The video essay “Filling (Feeling) the Archival Void” delves into the systematic erasure and archival dispossession of works by early women filmmakers, using the case study of Helena Cortesina and her lost film Flor de España (1922), which was falsely attributed to a male director. Through a counterhegemonic, provocative, “accented” approach, the video essay challenges established, patriarchal film histories and exposes the lies hidden within their seemingly rigorous discourse. First, it pays homage to the authorship of an almost forgotten filmmaker, Helena Cortesina, while also making her lost film visible, ensuring that at least some of its images are brought to light. Second, it explores the potential of the video essay as a feminist archive—a practice-based counterarchive, capable of producing counterhegemonic discourses that subvert the status quo. Third, by challenging the presumed “objectivity” of traditional film scholarship through openly poetic, subjective, and imaginative modes of expression, it establishes and validates a new epistemology.

Video Essay. “Filling (Feeling) the Archival Void” by Barbara Zecchi (

Video Essay. “Filling (Feeling) the Archival Void” by Barbara Zecchi (

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Years ago, I watched an interview with the Italian diva Francesca Bertini discussing Assunta Spina (1915), the iconic film that catapulted her to fame. Although I cannot recall the exact television program in which I witnessed this exchange, I vividly remember Bertini interrupting the journalist while he was praising the exceptional direction of filmmaker Gustavo Serena. With a noticeable tinge of fatigue in her voice, as if she had uttered these words countless times before, she wearily interjected: “But it was I who directed Assunta Spina!” What surprised me the most about this incident was not so much Bertini’s revelation (that was not news to me), but rather the interviewer’s sarcastic response: an “Oh really, huh?” delivered with a mocking tone.2 Even more intriguing was Bertini’s attitude, as she continued unfazed by the interviewer’s sarcasm. Her reaction made me wonder if the diva had grown accustomed to such treatment over the years, or whether she had internalized the fallacy that an artistic creation attributed to a man had a higher likelihood of achieving success. In either case, Bertini exuded a sense of distance, accompanied by a sad smile—an expression of melancholic and, at the same time, ironic acknowledgment, as if she was no longer fully invested. At that time, I felt disappointed by this strong-willed woman who I deeply admired for her fighting spirit. I wanted her to embrace her outrage. Now that I reflect on Bertini’s attitude, however, I interpret her apparent detachment differently. Melancholy, as Robin James recognizes, challenges the dominant neoliberal discourse on the resilience of people who identify as women and other marginalized groups.3 It does not signify passive acceptance of the status quo, but rather operates as a strategic tool for resistance and can be as powerful and effective as vocal outrage. Humor too can challenge heteropatriarchal norms. As Adriana Cavarero argues, an almost imperceptible smile on a woman’s face can unsettle those who are accustomed to always being taken seriously.4

“Filling (Feeling) the Archival Void” is the result of similar sentiments. It was originally meant to denounce the systematic and systemic erasure of works by early filmmakers that identified as women. The initial idea was to “translate” into the videographic form what I had been researching and publishing for over a decade. The video essay was originally entitled “Correcting a Dispossession,” and it included a first part, which did not make it to the final cut, significantly called “The Lies of the Archives.” However, the video essay is “a form that thinks,” as Alan O’Leary has recently argued.5 Thus, engaging in “material thinking”—to use Catherine Grant’s term—I was led to approach the topic differently.6 I did not merely adapt existing written content to a different medium; it was the different medium that made me forge a new way of approaching my written scholarship. Rather than denouncing a void, the videographic form allowed me to fill it—or, I should say, it compelled me to do so, driven by material thinking and the power of affect.

