Portrait of Professor Mattias Frey

Professor Mattias Frey

Professor of Film, Media and Culture
Head of Film and Media

About

Professor Mattias Frey is Professor of Film, Media and Culture at the University of Kent. His approach to film and media culture attends coequally to institutions as to human agency and cooperation, concentrating on what were once considered periphery phenomena: criticism, distribution, marketing and promotion, regulation and other cultural intermediaries.

In his recent and ongoing research, Professor Frey has taken a critical media industries approach to film (esp. distribution, regulation, exhibition); film and media audiences; promotional media and cultural intermediation (esp. film marketing, criticism); and digital culture (e.g. algorithmic recommender systems).

Over his career, research endeavours have included studies of specific genres and production trends (period/historical film and series; arthouse extreme cinema), institutions (film and other arts criticism; video on demand platforms such as Netflix), periods (postwar and contemporary) and geographical areas (German and Austrian film), not to mention classical and contemporary film theory. These publications, informed by media industries, sociology of art, political economy and cultural studies perspectives, demonstrate the productivity of triangulating methods first developed in seemingly distant areas of the humanities and social sciences. Professor Frey would welcome serving as a postgraduate supervisor in these and related subjects.

Professor Frey received his academic training in Heidelberg, Mannheim and Berlin as well as at Harvard University, where he earned his bachelor and doctoral degrees and taught in the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies. In 2008 he joined the University of Kent. In addition to his research and teaching, he has served as the Director of Internationalisation for the Faculty of Humanities, Director of Learning and Teaching for the School of Arts, Director of Internationalisation for the School of Arts, Director of Recruitment and Marketing for the School of Arts, Head of the Film department, Acting Associate Dean for Research and Innovation for the Faculty of Humanities, Managing Director of the Centre for Film and Media Research and in a variety of other roles. 

Professor Frey’s most recent monograph is Netflix Recommends: Algorithms, Film Choice, and the History of Taste. It will appear in June 2021 with the University of California Press.

His other books include Postwall German Cinema: History, Film History, and Cinephilia (Berghahn, 2013); Cine-Ethics: Ethical Dimensions of Film Theory, Practice, and Spectatorship (Routledge, 2014; co-edited with Jinhee Choi); The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority (Amsterdam UP, 2015); Film Criticism in the Digital Age (Rutgers UP, 2015; co-edited with Cecilia Sayad); Extreme Cinema: The Transgressive Rhetoric of Today’s Art Film Culture (Rutgers UP, 2016); Audio History des Films: Sonic Icons – Auditive Histosphaere – Authentizitaetsgefuehl (Bertz + Fischer, 2018; co-written with Winfried Pauleit and Rasmus Greiner).

His numerous articles appear in edited anthologies, reference works and journals such as Cinema JournalScreenNew German CritiqueArtforumQuarterly Review of Film and VideoJump Cut and Framework. In the 2000s, he reviewed movies for the Boston Phoenix and for many years he reported on film festivals for Senses of Cinema.

From 2015 to 2018, he received the Philip Leverhulme Prize, which awards ‘the achievement of outstanding researchers whose work has already attracted international recognition and whose future career is exceptionally promising’. He is also recipient of an AHRC Early Career Fellowship in 2013-2014. In 2012 he was awarded the University Teaching Prize for his pedagogical work on film criticism; in 2017 he was recipient of the University Research Prize (Faculty of Humanities). His book Extreme Cinema: The Transgressive Rhetoric of Today’s Art Film Culture received the 2017 BAFTSS (British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies) Best Monograph Award Honourable Mention. Another, The Permanent Crisis of Film Criticism: The Anxiety of Authority, was a shortlisted finalist for the 2016 BAFTSS Best Monograph Award.

In the academic year 2014-2015 Professor Frey served as invited Visiting Professor of Art and New Media at the Universitaet Bremen, where he took part in a research cluster on the audio history of film, funded through the Exzellenzinitiative. In 2011, he was invited guest researcher at the Humboldt Universitaet zu Berlin for a project on cross-cultural film criticism.

Research interests

Professor Frey’s current projects include analyses of cultural diversity in film production, distribution, intermediation and reception and a study of how streaming services like Netflix affect media diversity and consumption.

