From the Vault: Women’s Advocacy on Film


In celebration of NYWIFT’s 40th Anniversary, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) and UnionDocs presentthe film series From the Vault: Women’s Advocacy on Film which features restored documentary films by women filmmakers. All films in the series were preserved by the WFPF.

Documentarians reveal the impact of events and contexts for changing attitudes that affect our communities, society, and the world. From the Vault: Women’s Advocacy on Film presents nonfiction films that have shaped movements and provided perspectives on political, environmental, and human rights issues; and ideas around gender identity and roles, sexuality, health and family, all from a woman’s perspective. These explorations of story and truth, their innovative approaches to documentary filmmaking, and their subjects continue to be relevant today to filmmakers, activists, and media consumers creatively effecting change.

UnionDocs and the WFPF invite filmmakers and cinephiles to consider what can learn from our past explorers of story and truth, and how the film’s subjects and their filmmaker’s methodologies remain important and therefore essential to preserve and keep watching.



PROGRAM 1: Sunday, September 24th, 2017, 7:30pm

Women’s Voices: The Gender Gap Movie
Jenny Rohrer (Director, Co-Producer)/Nancy Meyer (Co-Producer)/Nicole Hollander (Cartoonist)
1984, 16 min.

The historic value of this film is two-fold. As a snapshot of women’s issues leading up to a national election, it is priceless. The producers created a “get out the vote” piece in order to mobilize women voters before the 1984 election, when Ronald Reagan was running against former vice president Walter Mondale. The film was featured at the 1984 Democratic National Convention and screened at the National Convention of the Organization of Women that same year. Made by Kartemquin Films.

Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo
Lourdes Portillo and Susana Blaustein Muñoz (Directors/Writers)
1985, 64 min.

Las Madres: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo, an Academy-Award nominee, tells the story of a group of mothers, who have all lost a son or daughter during Argentina’s “Dirty War” in the 1970’s when thousands of people disappeared. They come together in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires and demand to learn the fate of their children.

VENUE: UnionDocs, 322 Union Ave Brooklyn

Vietnam: The Secret Agent
Jacki Ochs (Director)
1983, 58 min.

The Secret Agent was the first film, using now familiar archival footage, to examine the legacy of exposure to dioxin spray — better known as Agent Orange – used extensively during the Vietnam War. The film is an invaluable document that reflects on past and present U.S. wartime involvement and treatment of veterans, sustained abuse to the environment, and the residual unresolved issues of the Vietnam War. The film includes scenes of a young Al Gore and the music of renowned protest singer, Country Joe McDonald. Ochs’ documentary won a special Jury Prize at Sundance and premiered at the New York Film Festival.

Special Guests

Jacki Ochs
, Filmmaker
Merle Ratner, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign
Ngo Thanh Nhan, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign
Susan Schnall, Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign
Dick Hughes, Loose Cannons Inc.

VENUE: UnionDocs, 322 Union Ave Brooklyn


PROGRAM 3: Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, 7:30pm
Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man
Mimi Pickering (Director)
1975, 40 min.

Mimi Pickering is a documentarian whose work covers the social issues of Appalachia. This documentary investigates the 1972 coal waste dam disaster that flooded a surrounding southern West Virginia with water and sludge, killing 125 and leaving thousands homeless.

Special Guests:
Mimi Pickering, Director via SKYPE
Sylvia Ryerso, Radio Producer, Sound artist, Journalist and Musician
Michelle Miller, Labor rights activist/Co-Founder, Moderator

VENUE: UnionDocs, 322 Union Ave Brooklyn


PROGRAM 4: Sunday, January 28th, 2018, 7:30pm

The Wobblies
Deborah Shaffer, Stewart Bird (Directors)
1979, 90 min.

The Wobblies documents the early 20th century radical labor union, The Industrial Workers of the World, and is one of the first films to extend the genre beyond interviews and verité-style photography to include dramatic voice-overs and materials such as cartoons, paintings and posters.

Special Guests: Filmmakers Deborah Shaffer and Stewart Bird; Tanya Goldman, Department of Cinema Studies, NYU (Moderator)

PROGRAM 5: Sunday, February 25th, 2018, 7:30pm

Harlan County USA
Barbara Kopple (Director)
1976, 103 min.

Oscar-winning documentary film covering the “Brookside Strike”, an effort of 180 coal miners and their wives against the Duke Power Company-owned Eastover Coal Company’s Brookside Mine and Prep Plant in Harlan County, southeast Kentucky in 1973. Harlan County USA was preserved as a Legacy project by the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, in association with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Special Guest: Director Barbara Kopple



PROGRAM 6: Sunday, March 25th, 2018, 7:30pm

Growing Up Female
Julia Reichert, Jim Klein (Directors)
1970, 53 min.

A lyrical examination of the socialization of American women. In concise portraits, the film introduces the audience to girls and women ages five to 34 and looks at the ways their lives and self-concepts are shaped by the institutions of marriage, school, advertising and popular culture. Considered by many to be one of the first second-wave feminist documentaries made.

Janie’s Janie
Geri Ashur, Bev Grant, Marilyn Mulford, Stephanie Palewski, Peter Barton (Filmmakers)
1970, 25 min.

Janie’s Janie is part of the film collection of Third World Newsreel, whose works represent vibrant documents of the 1960’s women’s movement, the role of women in the overall protest movement, and the thinking of young women at that time in history. The very existence of these films resulted from struggles around gender issues within Newsreel. Janie’s Janie is a “personal documentary” that follows a woman who comes to realize that she has to control her own life, after years of experiencing physical and mental abuse, illustrated through both interviews and verite footage.

