Political Animals: 21st Century Feminist Cinema

  • Feminist Cinema 5 Mar

    Alicia Eyo as Annie in Carol Morley’s ‘Stalin My Neighbour’ (2004) (c) CAMP Productions

Past Event

This event was on Sat 5 Mar, 11.30am-6pm

Marking International Women’s Day, and launching her major new study, writer and activist Sophie Mayer curates a global survey of feminist film-makers who link personal and political revolution, with screenings, readings, discussion and special guests.

Inspired by philosopher and activist Judith Butler’s work on bodies in alliance, bodies in public, and bodies that differ, Sophie Mayer’s new book Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema proposes a fresh framework for thinking through gender, sexuality and embodiment on screen.

Focusing on a transnational, politicised cinema that addresses questions of biopolitics, ecology and revolution within a feminist perspective, Political Animals offers a way to re-view and re-vision both established auteurs such as Lucrecia Martel and Mania Akbari, and to encounter emerging and artist film-makers who share preoccupations and political passions.


11.30am Welcome followed by Imagining Otherwise with Sophie Mayer

The day beings with a series of feminist futures that take up Elizabeth Grosz’s challenge of defining a feminist metaphysics, from the microbiological to the interplanetary. Ranging globally, these films offer both incisive re-inventions of the most popular film genres (science fiction, fantasy, body horror) and playful investigations of the cinematic body as the fusion of personal and political. Films: Pumzi, Wanuri Kahiu; Pescados, Lucrecia Martel; We, the Others, Maja Borg; Sound of the Street, Annemarie Jacir

Followed by a discussion on feminist futures with Campbell X

Campbell X is the award-winning filmmaker behind BlackmanVision, and writer/director of the LGBT indie feature film Stud Life. Campbell is on the Rainbow List for The Independent for contributions to queer filmmaking in the UK, and has collaborated with other filmmakers like Cheryl Dunye, Jules Nurrish, Lisa Gornick and Looking At You Productions.

1.30pm Break

2.30pm What Can a Body Do? Shorts Programme

Taking up Judith Butler’s emphasis on this question as political philosophy, this segment looks at the politics of embodiment, particularly female-identified bodies in public, and how they alter narration, film form and point of view, reshaping space, architecture, aesthetics, and ideas of political commonality and activism.

Films: Judith Butler and Sunaura Taylor in conversation from Examined Life; Astra Taylor; Hurry Up, You Stupid Cripple, Elle-Máíja Tailfeathers and Terreanne Derrick; In My Country Men Have Breasts, Mania Akbari; Stalin My Neighbour, Carol Morley; AIR, Anna Cady, Pauline Thomas and Jenny Chamarette

Followed by a panel discussion with Jenny Chamarette, Mania Akbari and Sophie Mayer

Mania Akbari is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, artist, writer, and actress. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were the subject of a retrospective at the BFI in 2013. Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in her latest film, Life May Be (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins.

Jenny Chamarette is Senior Lecturer in Film Studies at Queen Mary, University of London. She is the author of Phenomenology and the Future of Film (2012), and currently at work on Cinemuseology: Museum Vitrines, Digital Screens and Cultural Politics. She is exploring creative alternatives to academic scholarship through art writing, curation and programming artist’s moving image work, including ‘AIR’.

4pm Break

4.30pm Bodies in Space: co-curated with Reel Good Film Club

This discussion considers intersectional feminist media online, offline and in between.

Reel Good Film Club is devoted to celebrating people of colour in all aspects of cinema, fed up with the racism, sexism and snobbery in the film industry, especially in programming, distribution and education. Recent curation/collaborations include Scalarama, Bechdel Test Fest, Deptford Cinema, London Fields Free Film Festival, King’s College London, The Time Is Now, and Polyester Zine.

6pm End

About Sophie Mayer

Sophie Mayer is a writer, editor, educator and activist with a passionate commitment to art and social justice.

She publishes with independent presses Arc, Lark Books, Salt,Shearsman, IB Tauris, and Wallflower. She is a member of queer feminist film curation collective Club des Femmes and feminist film activists Raising Films, a lecturer in film at LCC and Queen Mary University of London, and a film journalist for Sight & Sound and The F-Word, where she focuses on independent, experimental, and feminist films and film culture. In her critical work, she explores the political potential of experimental literature and cinema, with an emphasis on feminist artists like Sally Potter, who is the subject of her first critical book The Cinema of Sally Potter: A Politics of Love.

She has worked with non-profit organisation English PEN and was the Poet in Residence at the Archive of the Now.

About the book

Political Animals: the New Feminist Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2015)

Forty years of a transnational, trans-generational cinema has given rise to conversations between the work of now well-established filmmakers such as Abigail Child, Sally Potter and Agnes Varda, twenty-first century auteurs including Kelly Reichardt and Lucretia Martel, and emerging directors such as Sandrine Bonnaire, Shonali Bose, Zeina Daccache, and Hana Makhmalbaf.

A new and diverse generation of British independent filmmakers such as Franny Armstrong, Andrea Arnold, Amma Asante, Clio Barnard, Tina Gharavi, Sally El Hoseini, Carol Morley, Samantha Morton, Penny Woolcock, and Campbell X join a worldwide dialogue between filmmakers and viewers hungry for a new and informed point of view. Lovely, vigorous and brave, the new feminist cinema is a political animal that refuses to be domesticated by the persistence of everyday sexism, striking out boldly to claim the public sphere as its own.