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Women’s Voices in Lebanese Cinema: Crisis, Patriarchy and Empowerment.

Abdel Karim, M., 2023. Women’s Voices in Lebanese Cinema: Crisis, Patriarchy and Empowerment. Doctoral Thesis (Doctoral). Bournemouth University.

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The history of Lebanese cinema can be traced back to the late 1920s, but women film directors only became fully active from the mid-1970s, coinciding with the eruption of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). The war gave rise to a new generation of filmmakers who wanted to document and portray the political and social realities of the country through their films. Among them were pioneering female Lebanese film directors such as Heiny Srour (b. 1945), Leyla Assaf-Tengroth (b. 1946), Jocelyne Saab (1948- 2019), and Randa Chahal (1953 - 2008) who used cinema as a platform to present the perspectives of women on the war and, at the same time, challenged pre-existing gender stereotypes on screen. Hence, this thesis argues that female agency and subjectivity on screen gradually became visible in Lebanese films with the emergence of female filmmakers during and after the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990). It employs an interdisciplinary approach incorporating film and gender studies to explore women’s voices in Lebanese cinema, and what they reveal about women’s experiences and status in Lebanon. This thesis consequently analyses fiction films directed by Lebanese women throughout a period across four decades from the 1984 to 2021. This timeframe was chosen as the first narrative feature, Leila and the Wolves (1984), directed by a Lebanese woman, Heiny Srour, was released in 1984. Meanwhile this research concludes in 2021 with the film Memory Box (2021) by Joana Hadjthomas and Khalil Joreige as its final case study. A key focus in this work is the position that female protagonists occupy in the narrative and their relationship to cinematic discourse. This includes an examination of directorial style, thematic concerns, and other creative choices that shape women-directed films in Lebanon. Some of the themes that emerged from their body of work which this research develops frames issues of sectarianism, female fighters and peacemakers, women’s bodies and sexuality, child marriage and exploitation, female gaze and desires, and women in the diaspora. The filmic case studies are analysed in relation to theoretical/conceptual frameworks of feminism, postfeminism, and feminist film criticism. Semi-structured interviews underpin a large part of the analysis, with contributions from eight leading female film directors: Heiny Srour, Leyla Assaf-Tengroth, Joana Hadjithomas, Nadine Labaki, Danielle Arbid, Sophie Boutros, Dima El-Horr, and Lara Saba. Interviews lead to an exploration of the directorial approaches and major concerns of the filmmakers, constraints they face in the cinematic milieu and open discussion around their work with reference to the notions of women’s cinema, feminist cinema, and female authorship. Overall, this thesis stimulates an investigation into the context of feminism in the Arab world, particularly in Lebanon, while addressing aspects of gender inequality, patriarchy, and ‘orientalism’.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information:If you feel that this work infringes your copyright please contact the BURO Manager.
Group:Faculty of Media & Communication
ID Code:38906
Deposited By: Symplectic RT2
Deposited On:17 Aug 2023 14:50
Last Modified:17 Aug 2023 14:54


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