The Sexual-Cinematic Citizen of Studio D 

Studio D, the now-defunct Women’s Unit of Canada’s National Film Board, has achieved legendary status for helping to create a generation of women filmmakers engaged in feminist activist documentary. From 1974-1996, it produced approximately 150 films, documenting nearly every major issue in the women’s movement … except one. Sexuality, in particular the sexual politics of pleasure, are largely absent from the Studio D corpus, with only three feature documentaries produced. I argue that despite the studio’s claims to be representing an international citizenry of women, it instead offered only a partial subject/object of the woman-child: an infantilized woman subject who needed to be responsibilized into a sexuality most appropriate to the national interests. Not surprisingly, that sexuality was heteronormative, monogamous, and reproductive. Studio D was an “agonistic space” (Mouffe 2007) for sexual politics in Canada, in which hegemonic and counter-hegemonic praxes collided to produce both a repressive consensus within feminist media activism and its radical refusal. A close examination of Not a Love Story (1981), Toward Intimacy (1992), and Forbidden Love (1992) demonstrates how Studio D was simultaneously a provacateur, challenging national prurience, while reinforcing a conventional framework for sexual citizenship based on love, intimacy, and eros-spirituality.

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