AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 723

[ Interarea/Border-Crossing Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 723: Female Filmmakers In Asia

Organizer: Colleen A Laird, Bates College, USA

Discussant: Lori D. Morimoto, , USA

Feminist scholars and filmmakers encounter, oppose, and deconstruct dominant cinemas. In these efforts, what is at stake is overcoming marginalized representation, claiming subject positions, and the right to be heard, not just seen. Although these are still works in progress, there has been notable success worldwide in fostering a rising population of female filmmakers. As women take active authoritative roles in mass-market cinemas, we now find ourselves in the position of addressing female filmmakers as participatory players in dominant cinemas. Focusing on directors in Asia, this panel aims to inspire discussion among participants and audience members by addressing the following questions: Now that there is space, however small, for women in contemporary Asian film industries, what new challenges do they encounter in their work? How do they resist or adapt to conventional (patriarchal) filmmaking methods and labor practices? How are the works of female directors shaped by market-driven market-creating film industries? Who are the intended audiences of their films? Is there relationship between women directors and specific genres? What themes and modes of representations emerge in films by female filmmakers as they transition from independent to mainstream markets? In alliance with the goals of the Border Crossings sessions, this interdisciplinary panel includes papers from disparate regional perspectives —China, Korea, Japan, and Indonesia— presented by scholars representing a range of experience, from graduate students to professors, with each panelist focusing on the relationship between female directors and their respective film industries.

East Asian Female Directors in the Age of Independent Filmmaking
Louisa S. Wei, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Chinese, Japanese and Korean female directors all have a long history of filmmaking though earlier pioneers were largely unknown. This paper will begin with a quick overview of the history of female directors in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and Korea before presenting some recent achievements and the general working conditions of women directors in these five regions. Then, through a comparative analysis focusing on works produced by independent female directors, the paper will ask the following questions: Is there a borderline between mainstream cinema and women’s cinema? Do women directors have their own working conditions and directing methods? What are their advantages at work and the challenges they face in the film industry? In a world where film production is highly commercialized, what is the significance of works by female directors? What kind of roles can women’s film festivals play in promoting women’s cinema culture? Instead of going into close readings of works by a particular female director, this paper aims to present a larger picture of female directors at work in East Asia and to evoke more dialogues among scholars concerning women’s cinema and Asian cinema in general.

Voice From the Margin: Korean Female Film Director Lim Soon-rye
Jinim Park, Pyeong-Taek University, South Korea

The Korean director Lim Soon-rye is exceptional considering that the film industry is perhaps one of the few spaces in Korea where women’s voices often remain silent. Lim's 14-minute debut film Promenade in the Rain (Wujungsanchaeak, 1994), won the Best Film Award at the Seoul Independent Film Festival. Three Friends (Saechingu, 1996) and Waikiki Brothers (Waikiki Beuradoso, 2001) were also highly acclaimed by critics. In her films, Lim casts attentive and sympathetic eyes on the less privileged and suffering populace in Korea. The characters are discriminated against and excluded from standardised citizenship. They are seen to be physically unfit, of socially unacceptable sexual orientations, or as powerless alcoholics. Lim rarely shoots in set studios. Most shots are taken from real spaces in the everyday lives of Koreans. Likewise, the actors in the films are not established professionals, but mostly amateurs. Believing that films are one of the rare genres of art people with little education can enjoy, Lim has been consistent in representing fragments of the daily lives of Koreans. Her films powerfully reveal and expose the latent and yet prevalent state apparatuses of educational institutions, the military, and the police that have afflicted violence on Korean individuals. In particular, the politics of inclusion and exclusion in Korean society are clearly seen in her documentary film Keeping the Vision Alive: Women in Korean Filmmaking (2001). This paper illustrates how Lim’s work plays a pivotal role in creating and expanding women’s place in the still male-dominated Korean film industry.

