On women’s film festivals: histories, circuits, feminisms, futures

Kamleitner, Katharina (2020) On women’s film festivals: histories, circuits, feminisms, futures. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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When they began to flourish in the 1970s, women’s film festivals offered pivotal opportunities for the exhibition of films by women filmmakers beyond the mainstream. Since then, these festivals have grown into significant platforms for the dissemination of and research into women’s films and are actively shaping the global film festival landscape. Yet, despite this proliferation and the advance of the burgeoning field of Film Festival Studies, little research has been undertaken into the organisation and development of women’s film festivals. This thesis presents the first lengthy study that explores women’s film festivals in depth. The key concern of this research project is to fill a conceptual gap in scholarship by mapping the field of Women’s Film Festival Studies. It is situated at the intersection of Film Festival Studies, feminist theory and feminist film theory and draws on a multidisciplinary theoretical and methodological framework. The enquiry is based on Patricia White’s understanding of cinefeminism, which is concerned with the exhibition and distribution of women’s films as an activist practice. Departing from this theoretical starting point, this thesis examines women’s film festivals from four perspectives: their history, their position on the film festival circuit, their relationship with feminist theories and their archiving practices. At the heart of this analysis are case studies of four festivals: a study of the Dortmund | Cologne International Women’s Film Festival, a comparative study of the London Feminist Film Festival and Underwire Festival in London, and a reconstructive study of the Women’s Event at the 1972 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Drawing on findings about these festivals, this thesis proposes a conceptual framework for the study of women’s film festivals that is informed by their history, impact, activism and documentation. The thesis also focusses on an underexplored aspect of the feminist film movement: exhibition. It lifts women’s film festivals out of the generic framework of niche film festivals, and draws connections between Film Festival Studies, history and archive studies. Thus, the conceptual originality of the work is found in its contribution of new knowledge to the fields of feminist film theory and Film Festival Studies. The research design is based on feminist research methodologies and is rooted in Standpoint Theory and a feminist epistemological understanding of knowledge production. As such, another key contribution of the thesis is a methodological intervention, which is not only valuable within the academic context of the field, but can also be applied by festival organisers and practitioners. This thesis attempts to reconstruct a comprehensive history of women’s film festivals and embeds their development in the context of the general history of film festivals and the political progress of women’s movements. Moreover, it draws parallels and highlights differences between the cultural and political contexts of individual festivals, and provides a survey of contemporary women’s film festivals. With regard to women’s film festivals on the global festival circuits, the thesis suggests how different purposes of these festivals inform how they are positioned in relation to one another. In terms of feminisms at women’s film festivals, it analyses the way different feminist theories become manifest at these festivals and proposes that contrasting theoretical perspectives can be present simultaneously at the same festival. Finally, considering the state of archiving women’s film festivals, it argues that renewed encounters with historical festivals through the archive can produce new knowledge about these events, which can inform contemporary and future practitioners. The thesis takes the view that the future of women’s film festivals lies in their past. Every aspect negotiated in this thesis draws a connection between contemporary and historical women’s film festivals and considers how the past informs the present and the future. As such, the research serves as a practical application of what Kate Eichorn describes as the archival turn. It proposes an open dialogue between the historical progress of women’s movements, which gave birth to the idea of women’s film festivals, and contemporary feminist activism at festivals and festival research, by looking backwards and forwards at the same time.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Film festivals, women's film festivals, feminist film theory, film festival history, women's film history.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Archibald, Dr. David and Bisschoff, Dr. Lizelle
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Dr Katharina Kamleitner
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-80237
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 May 2020 10:20
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2022 08:16
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.80237
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/80237

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