October 7, 2012 • Podcasts
Feminism on Film
Continued from page 1
Rebecca Knight: I’m Rebecca Knight; I’ve lived in Newcastle for the last 11 years. I’ve just started a PhD at Newcastle University studying the intergenerational feminist dialogue that surrounds contemporary Hollywood films. I also program films at the Star and Shadow cinema in Newcastle, which is a volunteer run DIY cinema, and it’s a space where you can screen films that don’t really get shown anywhere else.
I was approached by the Gender Research group at Newcastle University and asked to program a series of films about feminism. And, that could have been anything from films which may have a slight feminist edge to documentaries, to just anything that will maybe spark discussion. So, I set off just researching the kind of films that I thought would inspire people to get to get together to talk about issues and maybe build networks. I thought the best thing to do with that would be to screen documentaries about feminists, particular feminists, or particular feminist movements, and also bring in somebody who would be able to lead a discussion after the films to make it more of a communal, more of a social event, rather than just going, sitting in the black room and watching these films.
So it started with a documentary about a summer school last year that took place in London, which was a UK Feministing summer school to train up feminist activists. And we had the filmmaker there, and, as well as the chairs of the Gender Research group and we had a lively debate about what feminism is today, what it can be and how things may have changed. Last month, we had a screening about the riot grrl era of the mid-90s, and it was very American-based, but we had a specialist in British riot grrl came and spoke to us, and everybody joined in the conversations, which led on to discussions about women in music, and, also, again, a DIY ethos, and just why, why is it that women were encouraged to make this kind of music at this particular time? And, does that still exist now? And then, tonight we have Eat the Kimono about a Japanese feminist, Hanayagi Genshu, who, yeah, is just a very interesting character.
JD: I was curious about how Rebecca chose the range of films, so she explained a little bit more:
RK: And I wanted to make sure that these films spanned, spanned the world and it wasn’t just focused on Western, white feminism, that it actually stretched out a little bit more and encourages a livelier debate. And again, we have a range of eras, as well, being displayed; we have something from the 90s, something from this decade. And so, it’s kind of all over the place to try and just encourage people to come in and think about what feminism is today.
JD: What responses have you had from people who’ve attended the events?
RK: It’s been quite an interesting collection of people. It’s mainly people from the universities, whether they work or whether they’re students. But what’s been quite interesting is that there’s a nice mix of ages, but also a mix of other people who aren’t based in a university setting. So, responses so far have all been very positive. What I found the most exciting is that people have started making networks. And on the first night, people kind of started talking, exchanging email addresses.
It’s quite an interesting mix, because some people just come just for the films and they don’t want to partake in the discussion. But there seems to be a core that do stay for the discussion and then the few that join afterwards. All in all, I think, because there’s someone delivering the discussion, it encourages other people to kind of chip in and talk, but also allows those people who, who don’t want to speak up to still be involved and take something away from it. It’s full of little anecdotes and little moments, where people can think and reflect and, and just question. So, I think [laughs] it’s going well, and it’s been quite a positive experience so far.
JD: Well, it was really interesting to catch up with Rebecca and hear about the film series that she’s organized. But now I’m wondering about some of the other key people she’s mentioned. Like, who is this Gender Research group that is sponsoring the event? That question led me to Dr. Carolyn Pedwell at Newcastle University.
Carolyn Pedwell: My name’s Carolyn Pedwell and I’m a lecturer in media and cultural studies at Newcastle University, but I’m originally from Toronto.
JD: So, what do you do here at Newcastle University?