Despite almost two decades of scholarly work, it is astonishing that so few people (including many film historians) realize the sheer number and importance of women producers, directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, editors, and art directors who worked in the international film industries prior to the 1930s. The scholars who work in these areas remain dedicated to transforming standard and received versions of various national production histories in which women mainly figure as stars, actress, and below-the-line credits in costuming and continuity. The cinema was a thoroughly international venture from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century, and it remained so at least until the disruption of international film traffic during the First World War and the rapidly emerging global dominance of Hollywood which quickly followed. Arguably, the cinema was the first truly global medium of visual culture, and it is important to consider the diverse and determining roles wo men played in its development, women who held important creative and executive positions within the world’s various film industries but who would be increasingly squeezed out of such posts as corporate forms of organization began to be imposed in the 1920s and 1930s.
This fall, the University of Pittsburgh will host the eighth international Women and Silent Screen conference (WSS VIII) from September 17 to 19. This marks the first time in a decade that this important biannual conference is being held in North America. Along with Domitor (which is held on alternating years), WSS is the premier global conference venue for archivists, historians, and other researchers working on early cinema. Each conference has typically featured several prominent keynote speakers, screenings of recent archival restorations from archives around the world, and scores of papers presented by international scholars in concurrent sessions over three days. This year’s conference in Pittsburgh will feature keynotes from three prominent social historians, as well as three nights of archival film screenings that will include one world premiere of a recent restoration and several U.S. premiers. The University of Pittsburgh beca me a preferred site for the conference by Women and Film History International (WFHI) – the scholarly organization that administers the conferences – in part, because of Pitt’s high-profile Film Studies program whose faculty includes numerous scholars who have researched and published widely in women’s film history.
This event is also sponsored by the Humanities Center and the Film Studies Program. Find out more about the event here.
Images from the event: