Abstract

This article demonstrates how the interwar French suffragist organization la Femme nouvelle used the platform of the newsreel to make political claims through its collaboration with Pathé’s newsreel magazine Actualités féminines or Women's News. Through the filming of their political actions and educational segments edited together in their newsreel compilation film, Le film de la Femme nouvelle (dir. la Femme nouvelle, France, 1935), the suffragists, led by Louise Weiss, frame themselves as essential workers, fearless political actors, and perfect housewives. These contradictions reveal a strategic manipulation of their gender identity to obtain the vote at all costs. Newsreel making provided the feminists an avenue for political claimsmaking beyond electoral politics. These filmed accounts of their actions give the spectator a sense of being present at the event, which is missing from written accounts of la Femme nouvelle's history. Through this aesthetic liveness, achieved through camera placement and staging in crowd scenes, the suffragists were able to portray themselves as vital political actors. One such filmed protest from 12 May 1935 provides a compelling account of their filmmaking practice, in which the activists march on la place de la Bastille in chains, then break their chains and put them in a bonfire. The French Revolution, referenced by this action, was a popular analogy for the Left, as seen in the film La marseillaise (dir. Jean Renoir, France, 1937). Le film de la Femme nouvelle is significant because it allows for an alternate, feminist history of political filmmaking in the period.

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