In this eye-opening documentary, celebrated independent filmmaker Nina Menkes explores the sexual politics of cinematic shot design. Using clips from hundreds of movies we all know and love – from Metropolis to Vertigo to Phantom Thread – Menkes convincingly makes the argument that shot design is gendered. Brainwashed: Sex-Camera-Power illuminates the patriarchal narrative codes that hide within supposedly “classic” set-ups and camera angles, and demonstrates how women are frequently displayed as objects for the use, support, and pleasure of male subjects. Building on the essential work of Laura Mulvey and other feminist writers, Menkes shows how these not-so-subtle embedded messages affect and intersect with the twin epidemics of sexual abuse and assault, as well as employment discrimination against women, especially in the film industry. The film features interviews with an all-star cast of women and non-binary industry professionals including Julie Dash, Penelope Spheeris, Charlyne Yi, Joey Soloway, Catherine Hardwicke, Eliza Hittman, and Rosanna Arquette. The result is an electrifying call-to-action that will fundamentally change the way you see, and watch, movies.
Watch the Trailer:
About Director Nina Menkes
Considered a cinematic feminist pioneer and one of America’s foremost independent filmmakers, Menkes has shown widely in major international film festivals including multiple premieres at Sundance, the Berlinale, Cannes (ACID), Rotterdam, Locarno, Toronto, La Cinematheque Francaise, British Film Institute, Whitney Museum of American Art, MOMA in New York, MOCA and LACMA in LA.
Menkes’s honors include a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, an AFI Independent Filmmaker Award, a Creative Capital Award and an International Critic’s Award (FIPRESCI Prize) for the feature documentary Massaker which premiered at the Berlinale in 2005. In 2011, her feature film The Bloody Child (1996) was named one of the most important films of the past 50 years by the Viennale International Film Festival, Austria.
Menkes holds an MFA in Film Production from UCLA (1989), is a two-time Fulbright Fellow to the Middle East and is a member of the film faculty at California Institute of the Arts.
Want to dive in more?
Watch the recording of the Q&A with filmmaker Nina Menkes, producer Maria Giese and creative producer Cecily Rhett.
Download the Study Guide for esssential resources, further views on the topic, and more.