The underlying objective of this practice-based research project is to showcase the potential for reclaiming a lost film, thereby advocating for similar initiatives to be pursued for other works by female-identified creatives that have faced a similar fate.7 By using a counterhegemonic, provocative, “accented” (videographic) approach, “Filling (Feeling) the Archival Void” challenges established, patriarchal film histories and exposes the lies hidden within their seemingly “rigorous” scientific discourse. Through my video essay, first, I pay homage to the authorship of an almost forgotten filmmaker, Helena Cortesina, while also making her lost film visible, ensuring that at least some of its images are brought to light. Second, I explore the potential of the video essay as a feminist archive—what I would call a practice-based counterarchive. Kate Eichhorn, following Jenna Freedman, refers to the process of “archiving women” to emphasize how feminist archival endeavors have engendered new historical narratives and have empowered previously marginalized political agents.8 This perspective refuses traditional assessments of the archive solely as a repository, or a neutral storage site, and instead aligns with Jacques Derrida’s notion that “archivization produces as much as it records the event.”9 Perceived in this light, the video essay can function as a compelling, generative, and formative archive capable of producing counterhegemonic discourses that subvert the status quo and legitimize new forms of knowledge. Third, feminist film historiography requires not only an interdisciplinary approach, as Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi aptly observes, but also creativity, imagination, and affect.10 By challenging the presumed “objectivity” of traditional film scholarship through openly poetic, subjective, and imaginative modes of expression, the video essay, as a counterarchive, establishes and validates a new epistemology.

Francesca Bertini’s Assunta Spina is just one example of the widespread erasure, misappropriation, and silencing endured by women’s early film productions, a phenomenon that I have described, borrowing Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s concept, as dispossession.11 For nearly two decades, I have been publishing, lecturing, and teaching about this outrageous negligence and brutal disregard for women’s films. I often have argued that female-identified filmmakers’ archival dispossession manifests through three distinct forms: oblivion, usurpation, and correction.12 Oblivion, the act of forgetting, represents the most widespread and seemingly innocuous form of archival dispossession. Over time, the names of women filmmakers are shrouded in obscurity, and their contributions gradually fade away from historical records. While no direct culprits can be identified, it is evident that the canon does not establish itself. The erasure of films directed by women identifying filmmakers in the annals of cinema can be attributed to the guardians of the archive, predominantly men, who have shown little interest in safeguarding a female authorial presence from the eroding effects of time. At the other extreme of this phenomenon, with more obvious perpetrators, I have talked about “usurpation,” a concept that in contemporary terms could be characterized as intellectual property theft. This kind of dispossession can be illustrated, citing just two examples, through the experiences of María Lejárraga in the Spanish State, and Anita Loos in Hollywood, whose husbands took credit for, and even profited economically from, their work.13 These are just two of several examples of usurpation that have already come to light, suggesting the plausibility of a considerable number of additional cases that have not yet been disclosed and brought to the forefront—or worse, that may never be. The third type of archival dispossession, which I have called “correction,” involves manipulation of facts by certain film historians who have deliberately revised the history of cinema by attributing films directed by women altogether to men. Some women filmmakers disappeared, oftentimes even together with their films.14

The first woman to direct a feature film in the Spanish State, Helena Cortesina (1903–1984)—a versatile artist who worked as a dancer, singer, theater and cinema actor, film producer, and director of her own theater company—suffered this third form of dispossession: her film is lost, and Cortesina has been denied of its authorship, to some extent, until today.15 In the database of the Ministry of Culture of Spain, for instance, the film Flor de España o la Leyenda de un torero (Flower of Spain or the Legend of a bullfighter, 1921) is currently listed as codirected by two filmmakers: José Granada and Helena Cortesina, in that order. However, in publications that appeared before Francisco Franco’s victory in 1939, all references to Flor de España credited Helena Cortesina as the sole director, without mentioning José Granada. During the Franco regime, Helena Cortesina’s authorship began to fade. After being credited as the sole director of Flor de España in the 1920s, she was downgraded to the status of codirector and then, in 1949, Juan Antonio Cabero’s official history of Spanish cinema, a seminal volume titled Historia de la cinematografía española, published under the auspices of Franco’s dictatorship, erased her directorial role completely. Even though Helena Cortesina’s authorship has been irrefutably demonstrated in the last decade by feminist scholarship, certain publications persist in perpetuating this error.16

In sum, Flor de España serves as a poignant and illuminating case study, one that sheds light not only on the invaluable work of women in early Spanish cinema, but also on the pervasive erasure of their contributions in the broader history of the medium.

