Project Description

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What Are Little Girls Made Of?
by Francesca Soans  

What Are Little Girls Made Of?  is a postcolonial exploration of nursery rhymes in which animation and the textures of personal memories are ironically juxtaposed to comment on the continued legacy of European cultural colonialism in India

As an Indian woman reminisces about growing up in India, a child’s drawing unfolds on the screen, narrating the well-known English nursery rhyme, “Little Miss Muffet.”  The woman recalls her deep desire for a white dress and blond hair, as her own dark skin relegates her to the position of “boy” in school plays.  The memories, seemingly nostalgic, are juxtaposed with an ironic depiction of a blond Miss Muffet’s encounter with the “other”—the spider—inside herself.  Through this juxtaposition, a dissonance is set up between the memories and the animation, providing a commentary on western standards of beauty and the legacy of cultural colonialism in India.

Mixing computer animation, video, and interview footage, this video explores the fictionalization of documentary memory through animated drawings that reflect the subjectivity of the memories being narrated. Through this, the video challenges conventional forms of documentary.


  • Reviewed by Jonathan Storm, television critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer in “A Banner Time for Independent Filmmakers,” June 25, 1996:

“It will reveal itself slowly, over many viewings.  And since it’s only four minutes long, you can look at it again and again….the quiet little movie says volumes about how physical appearance shapes girls’ lives.”



What Are Little Girls Made Of? received its broadcast premiere in 1996 on public television WHYY TV-12’s Independent Images, juried by renowned documentary filmmmaker Tony Buba. The station broadcasts to 2.6 million households in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas.  It was also selected from 425 entries to WYBE Ch-35’s Through the Lens international competition.

The film was one of 80 films screened in the 1997 Asian Pacific Film and Video Festival in Los Angeles, CA. The Film Festival has presented the works of such groundbreaking Asian Pacific American artists as Gregg Araki, Arthur Dong, Kayo Hatta, Ang Lee, Rea Tajiri, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Jessica Yu, and many others.  In 1998, it was one of 65 juried selections for Fem’-i-nie n women collectively: womankind, an exhibition of women artists in Tallahassee, Florida.


Awarded a Subsidy Grant from the Philadelphia Independent Film and Video Association and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts; 1996; city-wide competition in Philadelphia.