Critically Acclaimed Film Challenges Women Stereotypes

As part of her dissertation, Anne von Petersdorff, a fourth year doctoral student studying German Studies and Digital Humanities, spent two and a half months traveling with a friend from Egypt to Germany only allowing themselves to walk, sail, or take modes of transportation with wheels – no flights. From this experience, she produced a documentary that has already been accepted at three international film festivals.

The multimedia dissertation, titled “Body, Voice, and Collaboration: Reframing the Woman Traveler in Autobiographical Film and Filmmaking,” is concerned with female bodies in transit and challenges existing representations of women travelers. It consists of two parts: a feature documentary and a theoretical-historical exploration of film aesthetics.

“This project was born out of my personal travel experience and the notion that traveling as a woman is different than traveling as a man,” von Petersdorff said. “Not only was it the experience itself that was different, but also the way it was perceived. I had to justify my decision to travel much more than male travelers, and all these things got me more interested in how the female traveler is seen and represented.”

To create the documentary, von Petersdorff took the trip from Egypt to Germany in 2014 with Maria Perez Escala, co-producer of the film. The pair personally managed every aspect of the experience, including videotaping, sound recording and editing.

“In very emotional moments and moments of tension, the camera was there and we knew that we should film it,” von Petersdorff said. “Sometimes we didn’t, sometimes we did, and that definitely changed the experience of what we were going through.”

Perhaps the most challenging part of the project was the limitations they set upon themselves.

“We chose not to fly because we were interested in the embodied experience of the traveler and thought that it would get us closer to the people of the place,” she said. “We were interested in challenging ourselves to move away from the classical tourist experience and seek out something a little more 'real.'”

After returning from her travels, von Petersdorff completed the documentary, titled Wanderlust: Cuerpos en Tránsito, and submitted it to film festivals around the world. So far, it has been accepted at FEMCINE in Santiago, Chile, March 28-April 2; the Crossing Europe Film Festival in Linz, Austria, April 25-30; and The Travel FilmFest International Film Festival in Cyprus October 14-21. The website for the film can be found here

After receiving her Ph.D., von Petersdorff would like to work in both academia and filmmaking.