Barbara Wolfram is an Austrian film and theatre director as well as researcher. She holds a PhD from Film Academy Vienna/ mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna and a Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Vienna. In her PhD she was researching about on- and off-Screen representations of gender and diversity in Austrian feature films. Next to her quantitative research, Wolfram researches in two artistic research projects as an artistic-research PostDoc: She co-leads with Paulus Wagner a project on polarisation in societies (funded by Stadt Wien Kultur MA7): Building Bridges in Polarised Societies (2021 – 2024) and she also works on cinematic autosociobiographies in the PEEK project (FWF): Confronting Realities. Working on Cinematic Autosociobiographies (2021 – 2024). Wolfram has conducted international research, teaching and study stays at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris, at ENS Louis Lumière, Paris, at HDK Valand Academy at University of Gothenburg/ Sweden and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.

In addition to her academic work, she is a theatre and film director and also artistic director of the international theatre company .EVOLve, which she co-founded (including Volkstheater Wien, Schauspielhaus Wien). On the side, Barbara Wolfram also podcasts about gender and diversity portrayal and representation in her film studies podcast Ned wuascht – wir geh’n fisch’n together with Bianca J. Rauch and works politically activistic at KILL the TRAUERspiel, an initiative that works for more gender justice and diversity on Austrian stages.

Her work is characterized by an approach that combines artistic and scholarly perspectives, marked by a desire to find alternative formats for narratives’ development, autobiographical narration, and fair representation.


Moving The Needle. The Portrayal and Representation of Gender and Diversity in Austrian Feature Films of the years 1997-2017

conducted at the Institute for Film and Television – Film Academy Vienna / mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
Co-Supervision: Elizabeth Prommer/ University of Rostock


This research quantitatively analyses the portrayal and representation of gender and diversity on- and off-screen in Austrian feature films from 1997 to 2017. 152 films and their 1383 characters are analyzed across eleven dimensions and 126 items. 42/28% films are female-directed, 104/68% films male-directed and 6/4% films are made by directorial teams, a total of approx. 52% of films with Austrian participation in this period. The research creates a first coherent quantitatively representative dataset of major and minor characters over 21 years of Austrian feature film history and connects it to the historical and funding framework in Austria. The data is tested and interpreted descriptively and inferentially for differences between the gender of the director, the gender of the characters, major and minor characters, and partly for effects of time and age of the director on the way characters are portrayed. The newly created survey instrument has been testtheoretically tested and shows good initial reliability with rÜ = 0.879. Both inferential and descriptive analyses show differences in the presentation and representation of gender and diversity on- and off-screen as well as across all dimensions. The Austrian feature film is on average white, cis, hetero and male. Empty spaces and development potentials for representations that have been missing up to now are worked out as well as shown and put into relation with current funding recommendations for more equal and fair representations and portrayals on- and off-screen.