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World Cinema Topics: Empowering Women - Volver (2006) and Amores Perros (2000)

Amy Charlewood | Monday February 04, 2013

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section A: World Cinema, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Amores Perros, Volver, Hot Entries, Key Concepts, Audience, Film Language, Representation, Theory, Film Theory


It is important to firstly consider the context of this unit as an exploration of world cinema. World cinema is difficult to define; with most definitions reverting to that it can be defined simply as any cinema outside of the globally dominant industry of Hollywood or any non English language cinema. Often discussed as an alternative to Hollywood’s ‘dream factory’, World cinema tends to be perceived as possessing certain features offering an insight into another country’s culture, a low budget gritty representation of real life or having more artistic merit than Hollywood cinema.

In terms of the representation of women historically Hollywood cinema has been criticised for its consistent reinforcing of white male hegemonic ideologies, representing women as sexual objects, passive characters and lacking any empowerment or lacking representation at all. Whereas one could argue that world cinema has been more explorative in its representation of women, offering a richer representation of femininity. This unit requires an exploration of films which could be seen to empower women whilst also taking into account the cultural context in which they emerged from.

Key Gender Theory

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One of the most influential and key theories regarding gender representation is Laura Mulvey’s male gaze theory. Adopting a feminist approach, Mulvey argues that mainstream cinema reinforces patriarchy (a system of male dominance) by placing men in active roles and women in passive roles as objects of a male gaze. Mulvey argued that:

‘In their traditional exhibitionist role women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact so that they can be said to connote to-be-looked-at-ness.’ (Mulvey, 1975)

According to Mulvey, in Hollywood mainstream cinema, it is typically the actions of male characters that advance the narrative, whilst female characters function...

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