A Feminist Film (1988)

A Feminist Film (1988)
(1min) 16mm, b/w, silent
Director: Anne Chamberlain
Grant Awarded to Jennifer Maher, Indiana University
Archive: UCLA Film & Television Archive


An experimental cinematic “Rorschach Test” examining the relationships between feminism and film.

The film depicts a surge of pedestrians passing in front of the lens through a public doorway. As random people enter and exit, half of the population is metaphorically “erased” from the framed universe through hand-applied ink blots that dance across the image. The result is a “spin” on the film theory concept of “symbolic annihilation” interrogating how gender is depicted in media and culture.

“A Feminist Film” is a visual illustration drawn from a Women and Film Class discussion of what has come to be called the Bechdel Test. A reverse film universe is created which privileges women in the frame. Although individual men are “erased,” they still draw the spectator’s attention through the hand animation effect of “boiling,” inspiring interrogation into the impact of biased representation in general. It was first screened publicly at the Ryder Film Fest in Bloomington IN as an opener to films by Percy Adlon and Pedro Almadovar. It has screened often in retrospective programs since the 1990s.

In response to her lasting contributions to filmmaking and film scholarship, Anne Chamberlain was recently commissioned by the Moving Image Archive at her alma mater, Indiana University, to shoot a work on 16mm for their 100th Anniversary Celebration of that celluloid format. Her New Queer Cinema series of independent experimental 16mm short films and videos (made between 1987-2000) tackle an array of controversial themes that have mushroomed in urgency, testifying to the intersectionality of gender, race, class, and media in the digital/global pandemic age. Chamberlain helped establish and launch new film courses at the Harvey Milk Institute and in the Women’s Studies and Gay and Lesbian Studies Departments at City College of San Francisco as well as online at the Academy of Art University in the decades since. Her oeuvre includes work that tackles Black Lives Matter and the MeToo Movement since before those phrases were coined, and her pandemic-themed short, “Condomnation,”1992, is the first theatrical film tackling the issue of lesbians with AIDS. “Premenstrual” (1992), stands out for archiving the filmmaker’s own DNA on clear film leader as image emulsion substance. In 2019, retrospectives of her work were held at Cinema Camp Festival in Salos, Lithuania, and the Echo Park Film Center in Los Angeles.