Welcome to Auteuse Theory

Welcome to Auteuse Theory. The purpose of this blog is to allow us to think about and write about a range of films made by women, from silent re-discoveries to the latest releases, from activist documentaries to mainstream Hollywood features, taking in examples from across the globe, whether famous or obscure. We have no desire to force ham-fisted links between very different films and very different filmmakers, to insist that they fit some pre-designated template of women’s cinema. Quite the opposite; we want to explore the diversity of forms taken by women’s filmmaking across different nations and eras. So why focus on women as a separate category at all? Why isolate their films from those of their male peers and think about them as some kind of exceptional or special case? Well, there’s still the matter of persistent inequality of opportunity within certain key authorial roles in the film industries. We all know the stats: even now, post-Bigelow Oscar win, women only constitute 10% of directors globally, and 15% of screenwriters. This is an improvement on previous years but it’s still (obviously!) a very minor proportion of the whole. As the British director Lynne Ramsay has commented, it’s ‘a bit like a country not being filmed – and that country not having a voice. It really does matter.’ And although we are very reluctant to make simple equations between the fact of there being a woman being at the helm of a film and that film offering a more complex picture of femininity (there have always been battalions of male directors who are very good at telling female-focussed stories), there is nonetheless plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that this is often true.

Our main subject is film but we will inevitably make forays into television and other media from time to time. We will be focussing predominantly on films directed by women, but we’re also interested in including films which demonstrate female authorship in other ways (writing, producing or performance). And we won’t be thinking about those films solely as women’s films. We don’t want to ghettoise them, so we’ll be connecting them to the time and place of their production, or their place within a genre or a movement, as much as we connect them to each other. There will be no rhyme or reason to the films that we discuss or the order in which they appear, instead we’ll be hoping for serendipitous connections, unexpected correspondences, sharp contrasts, strange juxtapositions; in other words, a blog that aims to be perpetually different and surprising. Most of the writing will be undertaken by the two main authors but interspersed with guest reviews from others who will each bring a fresh perspective.

And, finally, why the title Auteuse Theory? We were scouting around for a name that indicated a response to the old-fashioned auteur theory, and its insistence on ‘virility’ as a marker of directorial quality (all that Hawks and Ford worship). Women hadn’t only been marginalised in the making of films but the select few who had managed to break through were often given short shrift in the founding critical histories of film (with the exception of the highly problematic case of Leni Riefenstahl), until feminist scholars put Arzner, Weber, Guy-Blache, Lupino and Varda back into the picture. And this work of excavation and rediscovery continues – see the Women Film Pioneers and Women and Silent British Cinema websites for ongoing examples. We are aware of the problems of using the French feminised form of a professional name, drawing a gendered distinction between male and female practitioners (just as some publications reject the word actress in favour of actor for both men and women), but in the spirit of subversion, we wanted to occupy and feminise a word - auteur - which still sits at the heart of so much film scholarship and film appreciation. And although the blog is called Auteuse Theory, it might be more appropriate to think in terms of 'theories', the more intellectually generous plural form. These are some theories and thoughts and ideas arising from watching these films made by women. We hope you enjoy reading them…

Monday, 16 April 2012

Women's Library Under Threat – Campaign and Petition

Many of you will have heard that The Women's Library in London is facing
closure and transfer of its collections, or being reduced to operating a
skeleton service. London Metropolitan University have decided to attempt to
find a new home, owner or sponsor for its holdings, and will reduce the
service to one day per week if such a sponsor cannot be found by the end of

At the time of writing, nearly 5,000 people have signed a petition - set up
by a concerned member of staff at the University – to save The Women's
Library in its present form (thanks go to everyone who have already
signed). Its current home, opened in 2002, is purpose-built on the site of
an old wash-house in East London, and received a RIBA-award for its design.
It was opened due to the huge efforts and commitment of the Library's
Friends and supporters both inside and outside the University, and a £4m
grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. As well as housing the collections
and operating a Reading Room service, the building is a cultural centre
hosting exhibitions, talks, education projects and community events.

The Library was originally founded in 1926. The collections, now officially
Designated as 'collections of outstanding national and international
importance', were saved from dispersal by London Met's forerunner City
of London Polytechnic 35 years ago, and this February it should have been
celebrating ten years in its new home. In the lead-up to a major suffrage
anniversary in 2018, now is the time to be building on the Library's
successes, fundraising for, and celebrating this important asset – not
shutting it down or restricting public access.

London Met UNISON have initiated a campaign to save the Library, and are
seeking testimony from its users about the Library's importance. You can
find out more on their blog, follow the campaign on Twitter, and add your
name to the petition on the Care 2 website. There is also a 'Save The
Women's Library' group on Facebook.

The campaign has so far received coverage in The Guardian, Museums Journal,
and Islington Tribune.

You can find out more about The Women's Library on its website, and
Wikipedia page. Its supporters scheme is The Friends of The Women's

Please help spread the word about the threat to this key resource for our

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