The Life and Legacy of Laskarina Bouboulina: Feminist Alternatives to Documentary Filmmaking Practices
Householder, April Kalogeropoulos
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When Michael Moore won the Academy Award in 2004 for his film Fahrenheit 9/11, the documentary re-emerged as an important critical discourse in the making of culture. As a political consciousness-raising tool, the documentary fits squarely into the goals of independent media activism. With the development of digital videomaking technologies, a distinctive means through which to explore the issues of culture, class, gender, ethnicity, and nationality that have been neglected in mainstream documentary filmmaking practices has emerged. Specifically, this new methodological approach to collecting, preserving, and analyzing history provides a voice for the stories that have been under-- and misrepresented in the consumption and production of biographies of women in film and literature. At the turn of the nineteenth century, a series of social, political, cultural, and economic events convened in Europe which enabled Greece to spark the War of Independence. This national instability provided a space for the emergence of a heroine who broke all established gender codes in the area of politics and on the battlefield: Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825). Over the course of her life, Bouboulina owned a successful merchant fleet, became an international diplomat, and was the only woman to join the Filike Etairia, an underground organization that prepared the Greeks for the war with the Ottomans. She is the first woman in world naval history to have earned the title of Admiral for her command of the Spetses fleet in crucial naval battles. Her life represents an alternative history to the masculinist and nationalistic depictions of the Greek War of Independence, as told in both Greek and Philhellenic literatures. It is a radical re-imagining of gender and the Greek identity in the nineteenth century, and foregrounds the many contributions made by women to modern Greek history. It also provides an alternative to the images of Greek women in the historical imaginary of Hollywood and other dominant media practices. Using historical documents and artifacts, interviews with Bouboulina's descendants and specialists in the fields of Greek and Ottoman History, live footage, music and artwork of the period, as well as contemporary film and media as grounds for cultural comparison, this hour-long documentary video synthesizes multi-media artifacts to create a critical pedagogy that explores the margins of Greek history through the life and times of one of Greece's most important revolutionaries.