Women’s Film Heritage: Emancipating the World’s Film Archives

Funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), this two-year project aims to make more visible the role of women and their films in the global film archives.

We will establish a collective of world cinema historians, filmmakers and archivists, in order to accelerate and connect individual efforts to safeguard women’s film culture and heritage. The researchers in this network envisage increased collaboration across borders; better awareness of presences, absences and practices; and improved methodologies that thrive on collaborations between partners across borders.

The network was initiated by researchers affiliated with the Centre for Communication, Cultural and Media Studies at QMU, partnering with The Janovics Center for Screen and Performing Arts at Babeș-Bolyai University in Romania and the Africa in Motion Film Festival’s ‘Africa’s Lost Classics’ Project.

The first collaborative networking event takes place 10-14 January 2022, with a follow-up event in January 2023. These events bring together international film historians, archivists and restoration technicians, to map existing safeguarding work and seek out productive pathways towards collaborations that instigate new work on the demystification of "lost" women's films.

This initiative is rooted in a desire to consider the diverse methodologies of decolonizing film history in an activist feminist way. We critique the continued Western European dominance of funding and infrastructure for these efforts (including our own). We address the (neo-)colonial history of archives, museums and festivals; the sense of “service” practiced by these institutions; and the (material and conceptual) ownership of artefacts and restorations. This network emphasises the roles of women filmmakers in history; the contributions of feminist scholars to film historiography; and the women workers shaping the structures on which the archival and preservation institutions are built.

The overall research questions for this project are:

  • How can we decolonise archives and skills for feminist film heritage preservation?
  • How do we conceptualise feminism as an ally in the film decolonisation movement?
  • Are there any provisions for the safeguarding or the futureproofing of the feminist film heritage of the Non-Aligned Countries?
  • How do we assist or support the safeguarding of that heritage for new young filmmakers who are working to decolonise the cinemas of the Non-Aligned Countries?
  • Where are the restoration training opportunities for local talent? If there are none, how do we support training opportunities?

10-14 January 2022

The first event is a week of half-day online networking workshops, organised by QMU in Edinburgh. Delegates are invited to share special interests and knowledge, and practice ‘non-aligned’ methodologies: mutual respect, integrity, non-aggression, non-interference, equality and mutual benefit and peaceful co-existence. The hope is that this may result in recognising archives and preservation facilities and professionals, identifying films and filmmaker collectives, self-reflexively locating work, filmmakers and archivists, and collaborating with one another for further research.

Please sign up for the event here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/global-womens-film-heritage-networking-symposium-tickets-214627234837

Summer 2022

The research team of the project will travel to archives in their areas of specialism, and make concrete connections and plans for events that promote the increased visibility of women’s contributions to film history, better accessibility to the archives where these “forgotten” films might be stored and more productive liaisons between archives, scholars and film curators, so that the films may be accessed and screened globally.

9-13 January 2023

The second event will take place in person, at Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and will be organised by Dr Ana Grgic.

Discussions at the first networking event will define the potential outcomes of the project. We envisage an open-access online publication which will be made available through the network. More info about this will be released at a later date.

Team and Contact

The project team consists of Dr Lizelle Bisschoff, Dr Ana Grgic and Dr Stefanie Van de Peer (PI)

If you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to contact Stefanie on svandepeer@qmu.ac.uk.