For years, I had amassed folders of extensive research material on Flor de España and Helena Cortesina. While I could not find any film footage, I meticulously gathered photocopies of 1910s and 1920s film journals containing images and reviews of the film, interviews with Helena Cortesina—including one with her sisters about the challenges of navigating a male-dominated field—newspaper clippings, promotional postcards of Cortesina’s production company, and even the film poster as well as a summary of the plot.17 Alongside these treasures, I collected an array of articles and photographs showcasing Cortesina’s evolution from her classical ballet days, and her belly dancing performances, to a beach photoshoot reminiscent of Musidora’s vampire allure, and images taken during her partnership with Federico García Lorca in a theatrical tour in Latin America, before her exile to Argentina on Lorca’s assassination. For years, I had relied exclusively on this material for my research, without making any attempt to explore alternative uses.18 The photographs remained untouched, dormant within my folders, serving merely as the foundation for my work. At best, they found a place as visual aids in the PowerPoint presentations I prepared for conferences or graduate seminars, but I never considered reprinting them in my publications, much less giving them a life of their own. It was only when I scanned and uploaded these static, silent, and isolated images into the digital editing software’s timeline that they emerged from obscurity, engaging in dialogue with each other, acquiring a vibrant presence, and even, I would argue, gaining an autonomous life of their own.

In the first part of the video essay, following one of the most common strategies in desktop filmmaking, the familiar clicking sound of a computer mouse accompanies the images that appear on the screen. The idea is to enhance the visual experience by incorporating sound textures and materiality, evoking a satisfying sensory experience, both acoustic and tactile, similar to popping bubble wrap. The clicking reinforces the sensation that the lost film still lingers alive and retains a tangible presence. Despite the lack of movement, the click sound, akin to a heartbeat, suggests the possibility of a resuscitation, as if the static lifeless inanimate images are frozen frames waiting to be revived and set back into motion.

This process transformed me, in Laura Mulvey’s terms, from a passive “possessive” spectator, who collected still photographs with fetishistic attachment, into a more active “pensive” spectator, one “who may bring to the cinema the association with death usually concealed by the film’s movement…[and] intimately returns to the inseparability of the stillness from movement and flow.”19 Yet, in the last part of the project, I transcend the role of a pensive spectator who ponders the stillness of death within the animated film. Instead, by fully embracing my identity as a video essayist and creator, I bring movement to the still photographs and revive the film. In the following pages I will illustrate the creative process for this resuscitation.

The project starts with a fundamental question: can a video essay effectively bring back a lost film that resides solely within one’s imagination? As a response, I employ two quotes by Jason Mittell and Cormac Donnelly, respectively, that lay the foundation of my counterarchival project and tackle the significant challenges it poses.20 Mittell proposes that when a film is imported into video-editing software, it undergoes a transformation, becoming an “archive” of sounds and moving images. However, in the absence of extant film footage, lacking relevant sounds, and with only a handful of stills at my disposal, my video-editing “archive” is comparatively incomplete. To overcome this limitation, I turn to Cormac Donnelly, who highlights the ability of the video essayist to use their imaginative faculties to function as an archive, capable of storing memories and forging connections between them and various forms of media. Yet, the question persists: how can I possess memories of a film I have never actually seen?

One response comes from Johannes Binotto, who claims that films can indeed “be burnt into our memory just by reading about them.” In his recent video essay “Practices of Viewing: Description” (2023), Binotto contends that we can intimately know a film without direct visual experience since a description, much like a magic spell, can make us “see things more acutely than an image.”21 The story of Flor de España o la leyenda de un torero is summarized by an anonymous reviewer in Arte y cinematografía. Through reading the synopsis alone, I could imagine, for instance, that the film challenged gender roles and expectations by presenting an avant la lettre feminist depiction of equality in the shared parental responsibilities and sacrifices of its two characters. I could also envision that for the final sequence (a metaphorical castration?), when “un angelote…corta la coleta del ídolo” (a big angel…cuts the idol’s ponytail), there could have been a special effect reminiscent of Georges Méliès’s techniques. However, my engagement with Flor de España transcended this text. The synopsis allowed me to imagine the film, but it was only through affect that I could remember it.

