By Kirsten Larvick
In their seventh program in the series From the Vault: Women’s Advocacy on Film, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund and UnionDocs present three significant films of the 1970s which consider ideas around gender.
While each work shares this commonality, they are distinctive among themselves in both form and what they examine within the context of gender.
Betty Tells Her Story (dir. Liane Brandon, 1972)
In filmmaker Liane Brandon’s Betty Tells Her Story (1972), Brandon invites her interview subject, Betty, to recount a memory of purchasing a dress, not once but twice. In the second telling, Betty expresses deeper feelings, stemming from a variety of forces including societal influences. As Betty’s story unfolds, she gradually begins to look at the underlying meaning of the day’s events. Her raw honesty acts as an invitation for looking within. Gene Siskel wrote for the Chicago Tribune, “… this is a film about human beings – how they talk and feel, hide and reveal and hurt.” Together filmmaker and interviewee create a vivid study of the intersection between gender and identity, and how individuals form their sense of self and what internal and outside pressures take part.
All Women Are Equal (dir. Marguerite Paris, 1972)
In an era of little awareness around transgender persons and before the definition of gender was reconsidered, filmmaker/artist Marguerite Paris objectively followed Paula as she engaged in daily routines, while speaking frankly about life as a transgender person. Through Paris’ sharp eye and use of her handheld camera, an intimate and almost nonexistent glimpse of 1970s trans life was captured without commentary or critical angle in All Women Are Equal (1972). Paula candidly represented herself, speaking of life’s benefits and challenges around choices she made in order to live authentically. The 15-minute film became unprecedented within the framework of documented personal outlooks from trans communities outside of drag performance or exploitative approaches. Jim Hubbard, a filmmaker, programmer and LGBT activist wrote of Paris’ seminal work, [it is] “one of the first, if not the first, interview with a trans person.”
The Woman’s Film (dir. Louise Alaimo, Judith Smith, Ellen Sorrin, 1970)
In 1967 activist filmmaker collective, Third World Newsreel (originally New York Newsreel) was formed and by the 1970s the group was broadening their reach and using consciousness raising groups to document and strengthen the modern women’s movement in addition to other social issues. The Woman’s Film (1970) made by the San Francisco Newsreel collective (directors Louise Alaimo, Judith Smith, Ellen Sorrin) was a collaborative effort between filmmakers and subjects focusing on concerns among women of various ethnicities, education and socio-economic levels. Illustrated through contrasting advertising images against the reality of women’s lives, and supported by discussion gatherings, and interviews, issues directly affecting women due to gender are unearthed. As Ruth McCormick wrote for Cineaste, “Finally, a film by, about and for women, a film that is really about women’s liberation in the truest and most far-reaching sense of the word…” Inspiring solidarity between women and their cohorts, The Woman’s Film became a tool for further discussion and a window into everyday lives of women who were realizing a different path for themselves and the generations to follow.
Don’t miss the screening of these three historic works and post discussion with guests Liane Brandon, Jim Hubbard, Louise Alaimo and Judith Smith, moderated by Writer and Art Historian Siona Wilson, on Sunday, April 22nd at 7:30 PM.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at https://uniondocs.org/event/2018-04-22-reexamine-reclaim-redefine-the-womans-film/
Welcome to NYWIFT, Samantha Alvarez, an independent documentary and narrative filmmaker born and raised in the Bronx with six years of camera operating and video editing experience. Alvarez started her career as a multidisciplinary teaching artist. She now works as a video freelancer and recently won the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator at the Nova Frontier Film Festival for her short mixed media documentary, "In the Body." We sat down with her to discuss her latest film, her career, and her inspirations.READ MORE
Violet Du Feng’s "Hidden Letters" tells the story of Chinese women trying to balance their lives as independent women in modern China while confronting the traditional identity that defines but also oppresses them. Connected through their love for Nushu—a centuries-old secret text shared amongst women—each of them transforms through a pivotal period of their lives and takes a step closer to becoming the individuals they know they can be. Hot off her 2022 Tribeca Festival premiere, Director Violet Du Feng, an Emmy-award winning documentarian, spoke to us about Nushu, modern-day China, women’s equality, and her filmmaking process.READ MORE
Signe Baumane’s "My Love Affair With Marriage" is a brilliant animated film for a decidedly adult audience. It’s a semi-autobiographical musical exploration of love, sex, romance, and gender as viewed through the lens of neurochemistry – not your average animated love story! New York Women in Film & Television was proud to present Baumane with a NYWIFT Ravenal Foundation Feature Film Grant for the film, and even prouder to then see it premiere at the 2022 Tribeca Festival! We sat down with Signe to discuss her wildly inventive, intelligent, and very fun film.READ MORE
Found is a compassionately told story of the girls finding one another, finding their homeland, and finding themselves. Director Amanda Lipitz and Producer Anita Gou spoke with NYWIFT Board Member Christina Kiely about the experience of making the film and the powerful and often unexpected stories that emerged in the process. This is part two of their conversation.READ MORE