Progress Not Perfection: The Work of Ariel Schudson

Gender Concerns

During my first MIAS seminar with Michael Friend on the History, Philosophy and Practice of Moving Image Archiving, I asked why there was little to no discussion of women’s place or part in our profession. Certainly there were plenty of academic texts by women: Haidee Wasson, Karen Gracy, Snowden Becker, Martha Yee, and Patricia Zimmerman, among others. Where were the works about these women and their contributions or gendered experiences? If the information was there, I was unable to find it through classical/traditional forms of research.

In recent literature, Janna Jones, Caroline Frick and others have showcased the importance of women in archiving, but most historical documentation is still lacking. There is no access to the works that we, as women in the field, should have. As a woman (and new archivist), it was disappointing to attempt research on this topic and come up with so little. So I decided to change that. I started with a paper that I wrote in my first quarter of the MIAS program and decided that I wanted to expand the topic. What I noted on my CV (“This Woman’s Work”) began with this attempt to document the lived experiences of women in the moving image archiving field. Although still in its infancy, this venture has been mapped out in further directions for its completion. Passing on what I have learned from and about women like Edith Kramer at the Pacific Film Archive, Eileen Bowser and Mary Lea Bandy at MoMA, Karan Sheldon at Northeast Historic Film Archive and Maxine Fleckner Ducey at the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research is vital for our field.

I also wished to open up a discussion about the way that men’s bodies are depicted in moving image work. While feminist film theory has discussed the male gaze and on-screen sexualization of the female body, I felt that the next step would be to give men’s images a decent analysis. I took my opportunity with online journalism and explored the history of westerns and genre notions in John Carpenter’s cinema, the more intimate physical/emotional issues with my work on Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and my piece on Gavin O’Connor’s recent film, Warrior all in the hopes that the more “masculine” identifying audiences/readers would recognize their own fragilities as well through familiar filmic materials.

Other works on this site deal with what are considered “outsider voices” and “outsider” filmmaking. In Professor Allyson Fields seminar focusing on the L.A. Rebellion, I examined the work of women like Julie Dash, Carroll Parrott Blue, and O. Funmilayo Makarah.  Showcasing these women and their work in the L.A. Rebellion has a dual purpose. It brings their existence to the forefront, leading to a greater possibility for distribution and accessibility; it also underscores the way materials are marginalized, due to the queer factor, the female factor, or the race factor.

Avant-garde filmmaker Shirley Clarke’s work belongs in this category not simply because of her identity as a female filmmaker, but also because of her themes. Clarke’s content was similar to what was done in the L.A. Rebellion: it dug deep into the African-American experience, using the moving image and experimental film techniques to communicate the full emotion and impact of the underground/outsider perspective. In addition to the avant-garde world and her attraction to explore the more seamy and uncomfortable areas of jazz and drugs on-screen, it was her willingness and enthusiasm to make a film centered upon a queer African-American hustler (Portrait of Jason) that is remarkable for its time. My piece on Portrait of Jason explores the long and difficult journey by Dennis Doros of Milestone Films to conduct a full restoration of the film and make it available to new audiences.

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