Photo of Professor Fiona Handyside

Professor Fiona Handyside

Research interests

Girls and Girlhood in Contemporary Cinema

While I have always been interested in questions of gender and representation in film since my PhD on female American stars in 1950s French cultural discourses, my research has recently taken a new direction into analysing representations of girls and girlhood from a range of different national cinemas. My interest in this is three-fold. First, I am fascinated by the way the figure of the girl has been taken up as an accessible way to debate the legacies of feminism and the question of opportunities and threats for women in contemporary Western cultures. Second, work on contemporary film and television cultures' representations of girls has tended to be dominated by Anglophone, particularly Hollywood Conglomerate, production, leading to an 'echo-chamber' effect where film is critiqued for its narrow range of representation. Through turning to other types and locations of production (from Indiewood, to Europe, to Asia) we can challenge this narrative and look for possibilities of a more diverse and diffuse experience of girlhood. This enables us to do all sorts of exciting things, such as examine how such globalising narratives as neo-liberalism and post-feminism might nevertheless be inflected by local differences; to explain why specific local conditions, such as institutional support, might enable young women to make film, as in France; to explore female directors' investments in, aesthetics of, and affective responses to, contemporary girl culture. Third, understanding some film as a privileged site to tarry with the complex and ambivalent emotions of girlhood enables us to ask questions about how girl audiences themselves might respond to this viewing, how this might shape their media consumption and production, and whether this might enable a productive dialogue about the experiences of being a girl in twenty-first century Europe.

I work on a range of directors from these perspectives, such as Celine Sciamma, Mia Hansen-Love, Delphine and Muriel Coulin, and especially Sofia Coppola.

Place and Space in Cinema

I understand cinema as fundamentally a spatial art: film both mechanically records and artistically interprets place. I trace the dynamic relation between film and place, in a range of studies, and in particular I have written on the liminal, wet-dry, nature-culture, beachscape and its central importance to French cinema, looking at its use in films by Rohmer, Ozon, Varda, Leconte, Blier, Breillat, Kurys, Lopes-Curval, Demy, Truffaut and Tati, and its industrial significance for the Cannes film festival.

Eric Rohmer

Having produced an edited book of interviews from across Rohmer's career in 2013, I retain my unconditional love and passion for this most brilliant of filmmakers. My most recent project on Rohmer brought together my interest in female filmmaking and his films, as I discussed his 1980s work with female cinematographer Sophie Maintigneux.