Women on the Other Side

Mira Nair on the shoot of The Namesake (India/US 2006)

In the autumn of 2007, Rona Murray and Roy Stafford offered an evening class at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK, with the title ‘Women on the other side’. The class studied films directed by women. Four complete films were screened and these screenings were open to the public. In the other classes there was a focus on short extracts from a wide range of films

Why the title? In film and media studies, one approach to discussing the representation of social groups (and also ideas and values) is to suggest that there is often a dominant set of representations available that renders anything else as in some way ‘other’. A whole range of personal identities is thus seen in negative terms. Although women are more than half the population, cinema has been dominated by men so that women are presented as ‘other’. Part of this otherness is concerned with passivity. Women are often in front of the camera, to be looked at, whereas men are behind the camera controlling how women appear. When women become directors and cinematographers they move to the ‘other side’ — but does that mean that they automatically resist conventional ways of representing women (and men)? ‘Otherness’ is also an issue when considering cinema outside Europe and North America. Issues of ethnicity and religion and culture generally create questions of a ‘Non-Western’ other. The class focused on women directors who are ‘doubly other’ because of gender and culture.

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