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project MUSLIMWOMENFILM project selected for publication in the ‘Results in Brief’ section of the European Commission’s CORDIS website

MUSLIMWOMENFILM: Evaluating and valuing Muslim women’s autobiographical film-making

MSCA Fellow Dr Rahat Imran and her Mentor Professor Laura Rascaroli (University College Cork) discuss the MUSLIMWOMENFILM project and its results in the article “Evaluating and valuing Muslim women’s autobiographical film-making”.

The EU-funded project “Locating the Storyteller: Muslim Women’s Auto/Biographical Cinema from the Islamic World”, based in the Department of Film and Screen Media at University College Cork, had two main objectives. The first was to create a corpus by identifying and categorizing the different modes of autobiographical films produced by Muslim women filmmakers from the Islamic world from the 1980s to date. This implied a broad regional focus and extensive work of data mining and organization of women’s auto/biographical cinemas according to geographical, cultural, and filmic criteria.

This work gave rise to the compilation of a dataset of 290 films made by Muslim women filmmakers from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey. The dataset, which was published open access and permanently archived online, is a landmark contribution which will support further research on the history of films by Muslim women filmmakers; the history of film in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Turkey; the history of feminist filmmaking; the history and aesthetics of auto/biographical film; the understanding of forms of auto/biographical cinema and related genres including all those listed in the chosen categories.

The project’s second objective was to develop a contextual scholarly study on works of representative directors to examine Muslim women’s auto/biographical contribution to feminist cinema in the context of their political, personal, historical, social, and institutional conditions. It implied a specific regional focus and film analysis work focusing on two countries in particular: Pakistan and Afghanistan. The study looked at the history of auto/biographical women’s cinemas in these settings; at the impact of fundamentalist regimes on women’s freedoms and rights; at the emergence of women’s resistance through the filmic medium; and at films by diasporic filmmakers depicting their home countries. The study drew on interdisciplinary scholarship and proposed novel concepts for a more nuanced and progressive understanding of Muslim cinema, including the notion of the Muslim woman filmmaker as experiential ‘auto/bio-historiographer’ – in other words, a historiographer and counter-historian of her times who is tacitly located within her filmic narrative.

The project results were shared via academic publications and conferences, and will also give rise to further future outputs. The online project symposium, Women’s Auto/biographical Cinemas: The Gendered Story, was held on 27–28 November 2021 and focused on the contribution of global women/feminist filmmakers who have used the film medium to record, archive, and disseminate women’s stories, share their experiences, build cross-cultural solidarity for change, consciousness-raising, and pedagogical purposes. The symposium included a film screening open to the public online for two weeks, and two live events: a dialogue between South African filmmaker and artis Penny Siopis and Sarah Nuttall, Professor of Literary and Cultural Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand and Director of WiSER (Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research) in Johannesburg; and a round table discussion on Auto/biography in Women’s Film with six top international experts.


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