Amandine Gay is a French-African feminist, filmmaker, and actress. Her first film Ouvrir la Voix is a documentary giving voice to Black women in France. Gay visited a total of six different classes over the course of a week, in French & Francophone Studies, Anthropology, History, Africana Studies, and Gender & Sexuality Studies. Students in many different disciplines were therefore able to have time with her in smaller group settings to ask questions and engage with her on a variety of subjects including contemporary France, filmmaking, and representation of women and people of color in cultural industries in France and North America. A workshop on narrative storytelling for women and non-binary students of color was also organized for Friday afternoon.
The presence of an active practitioner in class visits infused courses on contemporary French and francophone cultures with immediate connections to current experiences of a professional in the field of film and media. Courses in other disciplines also benefited from Gay’s academic and professional experiences in working towards gender and racial equity in cinema and other industries. A discussion was held for faculty on “Centering Other Narratives in College Curricula” on one day of the residency. This drew faculty from several different disciplines in the humanities and natural sciences, many of whom are not of color, but all of whom wish to be more actively engaged in making better choices for all of our students in and outside of the classroom. The workshop included active exercises like a “privilege walk,” asking individuals to actively contemplate the specific iterations of structural privileges that are present in their lives. Discussions also focused on specific, concrete measures that have been successful in other institutions where Gay has done consulting work with the aim of increasing the presences of traditionally underrepresented voices in the workplace. She shared readings with the group both before the workshop and some additional readings afterward in response to questions and specific discussion points brought up in the workshop.
A highlight of the week was the public screening of Gay’s film Ouvrir la voix/Speak Up on Wednesday evening. This event was extremely well-attended, and the 900 Room in Alvarez Union was filled to capacity. The film screening attracted students, faculty, staff, and the general public. The screening was followed by a talkback with the director, which was filmed to be added to the College Archive in order to be accessible in the future. Discussion focused on both content of the film itself–extended interviews with Black women in France explaining their varied experiences and backgrounds–as well as the filmmaker’s strategies for making the film, including overcoming traditional barriers to women and people of color to make films in contemporary France.
In addition to the discussion following the film screening mentioned above, a discussion with another Practitioner-in-Residence at Davidson during Spring 2019, photographer Zun Lee, was also organized and filmed for the college archives, “Film & Photography for Justice, Equality & Community.” This conversation focused specifically on both practitioners’ responses to key terms of the aims of the grant, how the products and processes of their works engage with ideas of Justice, Equality, and Community, and what connections could be formed across the two different visual disciplines they work in. Both Amandine and Zun conversations as well as Amandine’s individual conversations with film and media studies students had a great impact on students’ capstone projects. Both seniors Lawrence King and Victor-Alan Weeks mentioned Amandine’s influence and how much she inspired their work.