Sex, God, Television, Realism, and the British Women Filmmakers Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird

By Ciecko, Anne T. | Journal of Film and Video, Spring 1999 | Go to article overview

Sex, God, Television, Realism, and the British Women Filmmakers Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird


Ciecko, Anne T., Journal of Film and Video


In 1995, a variety headline blared: "FEMME HELMERS BRIGHTEN BRIT Biz." The article, by Adam Dawtry, described how women filmmakers had been instrumental in revitalizing British cinema. Although the author states that "certainly few [women filmmakers] claim much interest in making films which self-consciously deal with `women's issues,' let alone engage in feminist polemics," he identifies some common themes: "There is an overwhelming preponderance of intimate emotional dramas or intense psychodramas, mostly with women as the protagonists but sometimes with gay men at the center. Sexuality and female friendships also loom large in their work" (5). While this characterization is reductive and falls into an essentialist mode of thinking (i.e., British men are repressed; women are more naturally emotionally expressive than men), British women directors have used melodrama strategically, have selectively appropriated and rewritten certain codes of realist filmmaking, and have explored a range of intimate relationships, especially in television-financed films.

It has been asserted that it is no longer possible for anyone professionally involved in British film to make a living without "occasional recourse" to television (Roddick 27).

This is especially true of women filmmakers. By providing access to modes of production, television has been a site and a training ground where women filmmakers in Britain have found creative opportunities, and many of their film/television projects deal with gender issues.

Directed by Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird

This article focuses on the ground-breaking works made by Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird for the BBC and the ways British television finds an audience-blurring the boundaries between the televisual and the cinematic-and engages a realist aesthetic. In addition, it examines the transition to Hollywood production modes, the versatility Kidron and Bird have maintained, and the vicissitudes they have endured to develop as filmmakers. Although Kidron and Bird are active on both sides of the Atlantic, their reputations and careers remain connected to Britain and television.

In particular, Kidron and Bird created two provocative British television projects of the 1990s: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1990) and Priest (1994). The television serial and television-financed film, respectively, create timely and powerfully charged lesbian/ gay-themed narratives. As theorists and activists have noted, "Representation in the mediated `reality' of mass culture is in itself power" (Out of the Mainstream 21). Oranges and Priest offer sympathetic images of underrepresented lesbian/gay subjects (i.e., a teenage girl, a Catholic priest); they also foreground religion, with its institutions and rules as a regulatory force. Religion as a visibly oppressive force functions both to problematize the narrative and to displace mechanisms of moral judgment. The politics of the representation of "family values" in these texts is also relevant. The British work by Kidron and Bird consistently calls into question any natural, unproblematic notion of family, while their Hollywood films both pathologize and sentimentalize the "dysfunctional" family.

In a link between the British New Wave "kitchen-sink" films, the narrative focus of Oranges and Priest (although interested in social issues as well) is clearly on the individual, particularly coming-of-age/comingout (or being outed) storylines. Oranges is Jess's story (widely read as screenwriter Jeanette Winterson's autobiography); Priest is the fictional Father Greg's.

The work of filmmakers like Kidron and Bird, who emerged into feature directing from British television, specifically the BBC, recognizes and expands the documentaryrealist tradition that, according to Andrew Higson, "came to inform both much [postwar British] commercial film-making practice" and is later "renewed" in '50s and '60s New Wave films and television documentary ("Britain's Outstanding Contribution" 72). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Sex, God, Television, Realism, and the British Women Filmmakers Beeban Kidron and Antonia Bird
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.