Pre-Menstrual (1992)

Pre-Menstrual (1992)
(1min) 16mm, color, silent
Director: Anne Chamberlain
Grant Awarded to Jennifer Maher, Indiana University
Archive: UCLA Film & Television Archive


An experimental ‘camera-less’ examination of a menstrual cycle.

Film opens with a hand drawn royal blue text on clear film leader, reminiscent of corporate menstrual product advertising. Deconstructing the film’s title into four parts, patriarchal information control is deconstructed as menstrual cycle is documented with blood applied directly to film, one drop per frame.

Arguably the “bloodiest” film ever made, Premenstrual was created in the tradition of experimental camera-less filmmaking. Its implementation of human DNA as image emulsion sets it apart in film history from other works of the same genre. It also questions the potential for “cloning” the filmmaker in the future through film archiving.

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, Condemnation (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.