Retroactivism in Documentary-Style Independent Films

Independent film adds a new twist to archivization projects by enabling filmic rhetors to preserve actual embodied experience (conversations, gestures, voices) while also experimenting with different multimodal combinations of media and temporality. In her third chapter, "Remediating the Archive: Documentary Compositions of Lesbian Pasts," Bessette demonstrated how these new technological capacities also impacted retroactivist rhetorical projects in multiple ways.

  • Independent films by American lesbian filmmakers during the 1990s often appropriated, manipulated, and/or invented archival materials in order to demonstrate how "a glorified gay past can obscure the inequalities within gay and lesbian histories that persist in the present" (p. 101).
  • These independent films also pioneered many conceptual innovations, often in tandem with particular rhetorical strategies.
  • By showing that queer pasts are neither perfect nor all-inclusive, these films and their defining multimodal rhetorical strategies took "a hybrid retroactivist stance" (p. 101) that both critiqued such historiographies and also "continues to compose history in hopes of a more equitable, inclusive future" (p. 101).

VIDEO: Example film The Female Closet provided by on Vimeo. Download Transcript