3rd Cinema Screening Room #1: Women’s Voices

This film was made with female prisoners in the UK.  Originally commissioned for a conference on the issue of women in prison, the work was deemed too powerful for the prison service and they tried to stop it being shown.  Their decision was not honoured and it was shown anyway and caused much debate.  The women prisoners who gave their voices to this film were fully in support of the screening as they felt it was one of the few times their stories had been heard and taken seriously.

Produced by Louise Lynas, Directed and Edited by Chris Barnett, Camera by Tom Swindell.  A Firstborn Creatives production.

Essentially non-narrative, (containing fragments of story rather than an overarching narrative arc), this film defies the conventions of traditional documentary and drama, although it contains elements of both.  The film plays both to the arthouse and also to conventional cinema, creating a ‘mood’ piece which lets the rich audio fragment narratives drive the slower visual metaphors. According to Wayne (2001):

“The great advantage of Third Cinema is that while it is politically oppositional to dominant cinema, it doesn’t seek, at the level of form and cinematic language, to reinvent cinema from scratch…; nor does it adopt a position of pure opposition on the question of form (it is too interested in communication for that).” (page 10)

Although visually stunning, there is an implicit understanding in this film that the images are but mere vehicles for the voices to be heard.  Without the visuals, with eyes closed, the film still works.  Though the visuals provide a strong visual aesthetic which allows an accessible reading.  It is designed to capture the attention of the viewer, to make you empathise with the voices that are in fact the real visual content.  Visual in that they force the audience to visualise the faces and lives of the anonymous speakers.

The women gave the filmmakers their stories like a present.  The filmmakers then have the double responsibility of representing and disseminating the women’s life stories sensitively.  The film does not seek to educate like a documentary or entertain like a drama, but simply to be listened to and reflected upon.  It challenges the audience to question and have an opinion, although the film itself does not provide any answers or suggestions, although there is no doubt with whom the sympathies of the filmmakers lies: with the prisoners.  There is little sense of hope at the end of the film, ending as uncertain as the lives of the women we heard.

 The challenge of Third Cinema and community video is how to exhibit and disseminate the work.  There are lots of great community media produced films out there that have never been screened beyond their original intended event.  For such films to have the power and influence they intended it is important that they are seen.  The audiences would ultimately decide the relevance of the films and where there was any influence and impacts to be gained, which as described in the previous post demonstrates ‘media praxis’ not media passive. Wayne suggests “it is precisely this question of the role of the audience and the nature of their engagement with the text that is central to Third Cinema” (page 11).  Community media video projects need to try and find outlets to give audiences that opportunity to see the work, otherwise the notion of media praxis remain a utopian ideal rather than an everyday sector practice.



 Wayne, M. (2001) Political Film: The dialectics of Third Cinema, Pluto Press, London

One thought on “3rd Cinema Screening Room #1: Women’s Voices

  1. Pingback: Community Media Association launches Arts Strategy – 2010-2012 « Beyond Project: notes on media/education/society __ shawn sobers

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