Media Industries 2 – Self Assessment

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The series of RMIT WANTED Seminars was kick-started with the NON-FICTION Seminar organised by myself and 11 other aspiring documentary filmmakers studying Media at RMIT. Being the first of the 6 seminars, we had to complete a huge amount of work in an extremely short amount of time – less than 3 weeks to be exact. For this reason, I haven’t been able to post updates about the progress of the seminar preparations as they occurred, and instead I will be writing this one blog post which encompasses my whole experience from the preliminary organisations right through to post-production of the event.

Our first meeting as a group took place during class time and everybody attended. We took this time to organise the large group of 12 into smaller, more focussed groups. We had a team of producers; a team of promoters; and finally a technical team. Greta Robenstone, Adam Ricco and myself formed the team in charge of marketing and promoting the seminar. We discussed the requirements of this responsibility amongst ourselves and decided that Adam would make name-tags, Greta would design the poster, and I would make the promotional video.

I edited together a short promotional video for the seminar from footage of Zac and Adam shot by Greta against a green screen. This was my first attempt at editing using Keylight in order to remove the green screen and replace it with a chosen background. I pushed myself in order to achieve a desired effect and it worked quite well – I definitely will be using this technique again in the future. Greta and I ensured that we used the same fonts and colour schemes decided upon by the steering committee so that our seminar material would look cohesive. I ensured that the video was kept to a minimal length (30 seconds) because it was created to be viewed quickly on various different social media platforms. It grabs the attention of viewers with bold fonts and loud colours displaying the main elements we wanted to communication, such as date, time, location and guests. We also ensured that the themes of Pulp Fiction and filmmaking were clearly featured through the imagery. View the video below:

Between this meeting and the next meeting, not a lot of work had been done. We only had one guest secured and time was ticking away. This made it really difficult for the promotional group to start getting the word out about our seminar because we had no guests to feature on the posters and in the video. Thus, when we all met again the following Friday afternoon during class time, we really had to stress the importance of everybody being 100% on top of their tasks. During this meeting, everybody was delegated very specific roles to ensure that everything would be completed in time for the seminar. I acted as a scribe during meetings, writing down every role we decided upon and who would be carrying out what task. As the week went by, I would post everybody’s roles on the Facebook group and ensure that everybody was being reminded to complete their jobs. Although this was a tedious process and I may have come across as controlling or a bit of a pain – I felt as though this process was necessary as people were becoming quite slack and forgetting how quickly our seminar was approaching. This approach to delegation and organisation of the group seemed to work quite well, as everybody could be held accountable for their agreed upon responsibilities.

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I also created a @NonFictionDoco Twitter page as well as encouraging the use of the #NonFictionDoco hashtag. Furthermore, I took it upon myself to manage the Facebook event for the seminar that was initially created by the steering committee. I was the only group member to invite people from my personal Facebook account to the seminar. I believe that this really helped to involve the broader community in our seminar rather than just restricting our audience to RMIT students only. Furthermore, even if they didn’t actually attend the seminar, their ‘cyber attendance’ would’ve made the Facebook event far more visible to a larger amount of people who weren’t necessarily invited.

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Expanding upon the use of social media to gain more public support and involvement, I came up with an idea to involve potential audience members. This involved the public tweeting ideas for a documentary that they would like to have critiqued by our panel of industry professionals. We gained a few submissions, however, we ran out of time during our seminar and could not address these ideas.

In addition, I volunteered to be the liaison between our group and the steering committee. This didn’t involve as much work as expected, perhaps because we were the first group to hold a seminar and the steering committee weren’t entirely sure of what was required. On occasion, I spoke with Ronja Moss via Facebook chat, phone calls and email in order to ensure that everything was running smoothly. Furthermore, we discussed the issue of where we were allowed to put posters up in certain areas of Building 9 along with the confusion regarding the regulation of the RMIT logo used in posters and videos.

Ronja also would ask me to alert my group of certain documentation that was due such as release forms. Further, once post-production documentation was completed and uploaded to the Google Doc, I ensured that Ronja had been notified of its completion and that the Google Doc was shared with her via her student email.

