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6th February 2004 at 00:00
Robin Buss catches up with books on film studies

Teaching Women and Film. By Sarah Gilligan. BFI Education.pound;19.99. Tel: 0845 458 9911.


Audiences: an Introduction. By Roy Stafford. BFI Education pound;16.99.

Cinema Today. By Edward Buscombe. Phaidon pound;39.95. Tel: 020 7843 1234. Email:

Film studies is a popular and ever-changing field, which means a constant demand for teachers and up-to-date resources. The British Film Institute (BFI) is helping supply both needs with these new books from the series Teaching Film and Media Studies and Key Concepts in Film and Media Studies.

Sarah Gilligan's thorough and clearly designed booklet for teachers is organised around two schemes of work, the first dealing with the role of women in the film industry, audiences and genre, the second with representation, stars and gender.

She is aware of the danger that the study of women and film can become "categorised as different to the 'norm'", so she suggests integrating it into the study of the film industry, the star system, etc, rather than treating it on its own as a "token" topic. The booklet ends with case studies on women in the industry, stars (specifically Gwyneth Paltrow) and the "heritage films", such as The Piano (pictured) - a genre that is particularly supposed to appeal to women, but not to younger audiences; as a result, she argues, students may be less resistant to analysing it.

Roy Stafford's teaching pack for AS and A-level on film and television audiences includes teachers' notes, followed by six units on audiences including how film producers conceive the audience, how they target a particular film, how they research behaviour and how media texts, particularly on television, are affected by advertising.

The material may at times be quite demanding even for older students and opens up a lot of areas for further study and topics for debate such as the effects of films on audiences, on modes of discourse, on research methodologies.

An exciting new initiative from the BFI is "screenonline", a continually expanding website that gives free access for schools, colleges and libraries to a selection of materials from the Institute's film and television archive. Already this includes more than 1,000 pages of information and a hundred hours of film clips and other moving image material. Needless to say, you will find the topics of audiences and female protagonists on what is sure to become an essential resource (

Finally, one for the school library: Edward Buscombe's Cinema Today is too large and probably too expensive for most individual purchasers, and not the sort of book that you would want to read from cover to cover. Here, too, you will find a chapter on women and film, looking at the development of feminist film studies from 1970 onwards (the period that Buscombe covers). About half his book is devoted to American cinema, and there are useful chapters on genres and the industry; but its greatest value lies in the second half where he goes beyond Hollywood to survey Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Bollywood, Africa, Latin America, Australasia and the Far East. There is information gathered here that you would be hard put to find elsewhere, as well as a reminder that Anglo-American is not the only language of the screen.

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