Surveillance Cinema

288 pages

10 halftones

April, 2015

ISBN: 9781479836673



Also available in


PoliticsAmerican Studies

Part of the Postmillennial Pop series


Catherine Zimmer is an Associate Professor of Film and Screen Studies and English at Pace University in New York City. 

All books by Catherine Zimmer

In Paris, a static video camera keeps watch on a bourgeois home. In Portland, a webcam documents the torture and murder of kidnap victims. And in clandestine intelligence offices around the world, satellite technologies relentlessly pursue the targets of global conspiracies. Such plots represent only a fraction of the surveillance narratives that have become commonplace in recent cinema. 
Catherine Zimmer examines how technology and ideology have come together in cinematic form to play a functional role in the politics of surveillance. Drawing on the growing field of surveillance studies and the politics of contemporary monitoring practices, she demonstrates that screen narrative has served to organize political, racial, affective, and even material formations around and through surveillance. She considers how popular culture forms are intertwined with the current political landscape in which the imagery of anxiety, suspicion, war, and torture has become part of daily life. From Enemy of the State and The Bourne Series to Saw, Caché and Zero Dark Thirty, Surveillance Cinema explores in detail the narrative tropes and stylistic practices that characterize contemporary films and television series about surveillance.


  • "Surveillance Cinema presents cutting-edge scholarship in the field of cinema studies in its reconceptualization of the centrality of surveillance to film narratives, subject formations, and temporalities.  Smartly pushing beyond the critical models that have long been associated with surveillance in and outside of cinema, Zimmer makes a persuasive case for examining surveillance within historical and political contexts.  An excellent book, both far-reaching and convincing in its claims, Surveillance Cinema is sure to become one of the central works in the emerging field of surveillance studies."

    —Aviva Briefel, co-editor of Horror after 9/11: World of Fear, Cinema of Terror

  • "[A] genuinely groundbreaking study. Timely, ideologically engaged and passionate in its critique both of contemporary geopolitics and the cinematic works that depict its sites of contestation, this is a book of significant interest to scholars in the fields of film studies and surveillance studies…and to those of us who are, quite justifiably, haunted by the sense that someone, somewhere is watching."

    —Linnie Blake, Times Higher Education

  • “In Surveillance Cinema, Catherine Zimmer sets out to claim that our popular imagination of surveillance—constructed by decades of espionage thrillers, police procedurals, and torture horror flicks—serves to create and sustain the actual methods of surveillance that have come to encompass almost all cultural and social life.”

    Rain Taxi

  • “Zimmer’s absorbing study zeroes in on the work of ‘surveillance cinema’—her term for films in this mode—in the near present.  Indeed, rather than focusing on the construction of an elaborate genealogy, Surveillance Cinema turns specifically to the ‘millennial surge in films and television series organized around and by surveillance technologies.’”

    Film Quarterly

  • "Catherine Zimmer offers a generative analysis of surveillance as aesthetic and structuring exciting project that will surely open doors in critical examinations of surveillance, popular culture, and power."

    Film Criticism

  • “Catherine Zimmer’s Surveillance Cinema explores the increasing presence of surveillance narratives in tandem with the socio-political ideologies underpinning the proliferation and normalization of monitoring technologies.”

    Surveillance & Society

  • Surveillance Cinema is a thorough, innovative project useful to scholars researching surveillance.”

    Creative Commons