Finally, the last of my roles entailed a promotional chalk drawing on Bowen St to lure in any strays on the road with a couple of hours to kill between classes. This was a final attempt to draw in the last few audience members on the day and was drawn about 2 hours prior to the seminar.

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After this hugely demanding process and such a small amount of time to pull something decent together – our seminar went unexpectedly well! The guests all arrived on time; there was food and drinks available; the lighting, sound and camera setup worked seamlessly; and everybody seemed to be quite engaged by our panel of guests.

Personally, I believe each and every one of our guests were hugely insightful. I learnt a lot about documentary filmmaking and the persistence involved in becoming successful in this industry. I noticed that many of the panellists did not care much for money, and I believe that most documentary filmmakers would expect, to some extent, to be making a minimal profit in order to make films that they are passionate about. To me, it seems like a noble job if done appropriately and if ethics are upheld. If anything, the wise words of our panellists solidified my interest in documentary filmmaking and encouraged me further to make the kinds of films that interest me, as well as a particular kind of audience.

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I believe that this seminar project as part of Media Industries 2 will provide students with endless benefits. Not only has it provided us a chance to learn more about a specific area of the media industry within which we’d like to work, but we also get to meet people whose jobs we aspire to have. Contacting industry professionals by emailing and cold-calling is definitely a technique that will be exhausted countless times throughout each of our careers. Further, meeting people we admire allows us to ask them for advice and potentially network and find out about potential future work.

Lastly, the series of seminars as a whole allows us to attend a broad range of seminars that address a variety of different topics. For example, although I chose to participate in the Non-Fiction Seminar, this doesn’t mean that I only want to make documentaries in my career. I am also interested in television, drama film and women in the media industry and will be able to find out more about these topics by attending other groups’ seminars. As attendance to 3 or more other seminars is compulsory, I believe this will benefit me greatly as I will learn about a broad scope of potential directions my career can take.

I have been greatly surprised by the standard of guests we have all been able to achieve. This goes to show that really high quality industry professionals are simply approachable, lovely people that are willing to lend a hand for people trying to break into the industry. It demonstrates that our dreams and aspirations are perhaps only a phone call or an email away. In order to get what you want – you need to get off your butt and take it!

The mark I’ll be giving myself for my contribution to the NON-FICTION Doco Seminar is an HD (85%).

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Wanted Seminar 6 : On The Line

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– Seminar set up was exciting and professional > it stuck to a theme and pulled it off (i.e. the darkness of the room set the mood well and the panel of guests were still very well lit)

– Transition between Traditional & Digital Media: The web used to support print media by advertising its content and providing teasers for ‘tomorrow’s paper’. According to the panel, this is seen as underselling the potential of the internet as a platform for news.

– “Make your digital footprint as big as possible.” – Intern for as many companies as possible & have an online presence in every avenue possible.

– Is interning ethical? Panellists say no. Do your interning when you’re at university and you can get credit for it. Do internships to bulk up your amateur portfolio and set yourself up for paid work in the future.

– LinkedIn is “hugely powerful”. HR relies on LinkedIn and a lot of job offers are given to those who aren’t even necessarily looking.

– Solidify connections with people in the industry. Even if they may not be able to help you with work, they too will have networks of people in the industry that may have positions to fill. You might be the first person that comes to mind!

– Apply for jobs that you’re not necessarily completely qualified in. Many people learn on the job and that’s okay.

– Funding: Ask yourself – How much can I achieve with no money? How much can I achieve with $5000? Explore whether you need funding, whether it’s worthwhile, and what’s the best way to use it.

– “You have to be able to multitask and work on a range of different projects at the same time.” If you want to make money, you have to combine your dream projects with ‘money-making’ projects. (There are exceptions to this rule.)

– If you’re going to set your career up on your own, you should definitely try to have another solid source of income.

– If you’re going to freelance, ensure that you aren’t too timid to talk about money. You’re going to have to talk contracts, pay rates, chasing up your pay etc.

– The Echo Chamber is dangerous – your peers are not your audience. Research your audience thoroughly, they may not be who you expect. Your target audience also has to be reassessed on a regular basis as employees change over time.

– Facebook is no longer one of the best social media platforms for engaging the public – not unless you can pay for wide engagement.

