The Absence of Canadian Women in the Silent Picture Industry
How would women’s film history be written if there were no women filmmakers? This problem is not entirely hypothetical in the case of Canada because Canadian film history cannot be centered on film production, the model of so many other national film histories, because there was relatively little film production in Canada in the first decades. The dearth of Canadian domestic film production, whether with men or women in creative control, however, stands in stark contrast to a rich film-going culture in the silent era in Canada. The possibility of a history of Canadian women filmmakers from the silent era thus grapples with the processes that integrated moving pictures into the Canadian social formation, despite their imported status, most notably from the U.S. Because of this foundation of “history from below” rather than from the motion picture studio “down,” the Canadian Women’s Film History Project provides a significant and atypical historiographical intervention in the Women Film Pioneers project as well as film history generally (Morris 1978; Lacasse 1988; Gaudreault et al. 1996). In order to study the particularities of the Canadian case, the project inverts traditional power dynamics between production and consumption, filmmaking and film-going, and film as an aesthetic expression of authorship versus film as a popular pastime.
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