As the project unfolded, my emotions, bolstered by material thinking, became instrumental forces driving my inspiration. Memories of events not personally experienced often emerge through the power of affect: due to my involvement with this film, the considerable time I dedicated to scouring archives throughout Spain in search of it, my extensive scholarly work on it, my deep love for early women’s cinema, and my overwhelming outrage for its loss, I developed a profound sense of having experienced it firsthand. In a way, I felt I possessed the faculty to evoke and recollect scenes that I had not seen, in line with the concept of “postmemory” theorized by Marianne Hirsch. For Hirsch, we are capable of vividly “remembering” other people’s traumatic memories that have been transmitted to us “so deeply and affectively [that they] seem to constitute memories in their own right. Postmemory’s connection to the past is thus actually mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation.”22 Drawing attention to the dispossession of early women filmmakers, to fill a gap in memory means to perform a gesture of political opposition and resistance. It demands accountability while also confronting the need of transformation. To quote Hirsch again, “To mobilize memory and postmemory…makes space for alternative potential histories.”23

Thus, in the second part of the video essay, I use the anonymous reviewer’s synopsis as the framework for my reconstruction of an “alternative history” (figure 1). I translate the text into English and supplement the images collected from the official archives—which consisted literally of “found” footage, as Will DiGravio has cleverly pointed out—with scenes drawn from the “archives of my memory,” as Cormac Donnelly would put it.24 These sequences comprise films from, roughly, the same era as Flor de España—works that perhaps had inspired Cortesina, and, vice versa, works that might have been inspired by Cortesina’s movie.

Figure 1.

Two moments in the reconstruction of an “alternative history.”

Figure 1.

Two moments in the reconstruction of an “alternative history.”

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Through the memories of films that I had watched many times, I could reenact several sequences of Flor de Epaña. For instance, by using clips taken from Sangre y arena (Blood and Sand, dir. Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and Ricardo de Baños, 1916), I could represent the bullfight. By borrowing the blind girl from Charlie Chaplin’s City Light (1931), I could recreate the “insignificant florist from Madrid,” interpreted by Cortesina herself, sitting at a street corner with her basket full of flowers. By observing illustrations and postcards featuring Cortesina in various dancing guises and captivating costumes, I could easily envision her film as a testament to her remarkable talent and versatility displayed through a diverse repertoire: a traditional Andalusian dance, such as the one in Alice Guy’s Voyage en Espagne (Journey to Spain, 1905), or a sensual performance in transparent white veils, like that of “Maria” in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), or a dance in vampire attire, like Musidora in Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires (The Vampires, 1915–16). Finally, the sequence depicting the arrival of the baby in Lita Lawrence’s Motherhood: Life’s Greatest Miracle (1925) suggested the parental solidarity that I envisioned for a scene in Cortesina’s film featuring the two protagonists with their newly born son.

In this fashion, I reconstructed the film like a puzzle, combining tangible pieces with fragments sourced from my creative vision. This allowed me to transcend traditional boundaries (objectivity vs. creativity, authenticity vs. reconstruction, scientific discourse vs. poetic mode) and challenge dominant narratives. In Kate Eichhorn’s words, “rather than simply reflecting a desire to understand the past, the current archival turn reflects a desire to take control of the present through a reorientation to the past.”25 Reconstructing the film reclaims the past as a way to reshape the present, and challenges existing power structures that perpetuate gaps in women’s legacies.

As a native speaker of Italian, I often find it challenging to discern between the /I/ and /i:/ sounds in English. For instance, I cannot hear the difference between “filling” and “feeling,” and I struggle to articulate these two words distinctly. With the title of my video essay, I playfully mock my own pronunciation and the challenges I face. However, by taking my accent seriously and considering my joking about it a tool for feminist subversion—as humor can be—I delve beyond mere issues of phonetics to explore questions of epistemology.

Thinking with an Accent, a recent volume coedited by Pooja Rangan, Akshya Saxena, Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, and Pavitra Sundar, proposes that the accent should be understood not as a way of speaking but as a mode of thought.26 In my creative process, my accent indeed plays a significant role. The void left by the disappearance of Cortesina’s film encompasses both cognitive and affective dimensions: while I seek to fill the gap of memory, I feel for it. As I have suggested elsewhere, the video essay is, quintessentially, an “accented” form, given its position in relation to traditional (i.e., accentless) scholarship, its imperfect mode of production, and the affective, and often nostalgic engagement of the “cinephiliac” video essayist with the media object, as discussed by Catherine Grant and Christian Keathley. It’s not only a “video way of thinking,” as Spatz has argued, but a video way of thinking with an accent, an accented video way of thinking.27