– Don’t get too caught up in a ‘noble, idealist’ way of perceiving your brand/company. Sometimes it’s good to appeal to a broader audience. Further, don’t underestimate how diverse people’s interests can be.

– “There’s a financial value in maintaining and growing your social media presence.” Many people with a lot of followers on social media are more frequently becoming paid for advertising content for certain brands/companies. This kind of product placement we see today is much less obvious and blatant.

– Email is the ‘holy grail’. Often it’s a lot more effective than most social media. There are much more analytics available and if you can access other companies’ databases of subscribers via email.

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Wanted Seminar 4 : REEL CRIMES

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  • The seminar kicks off with a sombre mood – funding. Not sure if this is a good place to start.
  • Veronica Gleeson is an invaluable guest, speaking from the perspective of Screen Australia about funding – a topic of discussion which affects everyone aspiring to become a filmmaker.
  • Setup is professional and impressive.
  • Audio was an obvious problem. I don’t want to dwell on it too much, but amplification stopped happening and there was just a constant buzzing noise throughout. Taking on all of the technicalities of the seminar has been a problem throughout the series and perhaps it is too much responsibility for this subject. Maybe a tech needs to be present for the setup of each seminar?
  • According to Trevor Blainey, in order to get a film made you need (1) Someone who wants to sell the film internationally for you – a sales agent and (2) Someone who wants to screen it in Australian cinemas for you – a local distributor.
  • Think of ways to tell your story cheaply – can you replace 30 actors with ADR? Be creative on a low (or no) budget.
  • Take what you can get – tell your story. Even though execution is important, you should accept the resources you can get and do the best you can. Opportunity doesn’t fall in your lap.
  • Accumulate collaborators who will contribute creatively to the film, rather than minions. It is a collaborative process and taking other people’s opinions can be valuable. Sometimes people may have better ideas than yours, but don’t compromise your vision.
  • Overall – amazing, insightful guests. Very impressive.
  • The only real requirement for being a filmmaker: “You must be passionate about telling your story.”
  • “If you haven’t got a vision, you’re not a filmmaker.”

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WANTED Seminar 2: ‘Breaking In’

 

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  • Conversation flowed well, was light-hearted, relatable and engaging
  • Connor was a great host & quite comical – he made guests comfortable and it wasn’t awkward at all
  • Topics of conversation were very graduate-relevant. Guests were encouraged to speak about ‘Breaking in’ to the industry specifically, led well by Connor’s questions.
  • Great range of guest anecdotes from someone who changed their career path completely from Physiotherapy to Television Production, to people who got their first job at the ABC straight out of University.
  • Treats were fun fun fun! But dangerous on the jaw… What what meth isn’t dangerous on the jaw? 😉
  • Set up was cool, loved the ‘Applause’ feature which kind of made audiences stay alert and engaged in the seminar overall.
  • Audio was problematic – it was tinny and echo-ey in the room which was at times distracting
  • The game-show format of the show worked well for someone like Connor who can ad-lib quite naturally

 

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Are tracking shots a question of morality?

How do the formal strategies (the way film form is deployed or used) of any of the films screened in the course respond to, engage with or express ethical or political concerns? Discuss with reference to Jean Luc Godard’s claim that “Tracking shots are a question of morality.”


In 1959 at a roundtable discussion about Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Resnais, 1959), Jean-Luc Godard made the resounding statement that “Tracking shots are a question of morality.” This claim broadly refers to the failed responsibility of cinema to powerfully portray the suffering endured during the Holocaust. More specifically, he condemns the use of intrusive film techniques such as tracking shots, close-ups and a shallow depth of field when representing delicate political issues. Godard reflects this sensitivity towards political cinema in his television series, Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1998). Iranian filmmaker, Jafar Panahi, seems to adopt a similar approach in making This Is Not a Film (2011), which is a statement of creative resistance in the face of a tyrannical government. Panahi makes this film while he is under house arrest awaiting his eventual sentence of six years imprisonment and a twenty-year filmmaking ban for allegedly making an anti-government film. Panahi frames the social and political issues in Iran from a distance, considering the delicate nature of the topic while also expressing its gravity. He uses the current political climate as a backdrop for the film and illustrates certain elements of oppression through subtle metaphor and allusion.

