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Racquel Gates
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A Few Workshop Highlights

Posted By Racquel Gates, Sunday, March 10, 2013

While many of us will present our work on panels during SCMS, I find myself most exhilarated by the various workshops in which I participate and attend. On Thursday, I participated in the workshop "Marlon Riggs's Tongues Untied at 25." Chaired by David Gerstner, participants included Vivian Kleiman, E. Patrick Johnson, Cornelius Moore, and Rhea Combs. Although we hadn't shared our talking points beforehand, I was thrilled to see how our various perspectives formed a thoughtful and cohesive reflection on Riggs's noted film. Kleiman discussed the issues in the film's production and distribution; Moore talked about responses to the film's recent screenings at MoMA and the Schomburg Center; Johnson provided strategies for teaching the film in both undergraduate and graduate classrooms; Combs traced the enduring legacy of the film's impact on contemporary artists like musician Frank Ocean; I mused on the idea of what sites of popular culture might take up the issues of race and masculinity that Riggs raised in Tongues Untied. During the Q&A, while some attendees focused on more practical questions of how to teach the film, a larger question arose during our discussion. What is the contemporary equivalent of Tongues Untied? Although the question was left unanswered, it did prompt us to think further about the definition of "activist" media and moreover, to consider sites of media production that are often overlooked in such discussions.

The next day, I attended the "Teaching Women in Film in 2013" workshop. Chaired by Paula J. Massood and Antje Ascheid, participants included Lucy Fischer, Alexandra Keller, Michele Schrieber, and Mia Mask. While each of the women leading the workshop gave productive insights into their own teaching experiences as well as larger issues in the discipline, I want to highlight some of the questions and points that stood out to me the most. One issue that arose was the question of language and politics. Should it be "Women and Film" or "Gender and Film," and what is gained or lost by each of these? When we talk about women and film, are we talking about filmmakers, or should we broaden our scope to consider the impact of women in areas of film production such as financing, acting, costume design? Another question that generated much discussion was one of diversity. What is the responsibility of a "Women in Film" class as far as highlighting global film culture, or racial and ethnic difference? What are the best ways to address this given questions of time, scope, and coherence? Finally, a recurring theme was one of methods. Given the tendency of so much of feminist film studies to focus on textual analysis, where is the more theoretical scholarship? Clearly, the workshop ultimately raised more questions than it could possibly answer, but many people offered incredibly helpful suggestions such as showing short rather than feature length films and creating a listserv to circulate syllabi.

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