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Women in Film

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In recent years, there has been much discussion in the media about the rise of the female film director in Western cinema, often as though women’s participation in the creative filmmaking process is a relatively new phenomenon.

As is often the case with women’s roles in the story of culture, this simply isn’t the case. This course explores how women participated in the filmmaking process right from its invention, looking at early female filmmakers and their ground-breaking work, including Alice Guy, Mary Pickford, Lois Weber, Dorothy Davenport and Francis Marion.

The module will also consider the rise of the Hollywood studio system, and those women who survived it, as well as the world of female filmmaking outside the mainstream.

Learning and teaching

The module will be delivered through 10 two-hour sessions, made up of lectures, class discussions, small group work and debates. Class sessions will be supplemented by resources available to you via Learning Central.

Topics are likely to include:

  • Early female filmmakers – exploring the pioneering work of figures such as Alice Guy, Mary Pickford, Lois Weber, Dorothy Davenport and Francis Marion.
  • The rise of the Hollywood studio system – survivors and casualties. Exploring how women writers, directors and producers became marginalised once the oligopolies were formed.
  • Where did the women go? Women making film outside of Hollywood – Writers, directors, producers and ‘filmmakers who do everything’ in non-Western cinema, experimental film, documentary and ‘feminist counter cinema’.
  • Female creatives return to mainstream cinema – where are we now and what might the future look like for female writers, directors, producers and filmmakers?

Coursework and assessment

To award credits we need to have evidence of the knowledge and skills you have gained or improved. Some of this has to be in a form that can be shown to external examiners so that we can be absolutely sure that standards are met across all courses and subjects.

The most important element of assessment is that it should enhance your learning. Our methods are designed to increase your confidence and we try very hard to devise ways of assessing you that are enjoyable and suitable for adults with busy lives.

You will have a variety of assessment options, from writing short analyses and essays to producing a writing portfolio (which may include short critiques, reviews, short analyses of critical theories, creative writing and any other appropriate elements).

Reading suggestions

You may find the following texts useful in their wider reading, but a full reading list will be provided in the first session:

  • Hurd, Mary, Women directors and their films (Praeger, 2007)
  • Maule, Rosanna, ‘Women Filmmakers and Postfeminism in the Age of Multimedia Reproduction: A Virtual Archive for Women's Cinema’, in Framework: The Journal of Cinema and Media (2010)
  • Slide, Anthony, ‘Early Women Filmmakers: The Real Numbers’ in Film History: An International Journal (2012)
  • White, Patricia, Women's cinema, world cinema: projecting contemporary feminisms (Duke University Press, 2015)
  • You will have access to Box of Broadcasts, available via your Cardiff University login.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.