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Sundance: Brainwashed: Sex – Camera – Power

We need women filmmakers. Desperately. The male dominated film industry has been shaping how we view women over time by objectifying them in a way that skews the power dynamic over to the men and away from the women. And according to filmmaker Nina Menkes, this has lasting effects on how women are treated in the workplace, in public and at home. One way to balance this is to bring women filmmakers to the forefront, give them a platform where they can not only thrive but where they can share differing perspectives and points-of-view.

Based on her lecture Sex & Power, The Visual Language of Cinema, Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power is an illuminating study on the history of the male gaze in film. The documentary includes footage of Menkes’ lecture, interviews with theorists, directors and actresses and 175 film clips that demonstrate the male gaze. The clips run the gamut from Metropolis (1927) to Titane (2021). Menkes analyzes the majority of them and also includes women directed films to demonstrate the difference between not only the male gaze and the female gaze but also the female gaze with internalized misogyny. Menkes breaks down the analysis of the male gaze into five categories: Subject, Framing, Camera Movement, Lighting and Narrative Position. This documentary serves as the feminist film course that anyone interested in the history of film and the future of the industry should take. Menkes doesn’t make any direct correlations to the male gaze in film and real life consequences however it is suggested throughout the film. Brainwashed can be a tough pill to swallow but when we learn we grow.

Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.

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