In the second part of the video essay, I deliberately adopt techniques that suggest scientific authority, such as the desktop documentary format and the disembodied voiceover, to intentionally mimic the gravity put forth by (accentless) institutional discourses—the very discourses implicated in the three acts of dispossession I addressed earlier—in order to subvert them through an opposite, videographic (accented) rhetoric, that of my “feelings as thoughts” (to paraphrase Raymond William and Michael Orrom).28

After importing the inanimate, soundless fragments of Flor de España, and complementing them with media files from other films, the software’s timeline became the “ruined map” described by Giuliana Bruno when discussing women’s contributions to silent cinema.29 I felt compelled to meticulously reorganize, categorize, and label my clips, aiming to establish a clear differentiation between the original footage of Flor de España and the reconstructed artifacts (the footage of other films), and to illustrate the process through an explanatory mode. On one hand, by undertaking this strategy, I made use of a desktop documentary style that possesses fundamental qualities of objectivity and credibility: as Miklós Kiss has pointed out convincingly, this format engenders a sense of “genuine sincerity,” as it openly displays its own process of interpretation. On the other hand, my disembodied voiceover has the same purpose. It is meant to ironically establish a pretense of authority, acting as the voice of a deus ex machina, and contributing to what Mary Ann Doane calls the “production of its truth.”30 By exposing the scaffolding—the software’s timeline, or, to maintain the divine metaphor, the “machina”—I presented my reconstruction as an “anastylosis.” In archaeological terms, the anastylosis is a process that restores a deteriorated structure or mosaic by reassembling fragments and incorporating new materials that are discernible as replacement components.31

Yet, at the same time, I deliberately make it evident that both the desktop format and my voiceover are challenging the very notions of objectivity and authorial voice that they are imitating. As Kiss argues, the spontaneity inherent in the desktop documentary genre is a “double-edged rhetorical weapon” capable of undermining credibility.32 Similarly, my first-person narration distinctly lacks the qualities of a deus ex machina. Instead of the accentless, low-pitched, trustworthy male utterance, and its aura of authority, my voiceover is that of a woman with a discernible non-English accent displaying clear deficiencies in her skills as a voice actor.33 At the end, in another change of style, the video essay further mocks hegemonic discursive authority: I embody the voiceover becoming a character—the spectator of my own work—and my emotions are conveyed, and made visible, through my teary eyes, as I witness the resurrection of Cortesina’s film.

The backdrop for the voiceover incarnation is the final sequence of Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, where the protagonist, Tornatore’s alter ego, is deeply moved by watching a compilation of film kisses—a heartfelt gift from the late projectionist who instilled in him a love for cinema. On one hand, this scene serves as a poignant reminder that the destruction of film heritage has concrete culprits beyond the ravages of time and fire, and, on the other, it explores the power of affect. My reconstruction of Flor de España appears in lieu of the montage of clips saved by the cinephile projectionist from the clutches of the ecclesiastical censorship in Tornatore’s drama, suggesting that Cortesina’s film may have suffered a parallel fate. Similarly, my recreation of Flor de España, mirroring the montage depicted in Tornatore’s film, is driven by my cinephilia, or rather, in this case, “cinepathy”—a spectrum of emotions including grief and melancholy over the film’s loss, as well as joy and euphoria on its rescue.

The strategy of becoming a character in my own video essay is, of course, not new. In desktop filmmaking, to again quote Kiss, “video essayists emerge not only as auteurs of videographic criticism, with recognizable idiosyncratic style and recurring authorial patterns, but also, as an audience member of one of Kevin B. Lee’s lectures has put it, ‘as the protagonist, kind of, as the hero in a way, in a sort of road movie.’”34 It is not uncommon to find video essayists appearing in front of their cameras and interacting with their media objects. For instance, Johannes Binotto, Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Ian Gibbs, Kevin B. Lee, Dayna McLeod, Alan O’Leary, Emily Su Bin Ko, and, more recently, Jason Mittell have embraced this practice. However, the embodiment of the video essayist is not one of complete control over both the camera and the viewer, as seen in Hitchcock’s narcissistic directorial appearances “through which the filmmaker speaks him—or herself—as the point of absolute textual origin.”35 Nor is it that of a hero. In my opinion, the video essayist’s embodied presence emphasizes the subjectivity and personal nature of the video essayist’s work, a gesture to expose and confront the creator’s vulnerability and/or in some cases to affirm the feminist first person by granting the woman author visibility. But above all, for me, it’s a way to express affect, to feel the media object so deeply that I want to engage with it bodily and inhabit the space of the video essay to become part of its materiality, displaying and performing my emotions, and manipulating it for my feminist interventions.

