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Hidden Histories: The Story of Women Film Editors

Featured in The Criterion Collection by Girish Shambu on Sept. 12, 2019

A momentous event in online film culture went mostly unnoticed earlier this year: the unveiling of Edited By, Su Friedrich’s large and invaluable web resource devoted to women film editors. Friedrich, a renowned experimental filmmaker with a body of work spanning over four decades, tells the story of coming upon a film history book, turning to the editing chapter, and finding that each reference to a film mentioned the director—but never the editor. Looking up the cited films on IMDb, she discovered that most of them were edited by women. Out of this seed of curiosity grew the enormous research effort that has now resulted in the website.

Edited By is global in scope, even if the majority of its entries are devoted to American women. Friedrich points to the unjust lack of attention to editors everywhere, contrasting their relative invisibility to the much greater awareness of directors, writers, and even cinematographers that exists in film culture. “It’s time to stop imagining that ‘it’s really the director’ who does the editing,” she writes. This neglect applies to both male and female editors, but it has had a special impact on the latter by occluding the fact that women have a rich but little-known history as editors, especially in American cinema. When the Motion Pictures Editors’ Guild released its list of seventy-five best edited films in 2012, four of the top eight titles were edited by women: Raging Bull (1980, Thelma Schoonmaker), Bonnie and Clyde (1967, Dede Allen), Lawrence of Arabia (1962, Anne V. Coates), and Jaws (1975, Verna Fields).

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