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Sisters! Making Films, Doing Politics : An Exploration in Artistic Research

How does film become a political act? That is the question that the artistic research project Sisters! Making Films, Doing Politics revolves around. Taking Hannah Arendt’s ideas about the constitution of the political arena as its point of departure, this dissertation reflects on the aesthetic mechanisms that underlie contemporary strategies for collective and feminist filmmaking. Sisters! Making Films, Doing Politics draws on the particular historical archive of radical filmmaking and film theory that relates to the British film collectives of the 1970s: The Berwick Street Film Collective, Cinema Action and The London Women’s Film Group. Inspired by a Marxist-feminist tradition, these collectives explicitly sought to involve film in the political discussions and events that at that time took place in British society. In the dissertation’s first chapter, which deals with these film collectives, a theoretical, historical and artistic framework is established that is subsequently developed in four chapters that discuss the film productions that constitute the artistic core of the project: Sisters! (2011), Mutual Matters (2012), Choreography for the Giants (2013) and Conversation: Stina Lundberg Dabrowski Meets Petra Bauer (2010). As the dissertation argues, each of these films productions discloses specific aspects of the relation of politics and film aesthetics. It goes on to identify the precise relationships and the displacements that take place between the historical material, Arendt’s concept of the political act and the production of the films. A the centre of the investigation stands Sisters!, a film project carried out in collaboration with the London-based feminist organisation Southall Black Sisters.