NYWIFT’s Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) is nominating five WFPF-preserved films for inclusion on the National Film Registry this year that show a range of issues and innovative approaches to filmmaking practiced by women makers.
The National Film Registry of the Library of Congress selects 25 films each year showcasing the range and diversity of American film heritage to increase awareness for its preservation. Public nominations play a key role when the Librarian and Film Board are considering their final selections. You can nominate up to 50 titles per year. The Women’s Film Preservation Fund selects a handful of films per year which it has preserved that are particularly relevant and timely for nomination. Among your other nominations, please include:
1) Anything You Want To Be (Liane Brandon, 1971)
Anything You Want To Be was one of the earliest and most popular films of the Women’s Movement. In a series of comical vignettes, a bright high school girl finds that, despite her parents’ assurance that she can be “anything she wants to be,” she is repeatedly foiled by social expectations and media stereotypes. This groundbreaking film about a teenager’s collision with gender role stereotypes was one of the first to explore the pressures a girl faces in finding her identity. This is a historic feminist film about socialization and the illusion of free choice, and it continues to resonate today.
2) Betty Tells Her Story (Liane Brandon, 1972)
Betty Tells Her Story is the poignant tale of beauty, identity and a dress – and it is considered a classic of documentary filmmaking. It is the saga of Betty’s search for “the perfect dress” – how she found just the right one . . . and never got to wear it. Then Betty tells her story again. The contrast between the two stories is haunting. Made in 1972, it was the first independent film of the Women’s Movement to explore the issues of body image, self-worth and beauty in American culture – and it has become one of the most enduring.
3) Illusions (Julie Dash, 1983)
NYWIFT Muse Award Honoree Julie Dash directs Illusions (1983), which follows Mignon Duprée, a black woman studio executive who is white-passing and Ester Jeeter, an African American woman who sings for a white Hollywood star as they are forced to come to grips with a society that perpetuates false images as status quo. This highly-acclaimed drama by one of the leading African American women directors follows Mignon’s dilemma, Ester’s struggle and the use of cinema in wartime Hollywood: three illusions in conflict with reality. There is no better time to revisit this film as it grapples with the complexities of intersectionality and acknowledges the systemic problems of sexual harassment and racism in Hollywood.
4) Attica (Cinda Firestone Fox, 1974)
This documentary details the 1971 prisoner uprising at Attica, initiated in protest of deplorable conditions. Uniting across lines of race and ideology, prisoners created a manifesto, and after four days of negotiations, Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered military action to retake the prison by force. Forty-three men were killed in the government-sponsored massacre, and surviving prisoners were beaten and tortured. This monumental investigation of the rebellion and its aftermath assembled documentary footage of the occupation and ensuing assault with video from the McKay Commission hearings and first-hand interviews with prisoners. Filmmaker Cinda Firestone Fox revealed to Americans the troubling circumstances around incarceration and human rights that were previously ignored.
5) Ellis Island (Meredith Monk and Bob Rosen, 1982)
Ellis Island (1981), directed by Meredith Monk and Bob Rosen, is a dreamlike, reflective film about history and memory, that utilizes dancers, actors, music, and tableaux vivants to illustrate the immigrants’ experience of Ellis Island, an in-between space between the many lands they had left/fled and the country they hoped to join. The film demonstrates how Monk, a pioneering performance artist, choreographer, and composer, is a master of joining these expressive mediums and adding images and film to make a unique work of art. Ellis Island, a “ghost story” of sorts about our American collective past, is a powerful reminder of how entwined in our national identity, our immigrant past is.
To date over 700 films have been added to the Registry. A little more than 40 of these films on the list are women directed works. These films are incredibly important and include WFPF preserved titles, but we’d like to see this number increase exponentially. This would help increase awareness of women’s contribution and place in cinematic history and reflect the diverse significant voices we bring to the artform. There are many other WFPF films that have yet to be nominated. See the full list of WFPF preserved titles here.
Nominate a WFPF preservation today or nominate another woman-made film. The films elected can be in need of preservation, or can be those which have already been preserved, but must be at least 10 years old.
The nomination form link closes on September 15, 2019, so be sure to get your nominations in before the deadline.