Visible resistance
: challenging heterosexism through film practice

  • Adele Tulli

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This practice-led research is committed to exploring the subversive potential of the filmic medium and its capacity to challenge dominant cultural codes related to gender and sexuality. Blurring distinctions between academic research, activism and cultural production, it also proposes a critical and grounded engagement with feminism through the lens of praxis.
    The study combines scholarly work with innovative use of nonfiction filmmaking, choosing a balance of 60% practice and 40% writing. The outcome of my creative practice is the film Normal, an unsettling visual journey through normative gender roles in contemporary Italy. It is driven by the urgency of articulating a feminist response to the alarming growth of conservative and reactionary social attitudes towards gender issues in the country. The task of my written thesis is to provide theoretical and methodological context for the practice, and to produce a critical and reflexive analysis of the filmmaking process and of the film itself, locating it within a tradition of feminist research committed to challenging heterosexism through film practice.
    Drawing on Judith Butler’s ideas on gender performativity and on the subversive potential of parodic repetition, Normal aspires to denaturalise and transform dominant gender models through their own audio-visual resignifications. With its unorthodox form merging together creative practice, theoretical work and social criticism, it proposes to employ an essayistic approach to nonfiction filmmaking as a strategy to problematise the biases that link documentary forms and dominant ‘ways of seeing’. As such, it also intends to bring nonfiction filmmaking back into the arena of feminist intervention.
    Through the exploration of theories and debates in the fields of feminist film theory, gender and film studies, as well as through the production of the original film Normal, this research aims to offer a response to feminist critiques of the documentary mode, while suggesting a new direction for feminist film practice.
    Date of Award7 Feb 2019
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Roehampton
    SponsorsTECHNE AHRC Doctoral Training Programme
    SupervisorCaroline Bainbridge (Supervisor) & Enrica Colusso (Supervisor)

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