May 21, 2015
By Rachel Rogol

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Actress and filmmaker Ida Lupino (1918–1995)

“I am not exaggerating when I say that women have been publicly calling for better roles behind the camera for a hundred years—almost since the inauguration of film itself,” writes Amelie Hastie in the most recent issue of "The Vulnerable Spectator," her recurring column in the academic journal Film Quarterly.

Hastie, professor of English and film and media studies at Amherst, has written extensively about historical and contemporary women in film. Her first book, Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection, and Film History (Duke University Press, 2007), explores notions female authorship in the silent-film era.

Her 2009 book The Bigamist, authored for the prestigious BFI Film Classics series, examines the directed works of actress and filmmaker Ida Lupino, which Hastie describes as providing “a complex commentary on the fantasies and fears of mid-century domestic life in the USA” from a female point of view.

It’s this research on Lupino in particular that will bring Hastie to the 17th annual Seoul International Women’s Film Festival to deliver the distinguished lecture “Ida Lupino and Historical Legibility” on June 1. Lupino, an English-American actress and filmmaker, was the only woman actively directing in 1950s Hollywood and the first woman to star in a film she also directed. As an expert on her life and work, Hastie will examine Lupino’s filmmaking career and consider why her name and accomplishments have been largely lost to cinematic history.

Hastie’s lecture will be part of a retrospective honoring the late film star. What’s interesting about a retrospective of Lupino in 2015, says Hastie, is that her directed works explored various social issues in mid-20th-century America that are still relevant, and her 48-year cinematic career is especially relevant to the career trajectories of women in film today.

Hastie suggests a variety of complex reasons for why such an enigmatic figure would fall to the margins of history, including a lack of attention by feminist scholars as well as the much more widespread sexism in and out of the academy. Regarding the latter, she references a New York Times article published in December 2014 and a viral Tumblr blog that persistently tells personal stories of women facing bias in the industry and casts Hollywood today as a perpetual “boys club.”

In her teaching at Amherst, Hastie says she interjects her own feminist training in every course by insisting on the presence of women filmmakers in students’ studies. At the film festival in South Korea, Hastie hopes the collective efforts to screen and discuss films by women will help revive figures like Lupino and empower contemporary women filmmakers to change not only filmmaking practices but also history itself.