The tracking shot in Kapo (Pontecorvo 1960) has generated much discourse surrounding the topic of morality. The debated shot involves a woman at a concentration camp in Nazi Germany running desperately toward an electric fence in order to take her own life. As she lifelessly hangs from the fence, the camera slowly tracks in to a horrifying close-up of her face. Jacques Rivette strongly asserts that the filmmaker’s decision “…is worthy of the most profound contempt” (Daney 2004, para.9) as it makes the audience “…feel like an imposter.” (Daney 2004, para.30) Godard includes this inadequate effort to cinematically immortalise the great tragedy of the Holocaust as one of his many ‘deaths of cinema’. He theorises that certain filmic techniques afford such political topics a greater respect than what was given at the time. One of these techniques include the use of deep focus over a shallow depth of field in order to allow the spectator to “…participate in the meaning of the film by distinguishing the implicit relations” (RogerEbert 2010, para.3) rather than allowing the filmmaker to dictate which element of mise-en-scene should gain one’s focus. Furthermore, the use of invisible editing over montage-style cutting is seen by Godard as a more seamless way to represent the issue as a whole element in real time. Lastly, Godard does not endorse the intrusive nature of close-ups in Holocaust cinema as it abolishes a distance that should be kept between the viewer and the topic (Daney 2004). According to Serge Daney, the tracking shot puts the spectator “…in a place where we did not belong, where I…could not and did not want to be.” (Daney 2004) Above all, Jean-Luc Godard’s statement places importance upon the viewer’s role in ‘seeing’. He believes in the responsibility of the audience to choose what they see and how they feel when watching a cinematic reproduction of political events, and the filmmaker’s role in affording this freedom. Godard concludes that post-WWII cinema has greatly failed in its responsibility as a far-reaching and multisensory medium and he feels great lament over the failure of cinema to defend civilisation in its darkest hours of global war, genocide and destruction (Heywood 2014).

Godard depicts his great frustration in his television series, Histoire(s) du Cinéma (1988). The first episode of his series mourns over the death of cinema and its great failure as art. Godard hopes for cinema to fulfil its potential as a type of ‘news bulletin’ (Daney 2004) that solidifies cultural and political events in time and space. In order to effectively portray his view in Histoire(s) du Cinéma, Godard uses montage/mash-up editing to compile an almost journalistic representation of real footage and imagery from the Holocaust. While these visuals play, voiceover can be heard stating, “No close-ups. Suffering is not a star. Nor is the burned down church or the bombed out countryside.” Godard intends to criticise the way that the Holocaust has been exploited in commercial fictional cinema through intrusive close-ups. Furthermore, the use of montage editing leaves little pockets of space with each cut, allowing audiences to fill the gaps with their own ideas and feelings toward the juxtaposing images that face them (Media RMIT 2011). Rather than making a commercially emotive and confronting spectacle of the sensitive issue, Godard cinematically illustrates the tragic events in a way that subtly provokes individual thought.

In a similar way, Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film is highly constructed and contrived in order to morally portray the issue of Iranian repression. Although, on the surface, it seems as though Jafar Panahi is merely filming a video diary of his house arrest, the non-film works in a very subtle way to tell a story of greater political unrest. Many reviews of the film refer to its events as “…entirely accidental and truly grand”(Morgenstern 2012, para.6). However, after delving further into the film’s metaphorical crevices, Godfrey Cheshire deduces that “The work feels completely effortless, but my money says it’s an elaborate sound and image construction.” (Peranson 2011, para.12) Furthermore, the film claims to be a ‘day in the life’ of Jafar Panahi, however, it is actually shot over the course of four days and can seem quite contrived in order to subtly tell his story of suffering under a tyrannical government. An example of this assertion is the Buried (Cortes 2010) DVD that sits inconspicuously on the shelf as Panahi analyses clips from his previous films on the television. Audiences are challenged to notice the DVD in the background as it mirrors the themes of literal and political confinement that run through the film. Speculations conclude that This Is Not a Film is highly staged and meticulously planned out to maximise its political impact and to ensure that the issue is respectfully represented.

