Portrait: Therapeutic Cinema According to Ph.D. Student Lisa Mélinand

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A Ph.D. candidate in cinema studies at the Université de Montreal, Lisa Mélinand explores the concept of “cinecare” through research-creation

Lisa Mélinand began her doctoral studies this fall under the supervision of Santiago Hidalgo, executive director of the cinEXmedia partnership. Her research seeks to offer a new perspective on cinema with respect to its conception and dissemination, examining questions of inclusion, representation and accessibility and exploring in depth the concept of “cinecare” in an innovative research-creation project.

Mélinand is developing an inclusive, accessible and ecological streaming platform on which the public can find films of therapeutic value. She then intends, with the help of therapists, to study the benefits for those watching films disseminated on her platform.

This project is based on the concept of “cinecare,” which corresponds to the different ways in which cinema can be conceived from a therapeutic perspective, “as much in the way it is written and its language as in its production and dissemination and the resulting education through images.” “One of the main questions I ask myself,” she explains, “is the following: How can cinema, on the level of the script, the sound, the decor, dialogue, silences, its aestheticism or camera movements, have an impact on the cognitive system?

Towards a Preventative Cinema

Mélinand discovered the existence of cinEXmedia during her studies for a master’s degree in France. The partnership’s values and objectives immediately caught her attention. “It is the only laboratory on the world which enquires into cinema’s therapeutic potential. It’s extraordinary!” After establishing contact with André Gaudreault, she decided to enrol at the Université de Montréal.

As she herself has a hearing impairment and is neuroatypical, she wished to explore the “spectatorial reception of people with a disability.” “Everyone should be able to watch films, as equals,” she states.

Mélinand hopes to develop a “preventative cinema.” In the health sciences, she explains, generally speaking “there are three stages of prevention: prevention beforehand, battling aggravations and preventing the illness from recurring.” By rethinking cinema from the perspective of this approach, she believes it is possible to use “new technologies to reveal a world less anxiety-producing” and thereby to carry out preventative efforts among more vulnerable members of the public.

cinEXmedia’s Support

The members of cinEXmedia welcomed her proposal with a great deal of enthusiasm. André Gaudreault and Santiago Hidalgo have “always believed in this project and in my abilities,” she explains. “André Gaudreault even supported my process of immigrating to Canada. It’s wonderful to encounter so many researchers who share the same values, even though they do not have a disability. This enables us to think together and to explore the topics of my dissertation while meeting the objectives of the laboratory.”

Lisa Mélinand’s research, which forms part of an approach concerned with accessibility, is in fact in keeping with the inclusive research initiatives of the partnership, for which Mélinand is also a research assistant. Her contract will see her testing and inquiring into the presence or absence in Montreal’s movie theatres of equipment adapted to the needs of people with a disability. In her work as a research assistant and in her doctoral research, she hopes to enable cinephiles and the scholarly community to “understand each other, develop their collective imagination and to help them approach cinema together.”