Constructing Space in a Constructed Space: What the opposing cinematic styles of Ogigami Naoko and Nishikawa Miwa reveal about Japanese film.
Colleen A Laird, Bates College, USA

It is a female spectator's market in Japan. Accordingly, the industry invests heavily in constructing gendered marketing strategies to target female audiences, not the least of which is a growing support and promotion of prominent female directors. Since 2004, the number woman filmmakers experiencing mainstream recognition has increased dramatically and the industry is both making room for them and making profit off of them. Their films are marketed to a specifically female audience based on strategic and ideological gendered identification between author and spectator that assumes women like things made by women as a matter of course. Unsurprisingly, the films are packaged in images of femininity. However, the connection is a fallacious misrepresentation and directors are making films quite distinct from "chick flick" fare and their accompanying pink haze of advertising. In particular, two filmmakers stand out as recognized "art" directors: Ogigami Naoko and Nishikawa Miwa. Their works, both in content and style, seem to directly oppose each other. Both filmmakers enjoy box office success and continual production financing. However, Ogigami's work (notably dealing with gender and largely popular with female audiences) is sometimes described by critics (largely male dominated publication circles) as slightly superficial and somewhat "foreign" feeling, whereas Nishikawa's films (falsely considered "non-gendered") are lauded as complex and reminiscent of classical Japanese cinema. This paper compares the contrasting cinematic styles of Ogigami and Naoko in order attempt to question and confront the patriarchal bias still lingering in definitions of Japanese cinema style, industry, and criticism.

Women's Impacts On Cinema In Post-Suharto Indonesia : Beyond The ‘Victim-Virago Dichotomy
Felicia Hughes-Freeland, Independent Scholar, United Kingdom

During Suharto’s New Order Regime (1966-98), women’s roles were dichotomized as the dutiful wife and mother as exemplary model of femininity and ‘the dark antimodel’ or ‘maniac’ (Tiwon 1996: 70). In Indonesian Cinema: Framing the New Order (1994), Sen argued that cinema reproduced these roles in its representations of women, as victims or viragos. This paper explores the extent to which this situation has changed. It represents work-in-progress, and draws on interviews with women directors and producers in Jakarta in January 2008. There has been a significant increase of women’s creative participation in the film industry behind the camera as directors, producers, trainers, publicists and distributors. The four-story film, Kuldesak (1999), was generally regarded as having marked the turning point in Indonesian cinema. The films are mostly still independently produced and financed as Indonesia does not have a studio system. Women fiction filmmakers have been making high-impact films with and international funding and high production values, which have been nominated in international competitions. Among these I will consider Nia Dinata, Upi Avianto, and Nan T. Achnas. There has also been a resurgence of documentary cinema which had been repressed during the New Order in ethnographic films and also grass-roots community and activist documentary and campaign films. Filmmakers here include anthropologically-trained Lulu Ratna and Yuli Andari M., and Ariana Djalal who lead a community project in Aceh in 2007.

Searching for Identity and Autonomy: Female Film Directors, Women's Film, and Women's Film Festivals in Post-New Order Indonesian Cinema
Novi Kurnia, Flinders University, Australia

In post-New Order Indonesian Cinema, an increasing number of female film directors have entered both the mainstream industry and independent communities. Some of them are working together with their male counterparts in creating a new wave of Indonesian cinema and offering new patterns in film production, distribution and consumption, while the rest are surviving in the male-dominated industry. These female film directors work not only in national space but also in local and international spaces. This paper will discuss some factors such as age, educational background, social class, network, motivation, and personal politics that influence the state of being that these women create in their films to be empowering women. Therefore, this paper will also explore the work of female film directors (women’s film) related to its genre, themes, issues, and gender representation. To know further about the contribution of women’s film in gendered film festivals, the paper will elaborate the shifting definition of women’s film in some festivals, how these festivals are being contextualized in the post-New Order Indonesian Cinema, and how the audience at these film festivals receive the films. In this context, it is important to answer the question of how the acknowledgement of female film directors in these festivals is either for their recognition or their contribution. The paper, then, will conclude that the relationship between female film directors, women’s film and women film festivals in Indonesian cinema lies on its rich cultural, social, and political background of the post-New Order Indonesia.