Panahi quite literally uses Iran’s political upheaval as a backdrop for a deceptively simple story. The filmmaker takes advantage of his house arrest and films entirely inside his apartment, a great change to many of his other films which are set outdoors. In a quite literal way, Panahi keeps the political issue at a respectful distance by placing it exclusively outside his apartment. Any elements of Iran’s current political situation seep into the apartment through inexplicit means such as the television news show and the noisy celebrations occurring in the outside world. “The mood is one of being cut off from the party, but there’s also a disturbing implication of an approaching storm.” (Dent 2011, para.6) Panahi unobtrusively introduces the political undertones of his film by arousing the audience’s interest with subtle indicators of the current oppressive regime in Iran.

Panahi constructs a certain ominous feel for the film simply by choosing to shoot on ‘Fireworks Wednesday’ in Iran. The completion of inane tasks around the house unfolds against the dramatic and deceptive backdrop of what is referred to by the government as a day that promotes paganist ritual and commemorates political protest. (Garcia 2012) Iranian New Year’s Day is a symbolic resistance against the regime, and Panahi’s decision to set his non-film on this specific day provides an expression of political defiance. Furthermore, he capitalises upon this decision by using the sound of fireworks in a deceptive way in order to evoke the atmosphere of a war-stricken country. The fireworks remain unexplained for a substantial amount of time and viewers are left to assume that firearms are sounding in the mysterious outside world. It is only til later on, during the news broadcast on television, that we are alerted to the fact that a celebration with fireworks is occurring outside. This allusion to the dangerous politic climate in Iran both alerts audiences to the gravity of Iranian oppression while also remaining at a distance from the issue of which Godard would approve.

Panahi assumed the role of both impartial actor and controlling director in This Is Not a Film and addresses the oscillating nature of power in an oppressive state. Panahi “…claims to function merely as a performer playing himself” (8) in a film directed by his friend, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb. Throughout, Panahi positions himself in front of a fixed camera that he avoids handling directly. One can assume Panahi is making such an effort to avoid being credited as the director of the film so as to circumvent government punishment. However, he directly contradicts his role as a passive actor when he reflects on his past film, The Mirror (1997). He admires the young actress in the film when she suddenly rips off her arm cast and runs off the set yelling, “I’m not acting anymore!”. Following this scene, Panahi states, “…the director is never fully responsible for the content of his film.” (Paranson 2011, para.14). Panahi explains how non-professional actors can often shape and guide the end product of a film in unexpected ways. (Morgenstern 2012) Thus, as a non-professional actor himself in This Is Not a Film, Panahi is alluding to his own instrumental role in shaping the film despite not technically being the director. In effect, Panahi is both the protagonist and director in the film, and just as his young actress in The Mirror dictates the direction of the film, so too does Panahi consciously construct the content. In this way, Panahi’s film blends “…social inquiry with formal self-consciousness”(Scott 2012, para.5) in a film that is “folding in on itself repeatedly.”(Kasman 2012, para.2) The film works to display the themes of control and power in a self-reflexive manner, playing on the idea of government control and the censorship of Iranian films, and his own deceptive, passive control over his own film that is seemingly serendipitous.

Igi the Iguana provides for poetic and visual insight into the mental state of Panahi under the oppressive Iranian regime. Igi provides for light-hearted comic relief as he scales the walls and explores the confined space of the apartment, while Panahi stares longingly at his ability to find so much adventure in such a restricted space. “The way the lizard aimlessly climbs the walls and furniture of the apartment is an elegant visualisation of the sense of entrapment that Panahi feels.” (Dent 2011, para.6) This complex metaphor for the inner workings of Panahi’s mind, mirrors the work of his mentor, Abbas Kiarostami, who termed the ‘half-finished film’, which calls on viewers to supply their own meaning for many of the hidden clues placed throughout their films. (Wilson 2011) The physical setting, which plays a great role in how the film plays out, acts as a maze that must desperately be traversed by both Panahi and Igi. Furthermore, it is known that Iguanas have a third eye on their head that acts an evolutionary advantage to protect them from predators. So too does Panahi have a third eye, his camera, which he uses as his social weapon to publicise the tyranny of the Iranian government. Igi uses his evolutionary advantage to scare away the canine intruder from the apartment, while Panahi uses his camera to work toward defying the government’s filmmaking ban. Igi acts as a subtle and poetic metaphor to amplify the oppression and entrapment that Panahi feels.

