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Feminist Representations in North African Cinema Open Access

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In this dissertation, I investigate some of the different issues that filmmakers in North African national and diasporic cinemas focus on. I examine the representation of women in films produced in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, in an effort to show the tools filmmakers use in order to question the hegemonic image of North African Arab and Muslim women as oppressed and marginalized. I focus on national identity as a discourse always in the process of changing, depending on the political and social circumstances each country goes through. Stressing national cinema, I reject Third Cinema as a theory and practice. My main argument in that regard is that Third Cinema limits filmmakers from the Third World in its categorization, and limits our own understanding of North African national cinema, under the umbrella of Third Cinema. I study the films that try to put the subject of women's oppression as the focal point. The main points I argue are the representation of women within the national dialogue, and what filmmakers are trying to do to challenge the patriarchal social order in order to break the barriers between the public and domestic spaces. I also discuss the effects of Western Feminist discourse on the representation of women in the Third World. Dealing with the subject of displacement and alienation, I study the films made by and about North African immigrants in France. I focus on the subjects these filmmakers discuss in their films, mainly the representation of women's narratives within an immigrant population, torn between two cultures. Through my investigation of North African cinema, I suggest the importance of developing a national cinema theory that will enable feminist filmmakers to deal with national and local issues in their films, rather than focusing on the approval of Western audience and critics, and depending on funding from Western organizations. I also argue that when it comes to feminist reading practices of films made in non-Western film industries, North Africa in this case, an international feminist film theory should serve as a better space for analysis and discourse.

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