In Jeanne Dielman (1975), From the Other Side (2002) and No Home Movie (2015), Belgian/French filmmaker Chantal Akerman’s camera does motherwork by creating spaces where characters and spectators encounter, hold, and work through discomforting feelings, events, and fantasies. Informed by black feminist thinking on motherwork and fabulation, I explore how Akerman’s films acknowledge harmful fantasies and norms that structure the way we identify mothers, while also creating cinematic spaces where new practices of mothering and motherwork can be experienced and imagined. Reading Akerman’s films as inviting spectators to encounter but not necessarily maternalize a whole range of relations marked by freedom and capture, I also contrast Akerman’s cinematic search for mothers with Roland Barthes’s photographic search for his mother in Camera Lucida.
The discussant was Marion Schmid, Personal Chair in French Literature and Film at the University of Edinburgh.
A recording of the event is available at this link.