REVIEW: Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power

This is a powerful examination of the “male gaze” in the world of film and how as an industry it has a long way to go to make real progress.

Film-maker and theorist Nina Menkes really makes a statement with this cleverly executed examination on how men and women are treated differently through film – whether it is through the choice of shots used, lighting or even the way in which film seems to glamourise violence towards women. It is an unflinching and honest take that leaves audiences re-examining films in a way that they are not used to.

Combining interviews with clips of films from over the decades, Menkes really rather extraordinarily peels back the layers on the number of aspects and problematic issues relating to the way in which men and women both on and off screen are treated. By breaking it down into neat and concise sections, the audience can get a deep sense of just how far the problem goes and how the film industry has not made progress. You will leave watching this feeling frustrated but more aware.

What is extremely clever about this documentary is the way in which each point being expressed is matched with a great example. One such case is the way in which Menkes says in many scenes women can be seen as the object – you can also not hear them talking, which is illustrated with the swimming pool scene in Scorsese’s Raging Bull – they are there for no real purpose but almost like a prop. But she also argues very persuasively with regards to even the strong female characters that we see in as the Marvel films, there is still a sense that they are still only objects in the way in which they are filmed in the usually skimpy outfits that they are given.

For myself, what I have never really considered (and will certainly think about more from now on) is that a lot of films that we see, the main point of view that we are given is from the perspective of a man, particularly when it comes to more intimate scenes. While it is made clear throughout that we can still enjoy these films, it also points out that film making needs to broaden its mind about the type of films and how the characters could be portrayed in a different way – in other words think of the meaning behind how each scene is shot more.

There are moments dotted throughout that make it feel like a lecture and can be a little bit difficult to maintain interest, particularly when it feels as though Menkes is re-emphasising a point unnecessarily. At times it comes across as though she is using this as a showcase for her own work (plenty of references to it) – it would have been great to hear more from the other female directors who are interviewed about their own experiences.

However, as an insightful and honest examination of why we should look at lot closer at what ends up on the screen and question decisions taken it is a clear and concise piece of work. The film industry has a long way to go before we can even see a change in the system as a whole and this film highlights this well.

By Emma Clarendon

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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