Fifty years ago, Marjorie Rosen stated in her seminal book Popcorn Venus that for too long the contributions of women pioneers “have been covered in dust, denying us a legacy, a cornerstone to build upon.”36 During these five decades, dedicated efforts have been made to unearth and acknowledge these women filmmakers, bringing their work to light. Interdisciplinary engagements, feminist film theory, gender and media studies, critical and digital media scholarship, cultural studies, oral histories, archival research, preservation and restoration initiatives have emerged as powerful countermeasures of the archival dispossession. Together they call attention to and, in Susan Harewood’s words, they “encourage awareness of what is absent.”37 Gradually, we are rescuing these works from obscurity not only to reinstate their rightful place in the history of cinema, but also to change the very history of cinema. For Judith Butler: “the mobilizing forces of historical imagination demonstrate that the past is an archive of unlived possibilities and unpursued futures.”38 Jennifer Bean further underscores that history “is not something out there, patiently waiting to be retrieved or found. History is something one makes.”39 In this context, the video essay has the potential to transform into a potent space of resistance, a counterarchive where the creative portrayal of archival dispossession can find its form.


I created this video essay for the panel “Digital Digging: Videographic Approaches to Archival Footage,” chaired by Evelyn Kreutzer at the 2022 Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Conference.


Before his death, Gustavo Serena himself acknowledged Francesca Bertini’s role behind the camera. See Monica Dall’Asta, Non Solo Dive: Pioniere del cinema italiano (Bologna: Cineteca di Bologna, 2008).


Robin James, Resilience and Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism, Neoliberalism (Winchester, UK: John Hunt Publishing, 2015).


Adriana Cavarero argues that a woman’s smile is a symptom of an evident distancing that locates the roots and meaning of women’s existence “somewhere else.” Nonostante Platone: Figure femminili nella filosofia antica (Verona: Ombre Corte, 2009), 33.


Alan O’Leary, “Men Shouting: A History in 7 Episodes,” [in]Transition, Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies 10, no. 2 (2023).


For the concept of “material thinking,” see Catherine Grant, “The Shudder of a Cinephiliac Idea? Videographic Film Studies Practice as Material Thinking,” ANIKI: Portuguese Journal of the Moving Image,


This video essay is part of a broader videographic project on lost films by women in early cinema. It will reenact works by Elvira Notari, Elena Jordi, Alice Guy, Lilian Gish, and Dorothy Arzner, among others.


Kate Eichhorn, The Archival Turn in Feminism: Outrage in Order (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2013), 8. For Susan Harewood, where “videographic essays can take a scholarly lead is in drawing on the feminist, postcolonial, critical race, critical and digital media scholarship that strips ‘the archive’ of any possible claims of disinterested innocence.” See “Seeking a Cure for Cinephilia,” The Cine-Files 14 (Fall 2020),


Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 17.


Kate Saccone, “Doing ‘Applied Film History’: An Interview with Silent Film Curator Elif Rongen-Kaynakçi,” Feminist Media Histories 9, no. 2 (Spring 2023): 107.


Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou, Dispossession: The Performative in the Political; Conversations with Athena Athanasiou (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2013).


Barbara Zecchi, “Flor de España o la historia de una desapropriación: Rescatando la película de Helena Cortesina,” in Presències I representaciones de la dona en els primers anys del cinema, ed. Ángel Quintana and Jordi Pons (Girona: Museu del Cinema), 239.


María Lejárraga was the sole author of the theatrical works and scripts that Gregorio Martínez Sierra signed, even after he abandoned her for another woman. However, all her attempts to secure copyright ownership for her own creations proved futile following his death. Similarly, Anita Loos, who served as the primary author of her scripts despite receiving joint credit with John Emerson, discovered that their earnings were held in her husband’s private accounts when she was seeking a divorce. See Barbara Zecchi, “Canción de cuna: Del papel al celuloide,” Lecturas: Imágenes. Revista de poética del cine 2 (2003): 423–37.


