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Reimagining the Family in French and Quebecois Cinema

  • Author(s): Vaughan, Hannah Christine
  • Advisor(s): Coleman, Patrick
  • Loselle, Andrea
  • et al.
Abstract

In my dissertation, I investigate representations of the family as an institution undergoing reconstruction, re-imagination, and renovation in contemporary French and Quebecois cinemas. My project provides an historical overview of the abundant sociological changes beginning in both Quebec and France from the 1960s to the present, which reinforces the subsequent discussion of contemporary cinematic explorations of family organization. I argue that the changes borne out of the 1960s oblige filmmakers to rethink the style and techniques through which they represent members of these societies on screen. The selected filmmakers in my project experiment with alternative cinematic forms to explore new, and at times controversial, concepts of the family. Given my emphasis on films that underscore social behaviors among family members and the dynamics of contemporary coupling, the theoretical framework of my dissertation is based on French and Quebecois sociological paradigms, and in broader terms, gender studies, queer theory, and film theory. My work is driven by the conviction that transformations of the social construct of the family are crucial to our current understanding of creative cultural production. In my dissertation, I pose the following questions: To what degree do selected filmmakers explore narrative structure in order to portray changes to the way that family is defined, and how do they experiment with the medium of film to convey such definitions? How do structural changes in social composition modify family narratives? How does individual "fantasy" play out on screen within families with shifting gender roles?

My preliminary findings support my hypothesis that both French and Quebecois filmmakers are rethinking cinematic technique in order to convey new and controversial family dynamics. Selected filmmakers are increasingly taking advantage of this ambiguity to explore the shifting boundaries between the intimate and social spaces of the family in new aesthetic ways. My work will have impact on both film and cultural studies within the academic domain of French and Francophone Studies, particularly in terms of exploring how the medium of film has the capacity to inspire cultural awareness and social change through both narrative and technical creativity.

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