Notebook Primer: Feminist Film Collectives

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Written by Rachel Pronger

Always, throughout the history of cinema, women have made films. And always, they’ve worked within the limits of a patriarchal industry. As a result, the films that women have made have historically been compromised by this imbalance of power. But what if there was another way? What if this inherently collaborative artform could become a space of solidarity, subversion and sisterhood?

This was the vision put forward by the feminist film collectives of the 1970s and 1980s. As counterculture and social revolution spread, a wave of politicised women-led film groups began to emerge around the world. These collectives turned their cameras to feminist causes, seizing upon the potential of film to raise awareness, change minds and present new perspectives. For these collectives, control of the camera meant control of the conversation, as women pooled their resources to make films examining gendered issues such as reproductive freedom, working conditions, domestic labor, and sexual violence. They challenged the dominance of the male gaze, upended traditional power dynamics between filmmaker, spectator and subject, and innovated new working models. And while most of the collectives that led the way in this period lasted only a few years, they left behind a rich legacy of alternative practice that continues to inspire today.

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