Contested Conditions: A Screening & Discussion Series: Safe (Haynes, 1995)

Join us for a screening of Safe (Todd Haynes, 1995) and White [Mater]ial: A Video Essay on Todd Haynes’s Safe (Amber Jacobs and Catherine Grant, 2013)

Birkbeck Cinema, Friday 19th October 2018, 18:00 – 21:00

Free entrance, book your tickets here.

The screening will be followed by a session of the Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group on the theme of ‘Contested Conditions’, on 25th October 2018, 3.00-4.30 pm, in the Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Square. For more details and access to the reading, see here or email You are, of course, very welcome to attend either the screening or the reading group without committing to both events .

Todd Haynes’ Safe (1995) follows the Los Angeles housewife Carol (Julianne Moore) as she struggles with a series of mysterious symptoms, which progress from headaches and nosebleeds to seizures. When her doctor decides that nothing is physically wrong and refers her to a psychiatrist, Carol seeks help from the alternative health community and diagnoses herself with multiple chemical sensitivity, a contested condition linked to environmental triggers. Combining the tropes of suburban melodrama and body horror, Safe takes on a renewed relevance in the contemporary moment with its compelling exploration of raced and gendered embodiment.

The screening will be followed by White [Mater]ial, a short essay film on Safe by Amber Jacobs (Birkbeck) and Catherine Grant (Birkbeck), and a panel discussion about both films with Dr Jacobs, Prof Grant, and Prof Martin Halliwell (Leicester), whose 2017 book, Voices of Mental Health: Medicine, Politics, and American Culture, 1970-2000, discusses Safe in relation to its wider social context.

This screening is part of the Contested Conditions film screening and discussion series, which runs at BIMI throughout the 2018-2019 academic year. The series asks how so-called ‘invisible illnesses’—including multiple chemical sensitivity, myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression—have been visualised on film, and aims to foster reflection and discussion about the relationship between medical evidence and cinematic form. How do the genre codes of documentary, horror, melodrama, and science fiction push us to rethink the relationships between evidence and experience, the body and society, and the visible and the invisible in the realm of health and illness? For more information, contact the organiser, Dr Sophie A. Jones, at

This event series is supported by an ISSF grant funded by Birkbeck and the Wellcome Trust.


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