Dr Rachel Johnson

Dr Rachel Johnson


I currently hold both research and teaching positions at the University of Leeds. I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Leeds Arts and Humanities Research Institute (LAHRI). I am also a Lecturer in Film Studies who teaches on modules across the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures. 

I completed a BA in English Literature and Italian at the University of Leeds in 2014, before undertaking a MA in European Culture and Thought at University College London (2014-15). I then returned to Leeds to complete a PhD on European film festivals’ representation of Italian cinema, and the ideologies that underwrote it. I graduated from my PhD in 2019, and have since commenced positions as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow and Lecturer in Film Studies. 

I am also Co-Director of a city-wide film club, Leeds Cineforum. We collaborate extensively with the University as well as film institutions such as Bird’s Eye View: A Pathfinder for Films By Women and the Hyde Park Picture House. I consider my activities with the Cineforum to be co-extensive with my academic work, forming two halves of a wider practice of empowering film viewers.

Research interests

I am interested primarily in institutions of cinema, their influence over the meaning of film, and how the production of these meanings may contribute to reinforce or challenge dominant cultural ideas. I specialise in researching film festivals and contemporary European cinema, with a focus on theories of ideology. 

My most recent research project was an AHRC-funded PhD entitled: The Ideology of Film Festivals: A Psychoanalysis of European A Festivals’ Representation of Italian Cinema, 2000-2017. In this project, I developed a method of ideology critique to analyse the way in which major competitive film festivals influence the circulation of films, ideas and values through their awards and programmes. The PhD thesis is open-access and available via the White Rose e-thesis site

I am currently developing one of the crucial strands of this project: the relationship between film festivals and migration - their role in the circulation of films and ideas about migration. 


With Alan O’Leary, ‘Flow’, Transnational Modern Languages: A Handbook, ed. by Jennifer Burns & Derek Duncan (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, forthcoming).

‘A Brutal Humanism for the New Millennium? The Legacy of Neorealism in Contemporary Cinema of Migration’, Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies 8:1 (2020), pp. 61-77.

Essays, Reports and Reviews

‘Book Review: Italian Pop Culture: Media, Products, Imageries, Fabio Corsini (ED.) (2018) Rome: Viella Libreria editrice, 192 pp, ISBN: 9788867289394, p/bk, €25,00’Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, 7:1 (2019), pp. 309-312.

‘Three Forays into Ideology in the Age of Post-truth Politics’Open Democracy, 12 April 2017.

‘Book Review: Loredana Di Martino, and Pasquale Verdicchio, eds. Encounters with the Real in Contemporary Italian Literature and Cinema. Newcastle upon Tyne (UK): Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017. Pp. 395’Annali D’Italianistica, 33: 1 (2017), pp. 530-533.

With Alan O’Leary, ‘Workshop Report: Italian Cinemas/Italian Histories’Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies, 5:1 (2016), pp. 139-143.

Recent Conferences and Workshops

I have presented at and organized numerous conferences and workshops. Here are the most recent events I have been involved in:

Jan 2020          Reframing Film Festivals, University Ca’ Foscari, Venice. ‘Ideology and Film Festivals: A Method’. Presenter

Dec 2019         Centre for World Cinema and Digital Cultures Work in Progress Seminar: ‘Film Festivals’ Representation of the Social “Other”: Queerness and Migration’.

Jul 2018           American Association of Italian Studies Annual Conference, Istituto Sant’Anna, Sorrento, ‘Transnationalizing the Popular; Popularizing the Transnational’. Presenter.

May 2018        “Digital Borders”: The Politics of Film Distribution In and Beyond Europe, University of Leeds: ‘Local Critique, Global Artworks: The Politics of Festival Cinema’. Organizer and presenter.

May 2018        The Battle of Algiers (1966) from ‘Yesterday’s Mujahiddin’ to today’s Postcolonial Classroom, University of Leeds. Assistant convener.

Community and Engagement Activities

Co-director of Leeds Cineforum

  • Successful, public-facing film club, hosting monthly film screenings in citywide venues.
  • Attracts an average audience of 30-40 people from a range of backgrounds and ages – from students to retired members of the public.
  • I collaborate with a variety of stakeholders including: Bird’s Eye View╦É A Pathfinder for Films By Women; Leeds Migration Network; Instituto Cervantes, the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures, Film Fringe, Scalarama Leeds, Wharf Chambers, the Hyde Park Book Club and The Brunswick.

Member of Leeds Film Network

  • Founding member of network for film programmers in Leeds.
  • Contributes to sharing best practice across network.
  • Collaboration on film events and promotion.

Public Talks Given

Power and Exploitation, Fosse in Film: A Bob Fosse Retrospective, Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Leeds.

Panel discussion, Booksmart, Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds.

Introduction, Rome, Open City, Opera North, Leeds. 

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD in Film Studies, University of Leeds
  • MA in European Culture and Thought: Culture, University College London
  • BA in English Literature and Italian, University of Leeds

Student education

As a Lecturer based in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, I teach on a range of modules on both the Film Studies and Italian Studies programmes. As well as delivering introductions to audio-visual cultures, film studies and Italian cinema, my teaching focuses on placing contemporary cinema in its cultural and institutional context. I also supervise final-year undergraduate dissertation students and contribute to cross-Faculty teaching on film. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures