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Directed by Kay Armatage
Canada, 1980 (documentary / experimental, 8 minutes, colour, English)
Also known as "Speak Body"
Image: © Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre

Film Description:
"Using techniques from documentary, the avant-garde, and narrative films, a great deal of information about abortion is compressed into a short time. The film combines the interwoven multi-layered voices of women recounting their experiences with minimal images from one woman's memory. Short but powerful."
-- Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (source)

Film Description [in French] :
"Des femmes racontent leur expérience de l'avortement."
-- Jana Vosikovska (source)

Film Credits (partial):
Production Company: G+A Productions

Quote by the Director

"Hoping to achieve something like [Joyce Wieland's] combination of minimalist formal strategies with a political motive and content, [in Speakbody] I worked with constructed images and a political subject, abortion, which in feminist cinema had been largely consigned to the documentary mode. In that film I used a combination of scripted and unscripted/spontaneous/'documentary' female voices cut into a fragmented, multiple, and contradictory voice-over which I hoped would not only challenge the masculine voice of authority that tends to characterize the use of voice-over in documentary cinema, but would also speak from and to feminine subjectivity in a film which deals with female experience and the perception and representation of the female body."
-- Kay Armatage (source)

Quotes about Speakbody

"In fifteen precise shots the film [Speak Body] economically and evocatively gives voice to multiple views of various women's experience of abortion, as testimony. And voice, Speak Body's primary mode of address, is its structural lynchpin. A rhythmic, almost breathless, rush of female voices conjoin—in a sometimes staccato, sometimes lyrical manner—to give various (and often contradictory) ruminations on their lived experience. Although these cross-cut, sound-looped voices are non-synchronous and mostly disembodied (rarely are we offered the opportunity to directly match a voice to an image of a woman, yet there are conceptual links), Speak Body adroitly eschews its normalized effects, distance and objectivity, in its application to documentary practice."
-- Kass Banning (source)

"Speak Body (1979) marks a radical shift in [Kay] Armatage's approach to filmmaking. In this film she addresses issues of the female gaze, the female voice, representation of the female body, spectatorial address and multiplicity of points of view, all in a minimalist avant garde format. The film consists of a number of female voices discussing their experiences of abortion. We never see the women; instead, their voices weave a fictional narrative in which a woman discovers she is pregnant and undergoes an abortion. But the overall structure is not unitary, nor is it in the loose cinéma-vérité style. Speak Body confronts the problem of defining documentary; Armatage merges traditional documentary, fiction and minimalist experimental techniques in a new feminist practice."
-- Kass Banning (source)

"[Kay] Armatage radicalizes the most conservative aspects of expository cinema by transforming the unitary authority of traditional voice over narration into a discursive political commentary."
-- Janine Marchessault (source)

"The eloquent and evocative structure of Speak Body combines documentary and fiction to consolidate a diversity of women's experiences around abortion."
-- Janine Marchessault (source)

"Speak Body (1979, directed by Kay Armatage) is not only important because it deals with this issue [abortion], but because it does so in a manner that is conscious and critical of the language and controversy around which abortion is framed. Rather than submit to a heated battle over the rights of women vis a vis those of their unborn children, Armatage structures the film as an exploration of the experience of pregnancy and abortion as it is discussed by several women (voices) who are never visually present in the diegesis of the film."
-- Christie Milliken (source)

"[Speakbody] demythologizes the female body, avoiding the hazards of fetishization, essentialism, and the construction of heroes without stepping outside the arena of historical struggle itself."
-- Bill Nichols (source)

Bibliography for Speakbody

Brief Sections of Books

Journal Articles

Brief Sections of Journal Articles

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