Theses Doctoral

Stranded, Isolated, Cloistered, and Confined: Women Queering Space in Twenty-First Century Italian Cinema

Palanti, Alessia

At the crossroads of Italian studies; film studies; and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, my dissertation investigates a group of films by Italian women filmmakers whose narratives center on women and unfold in constrained spaces. Confinement is generally considered antithetical to feminist projects that imagine emancipation to be synonymous with freedom of movement. Why would women filmmakers, then, making films in the new millennium choose to stage their narratives in cloistered spaces? I find that the spatial restrictions are not responding to familiar dialectics. First feature films Benzina (Gasoline, Monica Stambrini 2001), Aprimi il cuore (Aprimi il cuore, Giada Colagrande 2002), and Via Castellana Bandiera (A Street in Palermo, Emma Dante 2013) find ways to place us snugly inside a familiar space, a space that comes with a standardized set of expectations and associations: the apartment with the nuclear family; Rome’s GRA (grande-raccordo anulare; Rome’s ring road) with travel around the capital; the narrow street as a classically Italian impasse. But when the films have us “overstay our welcome,” these spaces no longer align with our original understanding, instead, we begin to see the kinds of exclusions that have come to define those standardized narratives. And so, the films queer space, and by queering space we might come to see that the world we inhabit is much more dynamic than our traditional narratives might have us believe.

I begin by analyzing the only documentary in my project, Vogliamo anche le rose (We Want Roses Too, Alina Marazzi, 2007). This film is a launching pad from which to establish a more robust backdrop of feminist history, philosophies, and concepts that re-emerge in subsequent chapters. Vis-à-vis the historiography I provide, I argue that each of the films’ restricted spatial configurations incite tense interpersonal dynamics within female pairings that dramatize both local and global political tensions within real feminist and lesbian collectives. Allusions to these long-lasting tensions in women’s political history provide not only an image of its past but also of its present, and perhaps its future. In other words, the films are a hard mirror to look into for feminist and lesbian activists and for women whose lives are affected by their (in)decisions, inclusions, and exclusions.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Leake, Elizabeth
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 29, 2019