Media Tools to Empower Women: Students Produce Documentaries on Feminist Ideals

“It is not lost on me that I had a classroom of 12 female students making a documentary about one of Rome’s most important women’s organizations. It was a unique opportunity for the university to establish itself at the forefront of active women and gender studies scholarship,” said Communications Professor Kwame Phillips.

Women support feminist ideals

Feminist demonstrations in Rome in the early 70s

This summer, the students of the “DMA 322 Digital Storytelling and Community Engagement” course had the opportunity to collaborate with the Casa Internazionale Delle Donne (International Women’s House), a self-financed not-for-profit organization that works on promoting the rights, culture, knowledge, experiences and policies produced by and for women. The Casa Internazionale Delle Donne is home to over forty associations that provide a wealth of services to empower women, ranging from cultural activities to health care, as well as legal and psychological counseling to victims of violence.

The aim of the course is to use media tools as a means of cultural exchange and to facilitate the telling of stories that emerge from the community. The students create short documentary projects in collaboration with a different non­profit organization each summer, combining digital media art skills with community engagement. The course helps students familiarize with shared authorship, with the ethics behind the production and with emphasizing the community’s voice. In the past two years, students have collaborated with Casa Scalabrini 634 and Hummustown, two organizations that help migrants and refugees integrate with their host community.

Students are required to create a documentary that is a fair representation of the organization. “It is important to ground media skills and education in the real world, and to use filmmaking to do more than tell stories for pure entertainment. It is also important for students to give back to the communities in which they study and to gain an understanding of issues in the broader world,” said Professor Phillips. This summer the course was attended by 12 female students, and the main topic of the three short documentaries that they produced was feminism and the role of the Casa Internazionale Delle Donne.

In the first documentary, called Feminists VS Misogyny, Paola Mastrangeli and Fiorenza Taricone, members of the Roman Feminist Movement (Movimento Femminista Romano) and of the Casa Internazionale Delle Donne, are interviewed about controversial feminist issues such as gender pay gap and paternity leave. The second documentary, called Gutta Cavat Lapidem, which is Latin for “a water drop hollows a stone,” juxtaposes historical footage of feminist manifestations in the early 1970s in Rome and interviews about the importance of feminism with Edda Billi, President of the Casa Internazionale Delle Donne who has been a feminist for 48 years, and Irene Giacobbe, President of AFFI (Associazione Federativa Femminista Internazionale) an international feminist association. “Being a feminist is me looking at the world with my own eyes. It’s me living in the world defining myself and not defined by others” said Edda Billi. The third documentary, called La Casa Siamo Tutte, or “Women are the House,” focuses on the history of the Roman Feminist Movement and of the Casa Internazionale Delle Donne.

The documentaries were produced by students Flavia Calabria, Emily Clarke, Gaia Di Maio, Giulia Facciolongo, Alessia Falcomata, Lavinia Giardina, Elizabeth Nunnally, Lindsay Rubenstein, Julia Scudiero, Claudia Torelli, Anniken Ulvestad and Giulia Villanucci.