Portrait of Dr Cecilia Sayad

Dr Cecilia Sayad

Senior Lecturer
Director of Graduate Studies
GTA Coordinator


I am Senior Lecturer in Film and a member of the executive committee for the Centre for Film and Media Research. I have a PhD in Cinema Studies from New York University and before coming to Kent in 2008 I taught at NYU, Vassar College, and the University of Chicago.

I have three main areas of research: horror, film authorship, and criticism. I currently teach three modules related to some of these research areas: Film Criticism, Film Genre (Horror), and Film and Modernity. See Teaching.

My latest monograph, PerformingAuthorshipSelf-Inscription and Corporeality in the Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2013), examines how performance theory can illuminate the controversial figure of the film author.

My most recent book is a co-edited collection (with Mattias Frey) titled Film Criticism in the Digital Age(Rutgers University Press, 2015), and it explores the effects of the Internet on the function and the status of the film critic. 

I also have a book on Charlie Kaufman published in Portuguese (Ojogo da reinvençãoCharlie Kaufman lugar do autor no cinemaAlameda, 2008).

I am currently researching alternative ways of understanding the relationship between horror films and reality, with a focus on mock found-footage horror movies and ghost hunting reality shows (see Publications).

Research interests

I am currently researching new ways of accounting for the notion of reality in the horror genre. I look at found-footage horror films, horror documentaries, ghost hunting reality television, and web videos featuring supernatural themes. The theoretical focus is on ideas about audiovisual records’ evidential value and ability to enhance or expand our perception of the world. I also consider the changes brought about by digital technology.

My article on a related topic, titled ‘Found-Footage Horror and the Frame’s Undoing’ (Cinema Journal 55.2), won the Best Journal Article Award given by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies (BAFTSS) in 2017.

I have also published works on film authorship and criticism. My book Performing Authorship: Self-Inscription and Corporeality in the Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2013) proposes a different take on the film author by describing this figure in terms of presence and performance, rather than self-expression and control. In the field of criticism, I co-edited a collection with Mattias Frey titled Film Criticism in the Digital Age (Rutgers University Press, 2015), which examines the sense of a crisis in this field.

I also have a Portuguese-language book on Charlie Kaufman titled O jogo da reinvenção: Charlie Kaufman e o lugar do autor no cinema (Alameda, 2008), which accounts for his unusual status as an auteur-screenwriter prior to his directorial enterprises.


FI585: Film Criticism (Level 6)
This module introduces students to the history and theory of film criticism, stressing the coexistence of different approaches to the analysis, evaluation and appreciation of film. The module also contains a practical aspect, offering students the opportunity to write critical pieces on the films screened for the class. In addition to traditional lectures and seminars, sessions are devoted to writing and to analysing fellow students' work. Participants are also encouraged to reflect critically on different media of film criticism (newspapers, magazines, academic journals, the internet) and on the current state of the practice.

FI583: Cinema and National Identity (Level 5) 
This module focuses on productions from Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. The first part briefly revisits the classical period, but covers mainly modernist works associated with the project to build a distinctive cinematic identity in that region, the so-called New Latin American Cinema. The second part offers an overview of the contemporary production, as well as new approaches to the question of identity. This survey has a theoretical and a historical component. The studied Latin American films constitute a case study for the investigation of theories about political modernism, Third Cinema, ethnic and gender identities. In turn, these theories are considered in the light of specific historical contexts. We revisit, for example, categories such as national and world cinemas in the light of the current ‘transnational’ scenario.

FI595: Film Genre (Horror) (Level 5)
This course covers the production of American horror films from the 1960s to the present, and combines aesthetic and narrative analysis with the history of the genre. We look at horror from a variety of approaches, including psychoanalytical, feminist, and reception theories. The historical portion of the course examines horror’s growing commercial viability, the proliferation of subgenres, the relaxing of censorship, and the growing attention of academics. Topics include gender politics, representations of sexuality, political commentary, allegory and the film's connection with a surrounding reality.

FI815 Film and Modernity (Level 7)

This module explores the question of modernity with a focus on film’s relationship to the material world. Its approach ranges from the medium’s capacity to show what the senses cannot perceive (revealing what the eyes cannot see) to the belief that it can increase our political and historical awareness (unmasking hidden ideologies) and its relationship to notions of ‘reality’ and ‘truth.’ The methodology draws on the ontologies of photography and audiovisual media, political modernism, documentary theory and discussions about ‘filmic reality.’


I'm interested in supervising students working on the following topics: horror movies, film authorship, film criticism, the ontology of the image (and the impact of digital technologies), realism, the essay film, the French New Wave, Latin American cinema (especially Brazilian), and American cinema from the postwar to the present.

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