields. Some of their pride has been restored with the radio broadcast; the listeners now feel that it really is acceptable to be Lakota.


Update on Film and Television Databases

Penn Libraries has recently re-subscribed to two important current film and television databases, the Film & Television Literature Index and The FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals, complimenting ongoing subscriptions to Film Index International (British Film Institute) and the AFI (American Film Institute) Catalog.  The title similarities makes it all a bit confusing so here’s a little rundown. poptv

The most centrally situated database is Film & Television Literature Index, which is now, conveniently, an EBSCO product.  On the EBSCO platform users are met with a familiar interface and can search related files at the same time, namely (but not only) Communication Source insuring very solid interdisciplinary coverage of their topic. The file includes over 400 scholarly journals as well as non-peer reviewed glossy film magazines. Subjects covered are wide-ranging–film and television theory, preservation and restoration, screenwriting, production, cinematography, technical aspects of film and television, entertainment law, and film and television reviews. While our subscription is for the index and abstracts only, full text for a lion’s share of results will be just a click away via PennText which connects to hundreds of source files (Sage, Wiley, etc.).  While the bulk of material in F&TLI comes from the 70s to the present, articles from as far back as 1913 may surface.

The FIAF International Index to Film Periodicals brings together contributions from experts around the world dedicated to film preservation, cataloging and documentation. The main database contains citations from more than 345 periodicals, offering  in-depth coverage of the worlds foremost academic and popular film journals. In addition to indexing film periodicals, this resource also contains several other databases: the International Index to Television Periodicals (1979-1998), Treasures from the Film Archives, the FIAF Affiliates’ Publications, the Documentation Collections, which describe the holdings of film archives and libraries around the world, as well as and FIAFs Reference Works, which includes keyword-searchable access to 5 works: Critical Ideas in Television Studies, Encyclopedia of Early Cinema, Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, Oxford History of World Cinema, and Routledge Companion to Film Studies. A strength of FIAF is its coverage of animation journals and European film magazines.


Then there is BFI’s Film Index International which provides unmatched coverage of literature on international film and film personalities. Its Summary of Film and Television (SIFT) database is collated by the BFI and reaches back 70 years. It includes bibliographies that, unlike freely available resources such as the Internet Movie Database (IMDB), point to scholarly and academic work in the field of Cinema Studies. Entries include full cast and crew lists, searchable plot synopses, filmographies, biographical details, important dates, awards and prizes, and thorough bibliographies, with citations for original reviews from the time of a film’s release as well as interviews, historical surveys and obituaries. Includes works of films from blockbusters to art house films from the present day back to early cinema and the first silent movies. This, more than any other comparable index, is the place for world cinema (and television)–European, Asian, Latin American, and African.

If your interest is feature-length films produced in America or financed by American production companies the AFI Catalog of Feature Films is a great database for authoritative information on cast, crew, plot summaries, subjects, genres and historical notes. So far it includes nearly 60,000 American feature-length films and 17,000 short films produced from 1893-2011.

You will often find overlap in these files but they are varied enough that it’s usually worth checking into more than one.  And we have many more film and television resources to recommend than these four databases!  Check out these Research Guides if you want to get an even fuller picture.

Cinema Studies 

Historic Film Archives Online

Online film archives

Introduction to Film History (Pre-1945)

Hollywood Film Industry

Television Studies

Wrapping up with a human resource is in order. Meet Penn Libraries’ very own Cinema Studies Librarian, Charles Cobine. You can reach him at: or @cobine

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209 Van Pelt