“Obliterated: Getting Back Film Herstory”

By Casandra Prerost

Horizonvmusic.com took great pleasure in sponsoring the workshop “Obliterated: Getting Back Film Herstory” by Elizabeth Orrin and Casandra Prerost at the ECU Film Festival ’19 here in Paris back in April this year. Clearly the Cannes Film Festival 2019 was inspired by the same image of the great Agnès Varda as we were!

We wanted to build on a presentation we sponsored back in 2014, “Where are the Women?” also presented by Casandra , to see where there had been advances and where things needed to improve and with a nod to Agnès Varda, to see how we can keep Film Herstory.

The research process for Elizabeth and Casandra was one of endless discovery and the Wow factor. Both presenters are well schooled and knowledgable in the film industry (Masters degrees in Film and Film and Video Production) but were astonished at the enormity of women’s contribution to the film industry and highlighted the great pioneers like Alice Guy-Blaché and Lois Weber. The other discovery was the process of forgetting or obliterating these pioneers. Case in point:

Certainly the situation has improved and there is a greater exposure and research of women’s involvement and contribution to the development of the film industry. But the authors looked more closely.

For a long time editors were called cutters and guess what, they were women. When the job became editing (an Irving Thalberg initiative, inspired by his work with Margaret Booth), it transformed into a male profession. But most of the innovations in editing were made by women. And Margaret Booth and Anne Coates were major contributors, the only editors to receive a Academy Award for lifetime achievement.

But when we look more broadly it is truly amazing, the technical complexity, the innovation and the great collaborations with directors where , unfortunately with time the female editor is forgotten or even “edited out” of credits (as was Yolanda Benvenuto) and simply disappear from the film canon taught to ensuing generations of film makers.

The authors highlighted the “forgetting” of the pioneering work of so many editors like Yelizaveta Slilova (the collaborator of Dziga Vertov) , Esfir Tobak (the collaborator of Sergei Eisenstein) and Yolanda Benvenuti (the editor for Roberto Rosselini for 30 years, written out of the film credits and replaced with a man).

The presenters used a test from www.womenfilmeditors.princeton.edu on our audience ( of independent film makers and film students primarily). How did they do? Badly, like the authors.

The first time any editor was ever credited “upfront” was in 1967: Dede Allen for Bonnie and Clyde. The list is long – check out the presentation PDF here – for your enjoyment and edification on the current situation, herstories, great links, great research , a mind-boggling list of great films edited by women.

Check out the 2018 video “Edited by” about women editors – you will be amazed.

EDITED BY (the film companion to WomenFilmEditors.princeton.edu) from Su Friedrich on Vimeo.

So what happens now? We provided an action list to our participants -good to go.

And lastly, Elizabeth and Casandra have a complete workshop structure for any film school/ cultural studies courses. Contact details on the Obliterated PDF

Casandra Prerost