Volume 17, issue 10 / October 2013

Women, Cinema, History

In this issue Offscreen puts the spotlight on the interaction between issues that are pertinent to women and women’s studies and history. Co-authors Hans-Bernhard Moeller and George Lellis open the issue with a comparative analysis of three documentary films about one of the most important figures of the Polish Solidarity movement, Anna Walentynowicz. Anna Walentynowicz died on April 10, 2010, and although she is less well known abroad than Lech Walesa, authors Moeller and Lellis suggest that “Walentynowicz may emerge as one of the most significant women of her time.” The three films in question are Slawomir Grünberg’s Anna Proletarian (1981), made with Marek Ciecierski, Jill Godmilow’s Far From Poland (1984), and Strajk (2006) by Volker Schlöndorff. In “Representations of Women and Veiling with the Advent of Cinema in the Middle East,” first time writer Anna Fahr examines the representation of the veil worn by Muslim woman in Egyptian and Iranian cinema, and how the respective evolving national contexts shaped the cultural and political import of how/when women wore the veil (chador). The essay following by Elena Rodina, “Perseus vs. Medusa = Defensive Masquerade,” veers from history proper to Greek myth, in her intriguing re-work of conventional feminist Mulvian-Freudian film psychoanalysis with the ageless myth of Medusa, the snake haired woman with a ‘castrating’ gaze that turns the looker into stone. The final two pieces are by Daniel Garrett. Garrett’s first article is a study of older (Eve’s Bayou, 1997) and contemporary films that positively feature African-American characters; and how the power of orthodox film history makes it difficult to even think of great films directed by African-Americans (and there are many). In his second article he reviews the first time fiction feature film from documentarist Ava DuVernay, I Will Follow, and concentrates on black female performers, beginning with Salli Richardson-Whitfield’s strong performance as Maye in I Will Follow. Garrett takes an illuminating detour back across film history remembering the telling performances from the leading black actresses of the past seventy or so years, including Ethal Waters, Josephine Baker, Lena Horne, Diahan Carroll, Diana Ross (with a focus on her 1983 concert film, Diana Ross Live in Central Park, directed by Steven Binder) and Halle Berry. (Donato Totaro, ed.).

Issue Top Photo: Faranak Mirghahari in Akharin Gozargah (The Last Hurdle) 1962 (From Cinema in Iran 1900-1979 by Mohammad Ali Issari)

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