This Is Not a Film subtly neglects to feature any visible women as a testament to the oppression being experienced in Iranian society. It is easy for this element to go unnoticed because Panahi intentionally doesn’t make a spectacle of this fact. Instead, he uses the absence of women into his film just as seamlessly as it occurs in society. Viewers only get a sense of female presence through off-screen indicators such as telephone calls with his daughter and wife on loudspeaker; phone calls with his female lawyer; and the voice of his neighbour who is desperately seeking a dog-sitter. Panahi employs a technique that is barely noticeable in order to accurately and literally portray the “invisibility of women in a male-dominated theocracy.”(Kohn 2012, para.12) The absence of women in This Is Not a Film is not a major spectacle, but rather sits in the background as an everyday, invisible feature of the Iranian lifestyle under an oppressive and sexist regime.

Jafar Panahi’s This Is Not a Film strives toward Godard’s notion of a politically ‘moral’ film, which does not intrude upon nor exploit the gravity of a political issue. Panahi practices cinematic morality through his use of extremely subtle metaphor and allusion in order to create a film that speaks to audiences and leaves room for the provocation of individual thought. Under a tyrannical regime, Iranian filmmakers must divert the attention away from the politicism of their films in order to efficiently convey a strong political message. Panahi practices subtlety, reflection and distance from the subject of Iranian government oppression, just as Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinéma challenges audiences to think, respond and reflect upon the atrocities of the Holocaust.

References

Daney, S, 2004 ‘The Tracking Shot in Kapo’, Senses of Cinema, vol. 30, viewed 2 June 2014, Senses of Cinema.

Dent, N 2011, ‘Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s documentary on his house arrest in Tehran’, The Sunday Telegraph, 6 November, viewed 30 May 2014, The Daily Telegraph.

Garcia, M 2012, ‘Film Review: This Is Not a Film’, Film Journal International, viewed 1 June 2014, Film Journal International Film Reviews.

Heywood, M 2014, ‘Holocaust and image: Debates surrounding Jean-Luc Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema (1988-98), Studies in French Cinema, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 273-283, viewed 1 June 2014, Taylor & Francis Online

Kasman, D 2012, ‘Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb’s “This Is Not a Film”’, Notebook Reviews, 29 February, viewed 31 May 2014, MUBI.

Kohn, E 2012, ‘Critical Consensus: Jamsheed Akrami and Godfrey Cheshire Discuss Jafar Panahi’s ‘This Is Not A Film’’, Indie Wire, 29 February, viewed 31 May 2014, Indie Wire.

Lopate, P 2012, ‘This Is Not a Film Review’, Film Comment, viewed 1 June 2014, Film Society of Lincoln Center.

Media RMIT, 2011, Understanding FLG: an analysis of the deaths of cinema according to Godard’s Histoire(s) du Cinema, viewed 1 June 2014, <http://media.rmit.edu.au/projects/RCS/2011/Considine.pdf&gt;

Morgenstern, J 2012, ‘’Not a Film’: A Defiant ‘No’ to Iran’s Repression’, Wall Street Journal, 1 March, viewed 30 May 2014, Wall Street Journal: Film Reviews.

Peranson, M 2011, ‘Cannes 2011 : This Is Not a Film Festival’, Spotlight Magazine, vol. 47, viewed 30 May 2014, Cinema Scope.

RogerEbert.com, 2010, Avatar, The French New Wave and The Morality of Deep-Focus, viewed 1 June 2014, < http://www.rogerebert.com/scanners/avatar-the-french-new-wave-and-themorality-of-deep-focus-in-3-d&gt;

Scott, O.A. 2012, ‘A Video From Tehran: It’s Not What It Isn’t but What It Is’, The New York Times, 28 February, viewed 10 May 2014, The New York Times Online.

Wilson J, 2011, ‘Iran Uncut’, Sydney Morning Herald, 5 November, viewed 2 June 2014, Sydney Morning Herald Entertainment.

