Decade of diversity
: a history of 1970s British experimental film

  • Patti Gaal-Holmes

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis sets out to demonstrate the diversity in 1970s British experimental filmmaking, and acts as a form of historical reclamation. The intention is to integrate films that have not received adequate recognition into the field alongside those that stand as accepted texts. In accounts of the decade structural and material film experimentation, taking place predominantly at the London Filmmakers’ Co-operative (LFMC), has tended to dominate the histories, at the expense of overshadowing more personal, expressive and representational forms of filmmaking. This thesis therefore seeks to redress the balance by demonstrating that1970s filmmaking was far more complex and diverse than has previously been acknowledged.It importantly also challenges the belief that more expressive, personal forms of filmmaking returned at the end of the decade, to argue that these were in existence throughout the decade.Evidence of diversity is provided through the range of approaches to filmmaking and individual films discussed. Written evidence of the ‘return to image’ thesis is also provided,demonstrating how this has problematically perpetuated a flawed account of the decade.
    Relationships to the visual arts are closely considered as experimental filmmaking essentially emerged from this field, as opposed to the dominant, commercial cinema. Filmmaking is,however, also considered within the wider contexts of independent film production,particularly where intersections occurred with institutional or organisational frameworks.Theoretical, socio-political and cultural influences informing filmmaking have also been deliberated, as these significantly informed filmmaking. The framing of 1970s experimental(and independent) filmmaking within Marxist discourses has also been recognised as potentially supporting the problematic ‘return to image’ thesis, particularly as collectivist Marxist ideologies potentially militated against more personal, individual and expressive forms of filmmaking.
    The first half of the thesis (Chapters One to Three) considers the institutional frameworks and organisational strategies informing and shaping filmmaking. This includes a focus one ducation, funding and film exhibition; as well as the efforts made by individuals and groups to ensure that experimental filmmaking received the recognition it required to develop and flourish. In the second half of the thesis (Chapters Four to Seven) more detailed studies of the films are made in relation to relevant theoretical or socio-political discourses contextualising filmmaking. These include discourses in the visual arts; counter-cultural influences and more personal expressive approaches to filmmaking; theoretical discourses related to experimentation with structure and material and feminist discourses related to women’s filmmaking.
    A range of methodological approaches has been used to uncover the diversity in filmmaking.The film texts themselves have provided the most singular evidence for proof of diversity.Both primary and secondary written texts have been consulted in order to facilitate an understanding of the films and recognise the theoretical and socio-political contexts informing filmmaking and to comprehend the complex nature of the field. The intention throughout has been to provide an understanding of this diverse, vibrant and rich history.
    Date of AwardMay 2011
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorPaul McDonald (Supervisor) & Sue Harper (Supervisor)

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