Although unintentional fires have been identified as the major cause of the destruction of early Spanish cinema heritage, deliberate elimination of films, due to their controversial content (or controversial authorship) especially during repressive periods—as it was the case of the Francisco Franco regime—exacerbated the issue further.


Her recently found birth certificate reveals that Cortesina’s real name was Elena Cortés Altabas. See


Juan Antonio Cabero, Historia de la cinematografia española: Once jornadas, 1896–1948 (Madrid: Gráficas Cinema, 1949). Still today Cervantes Virtual cites José María Granada as the director of Flor de España among the pioneers of Spanish cinema, and omits Helena Cortesina For the story of Cortesina’s dispossession, see Barbara Zecchi, Desenfocadas: Cineastas españolas y discursos de género (Barcelona: Icaria, 2014), and Barbara Zecchi, “Flor de España o la historia de una desapropriación: Rescatando la película de Helena Cortesina,” in Presències I representaciones de la dona en els primers anys del cinema, ed. Ángel Quintana and Jordi Pons (Girona: Museu del Cinema), 239–53.


The film revolves around the intertwined lives of a man, Juncales, who embarks on a very successful career as a bullfighter, and a woman named Paloma, portrayed by Cortesina herself, who transitions from working as a florist to achieving fame as a dancer. The two fall in love and have a child. At the end, both characters make a conscious decision to respectively renounce their successful careers and prioritize the upbringing of their son. The film concludes with Juncales’s ponytail being cut off, by following the Spanish tradition when a bullfighter retires. This synopsis is included in the journal Arte y cinematografía 8 (1922).


I develop these issues in my video essay “Video-assig, Vampir,” on Pere Portabella’s film Cuadecuc, Vampir,


Laura Mulvey, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006), 186.


Jason Mittell, “Videographic Criticism as a Digital Humanities Method,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities (2019): 224–42; and Cormac Donnelly “Personal Exploration: Thoughts from a Safe Place?” unpublished paper.


See Johannes Binotto, “Practices of Viewing: Description,”


Marianne Hirsch, The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), 172–75.


Hirsch, Generation of Postmemory, 172.


Will DiGravio, “The Video Essay Podcast,” episode 31, “Barbara Zecchi,” July 31, 2022.—Barbara-Zecchi-e1luc3m.


Eichhorn, Archival Turn in Feminism, 7.


Pooja Rangan, Akshya Saxena, Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan, and Pavitra Sundar, eds., Thinking with an Accent: Toward a New Object, Method, and Practice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2023).


Catherine Grant, “The Shudder of a Cinephiliac Idea? Videographic Film Studies Practice as Material Thinking,” Aniki: Portuguese Journal of the Moving Image (2013); Christian Keathley, “The Cinephiliac Moment,” Framework 42 (2000),; and Ben Spatz, “The Video Way of Thinking,” South African Theatre Journal 31, no. 1 (2018): 146–54.


Raymond Williams and Michael Orrom, Preface to Film (London: Film Drama Limited, 1954).


Giuliana Bruno, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993).


Mary Ann Doane, “The Voice in the Cinema: The Articulation of Body and Space,” Yale French Studies 60, no. 42 (1980): 33–50.


I’m adapting definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and from


For all quotes by Miklós Kiss, see “Desktop Documentary: From Artefact to Artist(ic) Emotions,” NECSUS (Spring 2021),


I discuss these issues in my video essay “Empowering the Accent: An (Accented) Video Essay,”, in response to Ian Garwood’s “The Place of Voiceover in Academic Audiovisual Film and Television Criticism,”


Kiss, “Desktop Documentary.”


Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988), 213.


Marjorie Rosen, Popcorn Venus: Women, Movies, and the American Dream (New York: Avon Books, 1973).


Susan Harewood, “Seeking a Cure for Cinephilia,” Cine-Files 14 (Fall 2020),


Judith Butler, Review of Women Mobilizing Memory,


Jennifer M. Bean, “Note from the Editor: Producing Film History,” Feminist Media Histories 9, no. 2 (Spring 2023): 1–7.