Modern and Postmodern Feminism in Film

Feminist theory has encountered vast changes since the late eighteenth century, venturing through the modern and postmodern movements. Modern feminism attempted to close the gap between the genders while postmodern feminism rejected the notion of gender entirely. Valie Export’s postmodern feminist film, Invisible Adversaries (1976), will be discussed in detail with reference to the use of bricolage techniques along with the many allusions to female oppression and lack of progress displayed throughout the film.

Feminist movements are endlessly changing their approach to eradicating the subordination of women, each attempting to step closer toward the common goal of liberation than the last. Initially women engaged in the Liberal theory (Malpas & Wake 2006), working towards equality in the political and legal arena. Progress was undoubtedly made, however this progress was limited, thus economic change was then sought. This was developed through the introduction of the Marxist/Socialist theory (Malpas & Wake 2006). Next, feminists began to consider that being a ‘woman’ was perhaps an accumulation of meanings that had been gathered over time in society. Feminist theorists debated the argument that being a woman was a matter of societal manufacturing rather than a genetic trait (Malpas & Wake 2006). Next came the modernist approach to feminism which outlined that there was a definite gender imbalance (Macey 2000). Women and men weren’t being perceived equally and the differences between genders were identified as the problem. Modern feminism attempted to push women in the traditionally ‘male’ roles, encouraging them to abandon mothering in favour of work. Men were considered the preferable gender and women as the subordinate ‘other’ (Malpas & Wake 2006). This distinction was disagreed upon by postmodern feminist theorists, which became prominent in the late nineteenth century. Postmodern feminism rejected the notion that the ‘woman’ is indeed a concept to begin with. More specifically, postmodernists argued that the word ‘woman’ should be perceived as fictional because this distinguishing between genders was seen to form the basis of discrimination and inequality. According to the theory, if true liberation is to be achieved, a distinction between the genders should not at all be recognised.

Postmodern feminism started to become prominent in pop culture in the 1990s, however can be found in artefacts dating much earlier. Valie Export’s Invisible Adversaries, made in 1976, <idisplays blatant references to the theories discussed earlier – most evidently through her use of bricolage. Bricolage can be defined as the production of art using easily accessible, mass-produced and abundant materials which are taken out of their pre-existing context and placed within another (Macey 2000). Invisible Adversaries engages with this post-modern technique through the protagonist’s photography project. She uses the positions of women in Renaissance paintings and instructs models to copy these positions in a contemporary cultural setting. In this way, Export constructs a situation in which well-known and loved artworks are taken out of their traditional context, and placed within a contemporary arena in order to adopt new meaning. 

More specifically, Export uses bricolage to drive the feminist undertones in the film. Anna’s project in which she subtracts bodily gestures from their historical context reveals that women “…have remained essentially the same as they have passed through a series of generations” (Meuller 1983: 133). The juxtaposition between the traditional and contemporary women is shown through the monitor on which an image of the original artwork is compared with the live image of the model posing in the same position. Through this stark contrast, we become aware of the filmmaker’s contention that little has changed between the past and present excluding clothes and culture. In one scenario, the painting of Mary kneeling at the foot of the cross is used to inspire a photograph of a housewife kneeling and clutching her mop. While the role of women has changed slightly due to previous feminist movements, Export attempts to convey the postmodern perspective that women themselves as physical and internal beings are still the same and that progress in women’s rights which was promised by the period of modernity was indeed a failure. This can be seen as a fairly cynical approach to feminist progress, and in this way it is an example of feminist postmodernism which engages in dystopian discourse.

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Export further emphasises the urgent need for the empowerment of women through her use of the human body as a conveyor of meaning. In the specific example of Anna’s photographic project entitled, ‘Silent Language’, Export alludes to the message that “women’s exclusion from male discourse has rendered women silent”(Meuller 1983: 130). The physical female form is used as symbol for the spoken word, taking on the role of “a medium of information, a signal bearer of meaning and communication” (Meuller 1983: 133). Instead of speaking through language, Anna uses the female body and the juxtaposition between the past and present in order to convey her stance. Perhaps it is a reaction to the oppression she experiences often in the film through her relationship with Peter. He often dominates her life by imposing his opinions upon her and subordinating her lifestyle to his own interests and perceptions. “Her discomfort…can be attributed to the patriarchal discourse that Peter represents in his treatment of Anna.” (Meuller 1983: 130). Her silence and tendency to submit to Peter’s patriarchal nature within their relationship is stripped bare when Anna symbolically speaks for herself through photography. Ironically, the female body is the sole element which physically solidifies the difference between man and woman – a concept which is rejected altogether by postmodern feminists. However, Export capitalises on this permanent difference and allows it to speak volumes for ‘silent’ women about a lack of change in female liberation.

