That Moment

Creator's Statement

My video essay is the result of a failure, of my failure. I did not guess what film the text was about, I got the gender of its author wrong, and, despite the clear geographical clues, I even missed the context of their story. Yet, there was something so unmistakably clear about Cormac Donnelly’s beautifully written text, an allusion I was certain I understood so unquestionably and so deeply, that I focused on it without worrying much about anything else: I was completely taken by the reference to that magical moment of suspension when a film is over and “Everything else fades out and […] nothing else matters.”

Thus, my video essay is “That Moment.” It is the product of a displacement of emotions, what Sara Ahmed has called a rippling effect. It is not about the media object that inspired Cormac Donnelly’s text (i.e. 2001: A Space Odyssey). It is not about a 12-year-old boy’s passion for books (especially science fiction), his fear of horror (Carrie), and his trepidation, one night, while he watched alone, in the darkness of his kitchen, a film. It is not even a video essay about my own memories, inspired by Cormac’s recollections, of a 12-year-old girl’s fears—of school bullying (Carrie), of powerlessness (Alice), and of the supernatural (Poltergeist). 

The musicality and rhythm of Cormac’s text—its alliterations (owl, stills, stool, bottles, lingers, clinging, etc.), its repetitions (fridge, fridge, fridge, and, and, and, check, checking, close, close, legs, legs, holding, holding, etc.)—contribute acoustically to that ripple that turns into an engulfing wave, an aural experience that I tried to reproduce in my video essay through a voice modulated by duplications, repetitions, echoes, and accelerations, with no pauses of breathing time in-between text fragments.

Ultimately, “That Moment” is about that moment of breathlessness, that suspension of both fear and pleasure, that lingering shiver that is felt more than feelings, that sense of void and fullness, when the curtain comes down. In Cormac Donnelly’s words, “that moment ‘is’ the film.”


Barbara Zecchi, PhD University of California Los Angeles, is Professor of Film and Iberian Studies and Director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has published widely on feminist film theory, women filmmakers, and adaptation theory. In addition to about hundred articles and numerous video-essays, she is the author, editor or co-editor of ten volumes, including La pantalla sexuada (2014), Envejecimientos y cines ibéricos (2021), and Gender-Based Violence in Latin American and Iberian Cinemas (2020). In 2011 she launched the Gynocine Project on women in global cinema. In 2017 she was elected Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of Spain.

Memory text

I am 12 years old and a night owl. I stay up late reading most nights; predominantly science fiction, but also adventure, and some horror. I read Carrie in one night (borrowing my Mum's library card) and then don’t sleep for the next two. David Shipman’s Pictorial History of Science Fiction Films is in heavy nighttime rotation. I treat it a bit like the joke about painting the Forth Rail bridge: get to the end then start again. I have made a list of ‘must see’ films featured in the book (mostly the ones with the coolest stills). I scour Ceefax each week to see if any of them are on TV. One pops up but it doesn’t start until after 10pm. I ask my parents if I can stay up to watch it. It’s a weekend. They say yes. 

I am sitting on one of the kitchen stools in front of the fridge. The kitchen is dark save for the shifting light from the portable TV on top of the fridge. Thanks to the stool I’m eye level with the 11” screen, and very close. Close enough that my swinging feet kick the fridge door, and I can hear the milk bottles clinking inside every time I do. The film starts and it is immediately ridiculously exciting and confusing. I oscillate between being riveted to the screen and suddenly being aware of the dark room behind me. I glance over my shoulder now and again, just to be sure (Carrie still lingers with me). Dad pops in once or twice pretending not to check on me, but definitely checking on me. He asks what the film’s about and I don’t really know how to explain it, but I try. At one point I know that I’m on the verge of tears. I’m holding my breath and my legs are wrapped around the legs of the stool, almost like I’m holding on for dear life. 

The end of the film is anti-climactic. I sit there and half listen to the station announcer saying good night to me. Then there’s a black screen, which somehow still lights the room, even though it’s black. I sit a bit longer and listen to the 440Hz tone, in the not quite dark, thinking about the film. My thoughts coalesce around that one moment, when I forgot the kitchen, and the fridge, and the time, and the screen even, and I was genuinely immersed, perhaps for the first time. Everything else fades out and that moment “is” the film, nothing else matters. Before I go to sleep I re-read what David Shipman said about the film. I’m re-assured that we agree about the ending.

Author’s reflection on the video

What I find fascinating about Barbara Zecchi’s videographic response to my text is how she has seamlessly weaved her own cinematic memories into my quite specific experience. The variety of sources she has selected, from Twin Peaks to The Warriors, all blend in this memory montage which is wonderfully evocative of the tangential process of remembering. 

But the sound is perhaps the most interesting aspect of this work (at least for me). This is an audio visual essay with a capital A. After watching it a few times I have since just enjoyed listening to it. The overlapping of voice-over and sound effects is hypnotic. And in the repetition of certain phrases, I find myself making new cinematic connections, in rhythm and cadence (‘fridge door’ morphs into ‘red rum’). And there are also lost sounds revived here, specifically the clinking of milk-bottles which I mentioned in my text, but which I haven’t actually heard for years. 

Watching Barbara’s work I feel no compulsion to return to my text, to re-read it, to reflect on what elements made it into the final piece, or what was left out. Any aim or goal I might have had in the writing, any emotion or memory I was trying to perpetuate, is distilled here, in sound and image, and that moment, is indeed, the film. 


Cormac Donnelly is a Senior Lecturer in Film at Liverpool John Moores University. His research interests include Film Sound, Film Craft History and Videographic Criticism. He has published video essays in NECSUSThe Cine-Files[in]Transition, and Screenworks, and his work has appeared in the Sight and Sound ‘Best Video Essay’ polls in 2019, 2020 & 2021. He currently holds an associate editor position at [in]Transition and is researching a PhD at the University of Glasgow in videographic practice and film sound.