Special Guests: Producer Stephanie Palewski and Filmmaker Peter Barton; and Filmmaker Julia Reichert (via Skype)

Moderated by Kelly Anderson, Dept. of Film and Media Studies & Integrated Media Arts MFA Program, Hunter College (CUNY)


VENUE: UnionDocs, 322 Union Ave Brooklyn


PROGRAM 7: Sunday, April 22nd, 2018, 7:30pm

Betty Tells Her Story
Liane Brandon (Director)
1972, 20 min.

Betty Tells Her Story is considered ground-breaking in the documentary genre and has gained iconic status. In two continuous takes, a woman sitting in a chair tells a story about the purchase of a dress. First, Betty describes how she needed “the perfect dress” for a very special occasion and humorously explains in detail how she found just the right one, spent more than she could afford for it, modeled it for admiring friends, felt absolutely transformed and then…never got to wear it. Then Betty is asked to tell her story again, but this time the story is strikingly different. While the facts remain the same, Betty reveals her anxiety over buying the dress, her discomfort at being praised for beauty she feels she doesn’t have, and her disappointment at losing the rare opportunity to be “beautiful.” The contrast between the two stories reveals her deeper feeling about herself and her place in the world.

Special Guest: Director Liane Brandon


All Women Are Equal
Marguerite Paris (Producer/Director/DP/Editor)
1972, 15 min.

A black and white portrait of a trans woman named Paula, made by veteran lesbian filmmaker Marguerite Paris. This very early, non-exploitative representation of an ordinary well-adjusted transgender person is historically significant for its treatment of the subject. Paris produced, directed, shot, and edited this film, which, unlike other versions, allowed the individual to tell a personal story, without resorting to spectacle or focusing on performativity. Through Paris’s lens, we are given real insight into both the era and Paula’s sense of self.

Special Guest: Jim Hubbard, Filmmaker/Programmer

The Woman’s Film
Louise Alaimo, Judith Smith, Ellen Sorin (Filmmakers)
1970, 40 min.

A valuable historical document of the origins of the modern women’s movement in the U.S. The film delves into the lives of ordinary women from different races, educational levels and social class backgrounds. Filmed mostly in small consciousness-raising groups, from which the women’s movement grew, the women talk about the daily realities of their lives as wives, home-makers, and workers. They speak, sometimes with hesitancy, often with passion, about the oppression of women as they see it. The Woman’s Film, originally produced by San Francisco Newsreel, is part of the Third World Newsreel film collection.

Special Guest: Filmmaker Judith Smith


VENUE: UnionDocs, 322 Union Ave Brooklyn


PROGRAM 8: Sunday, May 20th, 2018, 7:30pm

Anything You Want to Be
Liane Brandon (Director)
1971, 8 min.

Anything You Want to Be explores the collision of a teenager’s dreams with social expectations and sex-role stereotypes. In a series of vignettes, a high school girl finds that, despite her parents’ assurance that she can be “anything she wants to be,” reality presents another story. It was one of the first independent films of the early women’s movement to explore the external pressures and the more subtle internal pressures a girl faces in finding her identity.

Special Guest: Director Liane Brandon

Joe and Maxi
Maxi Cohen, Joe Gold (Directors)
1973, 80 min.

Joe and Maxi is an intimate and revealing portrait of the relationship between a father and daughter. Begun as an attempt to get to know her father, Cohen’s film ended up dealing with a diagnosis of cancer and subsequent death. A breakthrough verité film, it portrays universal emotions while exposing family interactions and raising ethics issues involved in documentary filmmaking.

Special Guest: Director Maxi Cohen

Deirdre Boyle, Media Critic & Historian, Moderator, Post Screening Discussion

CLOSING PROGRAM: Sunday, June 24th, 2018, 7:30pm

An Activist’s Guide to Preservation: Keeping Born Analog & Digital Works Alive & Relevant
Once a production has been completed documentarians are often consumed with their next project. Although intention exists to keep the work alive for the long run — preservation and accessibility maintenance is another job in and of itself, and a line item that isn’t usually included in production budgets. Sustainability of one’s body of work is essential to our shared discipline, to keep our stories in the conversation, to maintain its relevancy and aid each artist’s livelihood.

Join Women’s Film Preservation Fund members along with other expert archival and restoration collaborators in the analog and digital fields of the industry. Learn more about the how and why of preservation. During this panel discussion accompanied by case study examples, guest speakers will explore archival best practices, preservation and restoration planning and execution and ways artists can continue to monetize their project assets over a lifetime.

This series is curated by
WFPF Co-Chair Kirsten Larvick,
with programming assistance from
Co-Chair Ann Deborah Levy and Raquel Salazar-Foster

Special Thanks
Christopher Allen and Jenny Miller

The Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) is the only program in the world dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of women in the industry through preserving films made by women. Founded in 1995 by NYWIFT in conjunction with the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), WFPF has preserved more than 130 American films, across all genres, in which women have played key creative roles. The WFPF is rewriting the film history books, by saving one moving picture at a time.

UnionDocs (UNDO) is a non-profit Center for Documentary Art that presents and produces pioneering records of reality. The organization brings together a diverse community of activist artists, experimental media-makers, dedicated journalists, big thinkers, and local partners. UnionDocs is on a search for urgent expressions of the human experience, practical perspectives on the world today, and compelling visions for the future.

September 24 @ 7:30pm
7:30 pm — 9:30 pm (2h)

322 Union Ave Brooklyn

Join the conversation on social media:
#nywift | @nywift

NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.