Image copyright Tommy Lau.
Who is entitled to
have a voice?
I combine questions like this with documentary filmmaking in my career: I like narratives that aren't linear and one-sided, but rather multi-faceted. I came to filmmaking relatively late in life. The first part of my career was taken up by the study of 8 languages, moving continents, and becoming a professor of media studies and the director of CAMS at Johns Hopkins after getting a Ph.D. in linguistics from Vienna University, studying semiotics with Umberto Eco, film theory at Stanford, and feminism with Liz Grosz and others. While I felt accomplished and happy in academia, I realized that writing only about film and media just couldn't sustain my passion for the subjects.
I wanted to know how media was made, what people felt when they were filmed, and, most importantly, I wanted to understand if there was really such a thing as feminist filmmaking.
In 2008, I produced and directed my first documentary Made Over in America about the television makeover show The Swan (Icarusfilms).
My second film, See You Soon Again (The Cinema Guild, 2012), which was co-directed with the Austrian director and producer Lukas Stepanik, is a portrait of Viennese Holocaust survivor Leo Bretholz in his efforts to pass on his story of survival to the Baltimore youth. The film was theatrically released in Europe in 2012, aired on national PBS, and on the Austrian and German television stations ORF and 3Sat. Most recently, I directed The Good Breast, a feature documentary that interweaves the intimate stories of four breast cancer patients with the history and mythology of the breast. The film brings together my expertise on the history of the body and makeover culture with my passion for the character-driven cinéma verity genre.
Devoti Tutti explores and retells the myth of Saint Agatha from a feminist point of view. Devoti Tutti, in Italian and Sicilian language, brings this violent myth to life, using Agatha’s devotees to tell her story, and, for the first
time–giving her a voice of her own through animation.
The Conductor focuses on world-renowned conductor Marin Alsop. Following her through Brazil, Baltimore, and Vienna. The documentary highlights Marin's incredible career, all the while, shining a light in the male-dominated world of Maestros.
My most recent articles on body criticism and media culture include
Machinic Suture: Technologies of Beautification (2013), Seeing,
Believing, Suffering: the Body as Medium in Religion and Contemporary Media Practice (2014), The Good and the Bad Breast: Cosmetic Surgery and Breast Cancer (2015), and The Self as Artwork in the Age of Digital Capital (2015).
I am also the director of the Center for Advanced Media Studies at Johns Hopkins University, along with being the Second Vice President of the Northeast Modern Language Association at the University of Buffalo.