This article focuses on Angelina Nikonova’s debut film Twilight Portrait (Portret v sumerkakh, 2011) and analyses the trajectory of the ‘difficult’ female protagonist, Marina (Ol´ga Dykhovichnaia), in relation to the spaces she inhabits and reclaims within the film. The article argues that, despite the incredulity and hostility that she inspires both on-screen and off-screen, Marina symbolises a complex, wider struggle for women’s sovereignty within the deeply patriarchal context of contemporary Russian society. In so doing, it shows that the film’s sustained, albeit ambiguous, probing of gendered hierarchies and institutions renders the film an important contribution to Russian cinema and, also, to the wider feminist filmmaking and feminist cultural discourse.
Reframing Experience in Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine Series
Harun Farocki’s Eye/Machine (2003) is a video installation which analyses how what Farocki calls ‘the operational image’ reconfigures our visual regimes. The ‘operational image’ allows machines to operate ever more autonomously and to perform their tasks with no need for human supervision. Farocki links the birth of such operational images to the missiles with integrated cameras used during the Gulf War (1991) and therefore to military purposes. Eye/Machine poses a paradox: operational images generate a process of abstraction in which the image depicted (in the case of the war, the battlefield) gets detached from its indexical dimension, appearing as abstract and unreal. However, such detachment can be reversed when these images are recontextualised and reframed within an exhibition space, since that places them within a human experiential framework. Images, and our perception of them, are part of what Judith Butler calls the ‘extended materiality of war’. Thus, war is not only fought in the battlefield, but also at the level of the senses.
Giovanna Maina, Federico Zecca, Danielle Hipkins, and Catherine O’Rawe
This article offers a reconstruction of the birth of Asia Argento’s star image, with specific reference to the Italian context. Through an analysis of the media discourses that circulated around the actress in the early phase of her career (from the end of the 1980s to the 2000s), we can trace the evolution of her star image from enfant prodige of Italian cinema, and youth icon, to that of the ‘anti-star’ who strongly divides public opinion, owing to her unruliness on and off-screen. The article concludes that her pre-existing association with sexual transgression inflected how her behaviour with Harvey Weinstein and Jimmy Bennett was interpreted in the Italian public sphere.
Creating an Inclusive Film Industry through Reclaiming The Frame
In this interview with Mia Bays (Birds’ Eye View), we discuss the recent Reclaim The Frame project, a UK-wide touring programme that showcases female-directed or -scripted films, usually new or recent releases. The interview explores the idea that this kind of curation is a necessary feminist intervention in the contemporary British cinema circuit, one that offers audiences agency and acknowledges that initiatives in film production alone are not sufficient to shift structural inequalities in the film industry. The piece begins with some contextual detail before turning to my discussion with Bays.
This article concerns itself with feminist comedy that is deemed angry and difficult in an era of postfeminism. Hannah Gadsby’s live show Nanette, released as a Netflix film, can be described as difficult because it is politically challenging, emotionally demanding and disrupts the established format of stand-up comedy. Yet it has had critical and commercial success. Nanette challenges the underpinning assumption of postfeminism: that feminism is no longer needed. It is feminist and angry. To explore the phenomenon of angry feminist comedy in the postfeminist era, the article considers the comedy of Gadsby through the figure of the feminist killjoy, coined by Sara Ahmed, to reflect how the killjoy and the queer art of failing offer forms of political ‘sabotage’ that subvert comedy as masculinist popular culture.
A Thematic Analysis of Collective Trauma and Enemy Image Construction in the 1980s American Action Film
During the 1980s the spectre of the Vietnam War haunted the sites of cinema and popular culture in various forms. Whereas a rich body of scholarly research exists on cinematic iterations of the Vietnam war as trauma, the discursive dynamics between memory, ideology and genre in relation to enemy image construction are somewhat underdeveloped. This article utilises genre studies, conflict studies and trauma theory in analysing how the representations of film villains interact with the construction of cultural trauma and national identity. Considering the American action thriller to be an important site for processes of commemoration and memorialisation, the discursive construction and formal articulation of national trauma are theorised within the genre. Additionally, a thematic and textual analysis was conducted of a sample of forty American action thriller films. The analysis illustrates how the genre operates through a structure of violent traumatisation and heroic vindication, offering a logic built on the necessity and legitimacy of revenge against a series of enemy-others.
Theorising from the Epicentres of Our Agency, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa
Bibi Burger, Motlatsi Khosi, and Lavinia Brydon
In this co-authored review-reflection, we discuss the African Feminisms 2019 conference, offering a snapshot of the vital and emboldening African feminist work being conducted by researchers, cultural producers and creative practitioners at all levels of their careers, as well as a sense of the emotional labour that this work entails. We note the particular, shocking event that took place in South Africa just prior to the conference informed the papers, performances and ensuing discussions. We also note that the conference and many of its attendees advocated for a variety of approaches (and more than one feminism) when seeking to challenge power.