In his recent research, Professor Frey has taken a critical media industries approach to film (esp. distribution, regulation, exhibition); film and media audiences; promotional media and cultural intermediation (esp. film marketing, criticism); and digital culture (e.g. algorithmic recommender systems).

Across his research career, he has examined film and other arts criticism, art cinema culture, classical and contemporary film theory, film and arts education as well as historical and contemporary European (especially German and Austrian) cinema. His work on film criticism, German cinema and on the filmmaking of Michael Haneke is frequently cited and has been translated into several languages.

Professor Frey has served as a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College, on several award-granting committees of the Society of Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS), the Steering Committee of the German Screen Studies Network (GSSN), the Advisory Board of the journal Alphaville, the Advisory Board of the Journal Research in Film and History and in numerous other validation and examining roles.

He is frequently invited to guest lecture or to speak at research seminars, symposia and other public events, including recently at the British Film Institute, Deutsches Filmmuseum Frankfurt, Filmuniversitaet Babelsberg, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Cambridge University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Kings College London, University of Bristol, University of Edinburgh, University of Sussex, University of Birmingham, Universita di Bologna, Universitet Gent, Waseda University Tokyo, Universitaet Frankfurt, Universitaet Bremen, Universitaet Passau, Boston University and the Freie Universitaet Berlin.

Teaching

Professor Frey is currently designing modules in film marketing, media audiences and promotional media.

In the past, Professor Frey has convened the following modules:

  • FI585. Film Criticism
    This module examines the theory and history of Anglophone film criticism, but above all is a practical course in writing about film for the print and online media. Each week students view and review a film, post their piece online and receive feedback on their work. In the past, the module has invited world-renowned critics as guest lecturers, including Jonathan Rosenbaum (Chicago Reader), Chris Darke (Film CommentSight & Sound), Sophie Mayer (Sight & Sound) and Jonathan Romney (Independent on Sunday).
  • FI587. Extreme Cinema
    This module probes issues of extreme cinema, i.e., ‘arthouse’ films that, because of sexual, violent or other iconoclastic content, form or style, have created critical or popular controversy. Representative topics include the aesthetics and ethics of representing violence, boundaries between erotic art and pornography, filmmakers’ publicity stunts and media performances, film festival programming, the liberalisation of classification (e.g., at the BBFC), specialist distributors, ‘perverse’ spectators and the role of controversy and ‘moral panic’ in film criticism and the news press.
  • FI822. Screening Histories (MA-level)
    Entire media industries thrive on costume films, historical docu-dramas and other period productions, from Downfall to Downton Abbey; cultural and economic activity clusters around ‘heritage’. This module studies the central concerns of the historical film, one of today's most prominent and debated genres: how it endeavours to produce and disseminate understandings of the past and history's significance to the present, how dramatic feature films can stimulate national debates about identity and how they can help us empathise with people different from us. 
  • FI591. Introduction to Film Theory
  • FI812. Advanced Film Theory (MA-level)
    These modules approach the ‘big questions’ that have surrounded film and the moving image and puts them into historical context. Although specific emphases vary, representative topics may address competing definitions of film and its constitutive elements, the effects that cinema has on spectators, the social, cultural and political implications that moving images reproduce, and the status of the medium between art and entertainment.
  • FI537. Postwar European Cinema: Realisms Waves
  • FI540. Contemporary European Cinema: Trends and Institutions
    These modules acquaint undergraduates with major issues in European cinema. Postwar European Cinema grapples with discourses of realism, for example, the aesthetic claims of Italian neorealism and the subjective, political realisms of the New German Cinema. Contemporary European Cinema examines how the dramatic political events of 1989-1990 and the expansion of the size and role of the EU have left an indelible mark on film production and consumption in Europe.
  • FI311. Introduction to Narrative Cinema II: World Cinema
    The introductory course examines a variety of international cinemas. It analyses films as products of their particular national and regional origins and as addressing specific audiences. In addition, it treats topics such as realism, film as personal expression, how film represents or reflects upon history, as well as matters of industry, technology and distribution. 

Supervision

Professor Frey supervises PhD, MA and BA dissertations and welcomes queries about topics from potential applicants. He is especially interested in supervising dissertations that take a media industries approach and/or examine under-researched aspects of film and media culture (e.g., distribution, marketing, exhibition, reception, audiences, funding, criticism, awards).

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