Women’s Experimental Cinema
Critical Frameworks
Experimental cinema has always been an art form in which women have
excelled. As far back as 1942, when Maya Deren made the groundbreak-
ing Meshes of an Afternoon with two people and a 16mm camera, count-
less women working in small-scale film and video have been creating a
deep and wide-ranging body of film. Little of this work has entered into
the many general histories that have been written about the cinema, but
this is the fate of most avant-garde and experimental film (terms that I am
using interchangeably here). Indeed, the dominance of narrative film-
making and feature-length film has shaped criticism and scholarly work
as much as it has production. While there are many experimental films
that deserve increased attention, this anthology seeks to redress the ab-
sence of fifteen women artists through a series of critical essays that offer
contextualized readings of their work.
In order to understand the reasons for recovering this work in par-
ticular, one must go back to the end of the 1960s and the beginning of
the 1970s, when there was a window of opportunity for the assimila-
tion of the rich field of women’s experimental cinema into the wider
arena of cinema studies. For this brief moment, scholars paid attention to
both avant-garde film and the films that women were producing in ever-
greater numbers in relation to feminism and increased opportunities for
women in general. What happened during this period to obscure the
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