A common characteristic of postmodernism is the rejection of grand narrative of which modernism is so fond. Where modernists strive towards equality, progress and rationality among other ambitious goals, postmodernists identify perhaps there is no more progress to be made (Macey 2000). Invisible Adversaries also engages with this evasion of grand narratives through another of Anna’s projects which involves photographs of Anna contorting her body to fit the mould of object in the street. She moulds herself to Viennese architecture and loses her sense of self as she succumbs to ideological state apparatuses. She becomes merely a shape which conforms to space, and more symbolically, the patriarchal society in which she lives. This follows the concept that women “…is allowed to function through her body only in relation to the man, in relation to society.” (Meuller 1983: 136). Anna reacts to her feelings of exclusion and otherness as a women by evading them. Through this series of pictures, her body language is once again used to symbolise her inability to deviate from the coercive strutters of society. 

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Modernism and postmodernism in relation to feminism can be seen as direct rivals. Modern feminism concentrates on equality as a core concept which involves the eradication of the differences between male and female roles. However, postmodernist feminism rejects the modernist dualism that lies in ‘opposites’ and avoids altogether the distinguishability of genders. Rather, the theory declines the modern view that masculine is privileged while feminine is disprivileged  and renders the word ‘women’ as defunct. Valie Export’s Invisible Adversaries adopts a postmodern stance through bricoleur approach to highlighting the lack of progress towards women’s liberation which was promised by modernity.

References:

Macey, D (2000). Dictionary of Critical Theory. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Malpas, S & Wake, P. (2008). Feminism. The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory. 1 (8), 91-101.

Meuller, R. (1983). The Uncanny in the Eyes of a Woman: Valie Export’s “Invisible Adversaries”. SubStance. 11 (4), 129-139.

C’est Fini!

It’s finally all over – the stressful process is done and we’ve come out the other end of the semester with a completed short film! Here it is people:

After having worked on this shoot and dealt with all the problems that arose, I definitely avoided watching and cutting the footage for a good week. Then during post-production my group and I watched this thing several thousand times. So it’s safe to say that by the time of the screening I had very little idea of what still remained funny about the film and what shots still looked nice. I pretty much expected to be slightly embarrassed at the screening and not proud of the work we had done at all. However! It turned out to be extremely useful to screen the short film to a bunch of people with fresh eyes who appreciated the novelty of certain jokes and shots. It was actually pretty amazing to see even one or two people laugh at a dirty word in a crossword or make sounds of realisation when the punchline eventuated. I absolutely loved it!

Further, I loved everyone else’s film too. I (wrongly) expected the screening to become tedious and the quality of films to be much lower but they were actually all really great. Every single film had something really commendable about it whether it was sound, shot composition, or a clever storyline. The few that stood out to me were definitely ‘Crumpets’, ‘About A Dog’, ‘Rent Day’, ‘Confessions’, ‘The Creek’ and ‘Loot’ (for all extremely different reasons).

The cinematography was incredible in About A Dog, as it used a variety of impressive angles and frames to further the plot (i.e. the extreme low angle shot of the protagonist’s eyes as well as the high angle surveillance wide-shot of the room > muy nice). Furthermore, the hand-held camera which was really well controlled mirrored the turbulence of the plot.

Then there was the scripts that really impressed me in ‘Loot’. Loot was incredibly clever and although it was very comical and far-fetched, was also really relatable. The script definitely drew on the stereotypical juice-cashier and the classic thief – which when combined were hilarious. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the two paired together in a comedy. Also, the writing was so so so funny. I was in stitches for the full 5/6 minutes. The actress was incredible and her delivery of lines was insanely good – she switched moods in a second and was very believable.

Thanks for an amazing semester Paul!