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Photo of Professor William Higbee

Professor William Higbee

Professor in Film Studies and Programme Link Manager for the London Film School Partnership


01392 724216

CV for Professor William Higbee

Will Higbee studied as an undergraduate at the University of Birmingham (BA French) and the University of  Exeter (PhD in French Cinema). He was appointed to a lectureship at Exeter in 2002. His research focuses primarily on French and Francophone cinema, with a particular emphasis on immigrant and post-colonial cinema in France and the cinemas of the Maghreb. His research is also concerned with broader issues of national, transnational and diasporic cinema. He has published widely in these areas and has been invited to participate in film festivals and symposia in France, the USA and North Africa. From 2006-14 he was an editor of the international peer-reviewed journal, Studies in French Cinema and now sits on the advisory board for the journal. 

His most recent monograph, Post-Beur Cinema was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013. He is the PI for an international research project on Transnational Moroccan Cinema that is funded by the AHRC and runs from December 2015 - December 2018.

He teaches on a range of film history and theory modules across the College of Humanities, contributing to the film programme in the Department of English and offering specialist cinema modules in the Department of Modern Languages.

He has successfully supervised (as first supervisor) seven PhD students to completion to date across a range of topics in history, theory and practice.  His experience supervising PhD film practice students has led him to take a central role in the College’s partnership with the London Film School. He is currently the Academic Co-ordinator of the Exeter/LFS PhD film practice programme and the co-director of the new MA in International Film Business, a collaborative MA taught between the College of Humanities, London Film School and the Exeter Business School.

Research interests


My primary research interests include:

·      contemporary French cinema

·      Francophone cinema (especially cinemas of the Maghreb)

·      immigrant, postcolonial and diasporic cinema

·      transnational cinemas.

To date I have written two single-authored monographs, co-edited three books, authored 13 individual book chapters for edited collections and published 12 journal articles in peer-reviewed, international academic journals.

My early research focused on representations of marginality and ethnicity in French cinema of the 1990s, such as 'Beur' cinema and the banlieue film. This led to the publication in 2006 of a monograph on director and actor Mathieu Kassovitz for the Manchester University Press French Directors series. I propose that Kassovitz's films function as both a site of tension and a point of intersection for debates surrounding the current state of ‘popular' French cinema, in particular its relationship to Hollywood, and a broader range of socio-political issues (racism, exclusion, violence) facing contemporary France.

A second, related strand of my research concerns Maghrebi-French and North African émigre filmmaking in France since the late 1990s. To study these films and filmmakers, I have employed an approach grounded in the debates surrounding diasporic, 'accented' and transnational cinema. The monograph that emerged from this research, Post-Beur Cinema (EUP, 2013), is the first book-length study of Maghrebi-French and North African émigré filmmaking in France in the 2000s and argues for the 2000s as a transformative decade for ethnic minority filmmaking in France. The book was described by Professor James Williams in his review for French Studies as “…a major study of one of the most exciting and vital areas of contemporary French cinema.” 

Alongside this interest in French and francophone cinema, my research engages more broadly with questions of how we might theorise cinema as a transnational, industrial art form. In 2010 I co-authored an article with Professor Song Hwee Lim entitled ‘Concepts of transnational cinema: towards a critical transnationalism in film studies’. The article was published in the inaugural edition of the journal Transnational Cinemas and has been widely cited by scholars, providing a significant contribution to shaping the direction of debates in the area of transnational cinema studies. 

In August 2015, I was awarded a Research Grant from the AHRC of £482,132 to lead a major, three-year international research project on Transnational Moroccan Cinema (see section on 'Research Collaboration' for more details. 

I have been invited to speak at various international conferences and festivals, including: the Arte East Film Festival, New York (2007), the JCC Carthage Film Festival, Tunis (2010), an international symposium on cinema and the crisis of globalization in La Bretesche, France, (2012) and to Chicago as part of a special panel on French cinema at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies annual conference (2013). In November 2015 I delivered the keynote address at the European Communication Research and Education Association’s (ECREA) ‘European Cinemas, Intercultural Meetings’ conference in Copenhagen (12-13th November, 2015).


Research collaborations

In August 2015, I was awarded a Research Grant from the AHRC of £482,132 to lead a major, three-year international research project on Transnational Moroccan Cinema.

I am the pricipal investigator in a team consisting of a US-based international co-investigator and two post-doc research fellows: one based in UK and Morocco, the other in Belgium. The project began in December 2015 and will facilitate collaboration with partner institutions in Morocco (Ecole Supérieure des Arts Visuels [ESAV], Marrakech and Marrakech International Film Festival) and the UK (Africa in Motion Film Festival, Edinburgh, and the London Film School).

An international symposium will be held in conjunction with ESAV during the 2016 Marrakech international film festival. A second sympoisum will be held in Edinburgh in 2018 as part of the Africa in Motion film festival, which will also include a programme of contemporary Moroccan films curated for the festival by the project team.

Finally, as PI, I will be working closely with the London Film School, who will host two emerging Moroccan filmmakers for 12 weeks in 2017. These filmmakers  in residence will participate fully in the life of the school, collaborating with staff and students from the LFS to produce work that will feature at the Africa in Motion festival in 2018. 


Research supervision

Dr Will Higbee welcomes enquiries about postgraduate supervision (MRes, MPhil, PhD) across a range of areas in Film Studies and French Studies, including research by (film) practice.

