Not Only Divas: Women Pioneers of Italian Cinema is an international conference taking place in Bologna, Italy, 14-16 December. The event is being promoted by the University of Bologna, the Biblioteca italiana delle Donne, the Associazione Orlando and the Women’s Film History Association. I haven’t been able to find any information about it online except in Italian, so here’s a translation from a flyer:
Until recently, the issue of women’s contribution to the creation and development of the film industry has been largely ignored in historiographical research, producing an image of silent cinema as a territory exclusively dominated by male agency and desire. In the last few years, however, a new line of international research has revealed a surprsing number of traces of women’s creative and professional participation in the silent film industry, showing clearly that the very few feminine names that have been traditionally credited in official film histories are in fact only the visible part of a much larger iceberg. One of the most interesting results of this research is actually to have revealed that in all national cinemas during the silent period the women working in the film industry in non-acting roles were far more numerous than in any other period of film history.
Though peculiar in many aspects, the case of Italian cinema is no exception. Besides Elvira Notari, pioneer of Neapolitan cinema, who has no doubt to be recalled as one of the most productive women directors of all times (second, perhaps, only to Alice Guy) and Francesca Bertini (the widely celebrated Diva, who in her late years repeatedly claimed for herself the maternity of her films), many others are the women who succeeded in entering as professionals the sphere of a mainly masculine industry. We can think as an example of the nowadays forgotten names of directors like Diana Karenne, Gemma Bellincioni, Giulia Cassini, Elettra Raggio; of screenwriters like Renée de Lion or Nelly Carrère; or even of a film distributor like Fanny Kluge.
The Not Only Divas Conference is the first step in a multiannual research project aimed at producing new knowledge on such pioneering figures by means of an articulated series of events, including film retrospectives, film restorations and publications.
More generally, the International Conference intends to stimulate a reflection on the scope of movement that was available in Italian silent cinema, in a particularly conservative socio-cultural context, for all the forms of feminine expression or women’s representation that are impossible simply to reduce to the tradiditional figure of the Diva.
The following thematic and methological issues will be considered :
- Reconstruction of Italian women film pioneers’ biographies and production
- Forms of women’s representation in Italian silent cinema
- The anti-Divas: comic actresses and muscle-women
- Women’s professional agency in the Italian socio-cultural context of the silent period
- Italian silent cinema and female audiences
- Relationships among women across film, theater and literature
- Comparative analysis of the women’s role in Italian and foreign cinemas
- The feminist movement in Italy during the silent period
- The problem of sources: women’s history in the Italian film history
Conference director: Monica Dall’Asta, Università di Bologna
Please write for information to angelita.fiore [at] unibo.it
Excellent stuff, all part of a major re-investigation of women’s roles in silent cinema which is taking place worldwide at the moment. But I would like to know who it is can say for certain that there were more women working in the film industry in the silent period than at any other time. How has this been determined? If they mean behind-the-scenes roles (office workers, early film processing etc) and not just ‘creative’ roles, perhaps this may be right. But I’d like to see the evidence.