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Did Film History Erase Women?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

There has always been discussion about who was the inventor of the cinema. The debate has always danced between Edison (who invented the kinetoscope) and the Lumiere brothers (who made the first film projection). But at the beginning of the 20th century, several women began to be seen as the authentic inventors and pioneers of the seventh art as we know it. But why did film fanatics take too long to recognize these women? Today, I want to talk about this phenomenon of women being erased from film history using the careers of two female filmmakers, Alice Guy Blaché and Mimí Derba, as examples.

Alice Guy Blaché

Alice Guy Blaché was a pioneer in special effects, film science fiction, cinematographic language, and the founder of what was later considered the profession of the producer. Thanks to her, fiction stories began to be used within the films that appeared on the screen. Perhaps without her, the cinema would have taken longer to stop being a documentary and make the leap to film. So Guy not only did a job as a screenwriter but also played the role of the world’s first female film director. She died in 1968 in a nursing home, devoid of the recognition she deserved. In the 1940s, she wrote an autobiography with the record of all her films and history. The book didn’t get any acknowledgment. She tried to talk to her colleagues many times, but even her ex-husband took credit for her footage.

Mimí Derba

Mimí Derba was an actress, singer, scriptwriter, editor, director, and producer of Mexican cinema. From an early age, Derba showed that she had different interests from the rest of the girls. Derba is considered the first female film producer, scriptwriter, and director in Mexico. She died in 1953. Her burial was simple, without people, and almost unnoticed, with only two notable film figures attending. She remained in a dirty and neglected tombstone until an anonymous admirer moved her remains to appropriate space for the recognition that she had.

If both stories are familiar to you, that’s because erasing women from history is not an anomaly.

The story of these two women is one more confirmation that history has condemned women to the background. Like Alice and Mimí, thousands of women throughout history had to turn to their parents, husbands, brothers, or coworkers to share their inventions with the world, with others–most often men–taking all the recognition from them and erasing the creative and fierce women from history. But despite all the ingratitude, Alice Guy Balché and Mimí Derba triumphed for their wisdom, art, decency, and for being visionary and entrepreneurial in an industry that was starting. Both were women eager to learn and undertake. Nothing ever stopped them except the limits of their imagination. The reasons for their success, in addition to their beauty, were the knowledge and intelligence of both.

Therefore, I invite the public to consume and support films made by women. We can’t let Mimí and Alice’s history repeat over and over again. Every click, download, or purchase helps send a message that we want more from female filmmakers. But despite the odds, it’s nice to know that women have been making movies from the beginning of cinema itself.

References

Alice Guy Blaché Biography 

Alice Guy Blaché – The Greatest Filmmaker You Don’t Know

Morelia Film Fest – Mimí Derba

La Voz Newspaper – Mimí Derba

Morelia Film Fest – Mexican Female Filmmakers

Mexican Female Filmmakers

Women Make Film

Montse Pineda

UWindsor '25

Montse is an international student from Mexico. She is in her first year as a film production student at UWindsor. She enjoys watching movies, getting to know female directors, and talk about the film industry in general. In her free time, she enjoys creating and sharing her art with others.
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