Specific areas of research interest include:

  • Contemporary French cinema
  • North African and West African cinemas
  • Immigrant cinema in France and Europe
  • Post-colonial cultures in France
  • Diasporic or accented cinemas
  • Theorising national, transnational and regional cinema
  • Research based (film) practice

Research students

Postgraduate Supervision since 2003

  1. PhD ‘Representations of the Harkis in contemporary French culture', Nina Sutherland, 2003-06. Awarded in 2006, minor corrections.
  2. PhD thesis (film practice) 'Rhizomes
New Approaches 
Documentary’, Dave Shaerf, 2005-10. Awarded in 2011, minor corrections. 

  3. PhD (film practice) ‘Towards participatory documentary practice', Curtis Wilkinson, 2006-11. Awarded in 2011, minor corrections.
  4. PhD 'Transnational cinema and film genre', Lucyann Kerry, 2007-2012. Awarded in 2012, minor corrections.
  5. PhD (film practice) 'Film genre and the "mental space" of the screenwriter', Jule Selbo, 2008-11. Awarded 2011, minor corrections.
  6. PhD (film practice) 'Digital Fluidity', Ben Sherriff (AHRC studentship), 2009-13. Awarded 2013, minor corrections.
  7. PhD, ‘A cinema in relation: Belgian Francophone cinema and the regional transnational’, Jamie Steele, 2010-13. Awarded 2014, minor corrections.
  8. PhD 'Accent, soundtrack and heteroglossia in the cinema of Tony Gatlif', Tamsin Graves, 2010-present.
  9. PhD, (film practice) ‘Cinematography: The dynamics of authorship’, (LFS/Exeter studentship) Pierre-Alain Giraud, 2011-present.
  10. PhD (film practice), ‘Surrealism as attitude in film practice’, Michaela Morning (AHRC-studentship), 2011-present.
  11. PhD, (film practice) ‘Directing: exilic and accented cinema’, (LFS/Exeter studentship), Sam Taleifard, 2012-present.
  12. MPhil, ‘Cinema, Migration and New Europe’, Sevastiana Angastopoulou, submitted September 2015 (viva passed: award pending minor corrections).
  13. PhD (film practice), ‘Identity, race, representation: new documentary form in South African cinema’ (LFS/Exeter studentship), Teddy Mattera, 2014-present.
  14. PhD (film practice), ‘ The producer as creative force’, (LFS/Exeter studentship), Anna Sowa, September 2015- present

Other information


Papers given as guest lecture or invited speaker

  • ‘Re-imagining national cinema as community in the films of Ferid Boughedir’, keynote address at the Society for Post-Colonial Francophone Studies, Postgraduate Conference, IGRS, Senate House, London, September 2012.
  • ‘Indignation in Fortress Europe: immigration and globalization in contemporary French film’, paper given as part of an international academic symposium funded by the Borchard Foundation at Chateau La Bretesche, Brittany, France, 3-6 June 2012.
  • 'The (Maghrebi-) French connection': cinemas of the North African diaspora in France since 2000’,  A medium in transition?: changing contexts and cultures in cinema production and consumption, international symposium to be hosted by Department of Theatre, Film and Television, University of York, 24-25th May 2011.
  • 'Le fabuleux destin des cinéastes maghrébins en France dans les années 2000', Cinémas du Maghreb colloquium held as part of the 23rd Carthage Film festival (JCC), Tunis (Tunisia), 27-29th October 2010.
  • 'Couscous and class struggle: reframing the North African diaspora in La Graine et le mulet’, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol, February 2010.
  • 'Accented cinema and return journey narratives', Screen Conversations: Symposium on World Cinema, University of Bristol, December 2008.
  • ‘New cartographies of Maghrebi-French filmmaking', ArteEast ‘Beur is beautiful': an international festival and conference on Maghrebi-French filmmaking, New York, November 2007.

Conference Organisation


  • July 2007: Co-organiser of an international conference entitled ‘Re-presenting Diasporas in cinema and new (digital) media' at the University of Exeter, supported by the British Academy, Migrations Research Network (Exeter University) and Information Society Network (Exeter University).


Selected Conference Papers (2006-present)


  • ‘Class struggle and religious difference in the workplace: The politics of representing Islam in Dernier Maquis (Ameur-Zaïmeche, 2008)’, Society for French Studies , Nottingham, 1-3 July 2013.
  • ‘New Historiographies of French cinema: the case of immigrant cinema in France’, Society for Cinema and Media Studies, Chicago, USA, 6-10 March 2013.
  • Indigènes and Hors la loi: mainstream, middlebrow and counter heritage cinema’, AHRC-sponsored symposium on Middlebrow Cinema, University of Exeter, June 2012.
  • 'Tenja (Legzoiuli 2005) and the myth of return: inverting the accent in post-beur cinema', Bicultural Literature Conference, University of Surrey / Institut français (London), December 2010.
  • 'Diasporic identities and cross cultural exchange in Tenja, Bled Number One and La Graine et le mulet', Association for the Study of Modern and Contemporary France, annual conference, Portsmouth, September 2009.
  • 'The Mainstreaming of Maghrebi-French filmmaking in contemporary French cinema', European Cinema Research Forum annual conference, University of Exeter, July 2010.
  • 'Re-placing the accent: intercultural exchange and the myth of return in recent journey films by directors of the North African diaspora in France', Screen Studies Conference, Glasgow, July 2009.
  • 'Displaced audio: exploring film sound in Maghrebi-French filmmaking', Studies in French Cinema annual conference (Kings College London), April 2009.
  • ‘From old to New Europe: reconfiguring European identities in Le Grand Voyage (Ferroukhi, 2007)', University of Manchester, Creolising Europe, September 2007.
  • ‘Mathieu Kassovitz: Reframing the popular in contemporary French cinema, University of Manchester/Manchester Metropolitan University, Issues in Popular contemporary French cinema, January 2006