Students & Campus
15 June 2021

One Master’s Dissertation Finds Its Way to the Big Screen

For master candidate Maevia Griffiths, who documented the stories of four migrant women in Geneva, there was no better medium than film through which to tell their realities. Her film, Elles, les (in)visibles, was selected as part of the International Oriental Film Festival of Geneva, playing 27 June 2021 at Grütli Cinema.

In an interview, she discusses her project and why she chose to do her dissertation as a film. 

Why did you choose to do your dissertation as a film?

I have always really valued filmmaking as a method for research and a tool to bridge the gap between social science knowledge production and a wider audience.

When I began my Master in Development Studies at the Graduate Institute, questions of power dynamics and positionality within the field of development made me rethink my research.

While I fully acknowledge the power dynamics and subjectivities at play within filmmaking, this tool allows me to reposition myself within this field in a way that shifted some of the power asymmetries and included a creative aspect that made not only my voice, but those of the people concerned, heard.

The medium of film is a challenging one; especially as social scientists, we have a hard time letting images speak for themselves. Nevertheless, I decided to use filmmaking as both my method and the object of my research.

After taking many classes at the Institute that included visual anthropological studies, I knew I wanted my thesis to research the medium of filmmaking within social sciences. Film thus allows one to rethink research through visuality and audience receptiveness, allowing a wider democratisation of knowledge outside of academia or international institutions.

I was extremely lucky to find a very supportive supervisor, Professor Ricardo Bocco, who encouraged me to undertake this “life changing” project. I say “life changing” because making this documentary film for my thesis prompted me to pursue this as my career: I will undertake another master’s degree in September in Documentary Filmmaking at Goldsmiths University, London.

Your film, Elles, les (in)visibles, will be screened as a part of the International Oriental Film Festival of Geneva (FIFOG). Why was it selected for the Festival?

After interning for six months with the FIFOG, they offered to co-produce my film.

At the time I was interested in the question of undocumented migrant women in the Middle East and in Beirut more precisely, where I was hoping to make a film. But then, with the revolution, COVID and the explosion, it didn’t feel right to go.

However, I understood that those same dynamics were also happening here in Geneva; it made more sense to me to make a film about my own environment, positioning my legitimacy as a researcher and a filmmaker within my own context.

Thus, while my movie doesn’t actually inscribe itself within Oriental films anymore, the FIFOG remained interested in promoting local creations and discussing important local social subjects. They supported me on some aspects of fundraising, renting film equipment and have now selected my film for screening at the 16th edition of the festival.

I am so happy to be able to have the premier in the Grütli Cinema in the context of this festival: it is a unique opportunity to raise awareness and share this project with a wider audience.

Can you explain a bit about what viewers can expect to learn/understand/have more awareness about after seeing your film?

The film concentrates on the lived experiences of four migrant women in Geneva, two of whom have been regularised and two who remain irregular. This movie looks at the process of regularisation that was launched by the pilot project Operation Papyrus between 2017 and 2018 in Geneva, which regularised almost 3,000 people.

The audience will follow their stories: leaving their homes, crossing the borders, finding work as an “undocumented” migrant, the situations of abuse, exploitation and violence but most importantly their strength and resistance to cope with the situation.

Viewers will be able to stop and listen to people who rarely have their voices heard.

My wish is that the audience starts questioning their gaze after watching this film, rethinking the ways in which we interact with our own cleaners, carers or simply the people we see on the bus.

These are the people we all rely on for our society to function, and by watching and listening we can allow recognition of their presence, their suffering and strength as well as their humanity, allowing more symmetric power relations to form, starting here in Geneva, in our own home.

Elles les invisibles will premier on Sunday 27 June at 14:00 at Grütli Cinema in Geneva. This screening is fully booked.

Additional screenings will be organised towards the end of the summer:

  • Sunday 29 August at 19:00 at Fonction Cinema at Maison des Arts du Grütli, Rue du Général-Dufour 16, 1211 Geneva 
  • Cinema Odeon de Morges (VD) or Morges Open Air between the 23 August - 1 September - Date to be confirmed 
  • 9 September Cinéma de Aubonne (VD) -  to be confirmed 
  • Institute screening beginning of September (between the 6th-16th September) - Date to be confirmed 
  • Potential other screenings in Lausanne and Neuchâtel - To be confirmed

For any questions regarding the film, for reservations or any other information, contact

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