In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ecocinema

  • Introduction
  • General Anthologies
  • Theorizing Ecocinema: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics
  • Eco-Genres: Documentary, Animation, Sci-Fi, and Horror
  • Reading Beyond the Text: From Theory to Practice
  • Affect, Cognition, Emotions
  • The Environment: Landscapes and Seascapes
  • Wildlife, Animal Justice, and Human–Animal Relationships
  • Food Studies
  • Weather, Climate Change, and Eco-Disasters
  • Pollution, Waste, and Toxicity
  • Hollywood and American Independent Cinema
  • European Cinemas
  • Asian and the Global Indigenous Cinemas

Cinema and Media Studies Ecocinema
Kiu-wai Chu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0252


This article introduces recent English scholarship in the expanding field of ecocinema studies. Often seen as a sub-branch of ecocriticism, ecocinema studies (also referred to as “green film criticism,” “eco-film criticism,” or “eco-cinemacriticism”) started to develop only slightly over the past decade or so. All books and articles cited have been published after the mid-1990s, thus revealing the field’s short history and fast expansion. This article is organized in three broad sections. The first five sections focus on the theory and practice of ecocinema studies. General Anthologies introduces edited volumes dedicated to a wide range of thematic issues and theoretical approaches in ecocinema studies. Theorizing Ecocinema: Ethics, Aesthetics, and Politics introduces film scholarship that contribute to define, conceptualize, and define “ecocinema” from ethical, aesthetic, and political dimensions. Eco-Genres: Documentary, Animation, Sci-Fi, and Horror highlights several genres that are often discussed in ecocritical scholarship. As ecocinema studies are, to a large extent, a study of the interplay among film, ecology, and the human mind, books that focus on human’s affective, cognitive, and emotive responses to ecocinema are also a major aspect in the field’s theorization, as reflected in Affect, Cognition, Emotions. Reading Beyond the Text: From Theory to Practice goes beyond a textual analysis of films and puts ecological and environmental ideologies into practice by incorporating writings on the ecological footprint of film, environmental film festivals, and audience studies, as well as pedagogical practices in ecocinema. The next sections introduce works that center around five major themes in ecocinema studies. The Environment: Landscapes and Seascapes and Wildlife, Animal Justice, and Human–Animal Relationships discuss humans’ relationships with the nonhuman world—namely, the (natural and urban) environments—and the nonhuman creatures such as animals and wildlife. The sections on Food Studies; Weather, Climate Change, and Eco-Disasters; and Pollution, Waste, and Toxicity center on those issues, highlighting the urgency of the worsening environmental issues in the contemporary world. The final sections are structured according to geopolitical territories. In addition to books and articles on Hollywood and American Independent Cinema and European Cinemas, recent scholarly works that focus on Asian and the Global Indigenous Cinemas, particularly films from the Global South, have also been introduced. Despite the hope for this entry to be as comprehensive as possible, film scholarship has not been included from neglected countries and regions that are beyond Western and East Asian contexts, such as the relatively under-discussed scholarship from Australasia, Africa, Antarctica, and other parts of the world, because of the limited availability and accessibility of works on these countries.

General Anthologies

This section consists of edited volumes on ecocinema studies that cover a range of thematic issues of multiple theoretical approaches. Major environmental and ecocritical themes in these books include the study of relationships between humans and nature, critical animal studies, environmental injustice toward ethnic minorities and nonhuman subjects, environmental problems, and ecological disasters. Three major keywords that characterize the anthologies are visuality, post-nationalism, and non-anthropocentrism. The authors of these books set out to theorize film’s ecocritical power as a visual media form. Dobrin and Morey 2009 examines how cinematic techniques, narratives, and visual rhetoric of particular films could cultivate spectators’ eco-awareness and generate, or fail to generate, positive impacts on them. Rust, et al. 2015 expands the scope of study to an even broader field of ecomedia studies by including discussion of other media forms, such as photography, comics, television, and new media. In terms of their geopolitical framing, these books are not restricted to analyses of films produced or set in one single country or region, as seen in Willoquet-Maricondi 2010; Rust, et al. 2013; and Rust, et al. 2015. Most of their discussions shift beyond national discourses and focus on broader post-national ecocritical issues. Kääpä and Gustafsson 2013 deliberately calls for attention to deterritorialized, transnational, and even planetary perspectives in ecocinema studies. Eco-film scholars are eager to advocate a shift beyond human-centered perspectives in perceiving the world. To different extents, chapters in these anthologies have attempted to question mainstream understanding and perception of nature and to redefine it by exploring the intersections, complex relationships, and blurred boundaries between nature and culture. In doing so, the work of eco-film scholars, such as Pick and Narraway 2013, led to a discussion of post-humanism and non-anthropocentrism in early-21st-century films that focus on nature representations.

  • Dobrin, Sidney I., and Sean Morey, eds. Ecosee: Image, Rhetoric, Nature. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

    Ecosee is a theoretical study of visual rhetoric and representations of nature and environment in all forms of media that use images, not only in how they represent the environment, but also in how images interact with texts and with other images and, in turn, how they shape and are shaped by them. In general, this edited volume demonstrates the value of visuality in environmental communication and the temporal value of evidentiary force of images.

  • Kääpä, Pietari, and Tommy Gustafsson, eds. Transnational Ecocinema. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2013.

    Highlighting the importance of transnational and eco-cosmopolitan approaches, this collection of articles demonstrates how ecocritical film criticism can move beyond the local/global binary, illustrated with examples from China, Latin America, the United States, Europe, and Australia. Adopting a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, the anthology examines transnational ecological issues represented in films, such as water imagery and hydro-politics, global capitalism and environmental injustice, and cinematic footprint and sustainability.

  • Pick, Anat, and Guinevere Narraway, eds. Screening Nature: Cinema beyond the Human. New York: Berghahn, 2013.

    This volume consists of articles that are ecologically oriented and zoomorphic in nature. With a specific focus on the intersection between ecology and film and a conceptualization of nature’s agency in a symbolic, religious, or materialist sense, the collection shows a mixture of post-humanist theoretical approaches in film studies while unified with their attention to the nonhuman natural world.

  • Rust, Stephen, Salma Monani, and Sean Cubitt, eds. Ecocinema Theory and Practice. New York and London: Routledge, 2013.

    With contributions from leading eco-film critics in the West, this wide-ranging anthology provides one of the most comprehensive scopes of ecocinema studies as of the mid-2010s. It covers major key discussions of the field since the 1990s. Sections of the book include a theorization of ecocinema, a study of wildlife and documentary films and Hollywood and fictional films, and approaches beyond film analysis.

  • Rust, Stephen, Salma Monani, and Sean Cubitt, eds. Ecomedia: Key Issues. New York and London: Routledge, 2015.

    An important source book to the broader field of ecomedia studies. From global perspectives, the collection is structured with key ideas such as “frame,” “flow,” and “convergence” to survey and identify the confluence of environmental studies with various media forms including film, photography, comics, and television and radio broadcasting, as well as new media such as video games and the Internet.

  • Willoquet-Maricondi, Paula, ed. Framing the World: Explorations in Ecocriticism and Film. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010.

    The essays in this volume call for readers’ participation to become more ecologically minded film viewers and to approach films as cultural texts from ecocritical standpoints, particularly highlighting the power of alternative, experimental films. More specifically, the collection assesses cinema’s ability in shaping viewers’ perceptions and attitudes toward the more-than-human world.

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