Diana Popa organised panel at the 2022 Society For Cinema and Media Studies conference

Join Diana Popa organised panel “Female Historical Cinema and the Workings of Memory in Central and Eastern Europe” at the 2022 Society for Cinema and Media Studies Annual Conference, Chicago, Il, March 31—April 3 (online). Find more information here.

Historical cinema is an important part of the Central and Eastern European filmic landscape (Dina Iordanova). It serves as an instrument for the (re)construction of national identities (Thomas Elsaesser) and a vehicle for the politics of memory (Aleida Assmann, Astrid Erll). Regardless of whether monumental or critical (Nietzsche), the CEE historical cinemas used to be created by men and they primarily took into account the male perception of the past, i.e. focused on Great Men and landmark events. Told from the perspective of subordinate nations, the CEE historical cinemas often became part of the subordinate chain, valorizing subjugated nations but at the same time avoiding social history and rejecting the perspective of women or ethnic minorities. Thus, the productions that break this pattern have not been thoroughly researched.

In our panel, we focus on historical cinema in Central and Eastern Europe that is made by women (both directing and non-directing roles), which focuses on female protagonists and hence constructs a female perspective across a variety of historical sub-genres (epics, melodramas, biopics, documentaries, Holocaust films). The papers in this panel seek to answer the following questions: How do historical films made by or with the significant contribution of women negotiate the boundaries between individual and collective memory? To what extent the “female” use of visual patterns and templates contributes to obscuring or uncovering forgotten histories (for example, the Romani genocide during the Second World War)? How does a focus on women’s personal memories provide new understandings of Soviet style repression? What does a focus on non-directing creative female contributions reveal in relation to established historical genres such as the epic, the biopic or the Holocaust film – given that the genre is among the least accessible to female crew?

In the films we have selected – Papusza, Mészáros’s Diary films, Aurora Borealis, Moromeții – The Edge of Time, Eternal Winter, “I Don’t Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians”– history that shapes and determines the lives of individuals and nations in this part of Europe is captured through the prism of an individual immersed in it, who tries to negotiate herself and her place in community. The history experienced and recalled by women is marked with/by the (un)consciousness of its situatedness, by the perception from a specific, individual perspective, through the prism of personal experiences. The trauma that is often the result of these experiences translates into the way history is presented. Individual memories are intertwined with visual patterns and templates elaborated on the level of culture – and enabled by the female situatedness of filmmakers and film protagonists alike.

CHAIR: Diana Popa (Tallinn University)

RESPONDENT: Anikó Imre (University of Southern California)


Elżbieta Durys (University of Warsaw) “Reclaiming Minority Female Past in Polish Contemporary Historical Cinema: Papusza by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze”
Diana Popa (Tallinn University) “Ghosts of the Past: Memory and Political Repression in Márta Mészáros’s Diary for my Children (1982)”
Andrea Virginás (Sapientia University Cluj-Napoca) “Restorative memory work in a female mode? Eastern European historical films and female creative involvement”

This panel is sponsored by the ERC funded project “Translating Memories. The Eastern European Past in the Global Arena”.

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