A collection of reviews of films from off the beaten path; a travel guide for those who love the cinematic world and want more than the mainstream releases.
Monday, December 18, 2017
Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women's Stories Starts February 2 at The Metrograph
15 Programs Include Films by Chantal Akerman, Agnés Varda, Joyce Chopra, Barbara Hammer, Yvonne Rainer, Delphine Seyrig, Chick Strand, Claire Simon, Christine Choy, Kate Millett, and more!
“One of the most powerful social and political catalysts of the past decade has been the speaking of women with other women, the telling of our secrets, the comparing of wounds and sharing of words... In order to change what is, we need to give speech to what has been, to imagine together what might be.” – Adrienne Rich, Motherhood: The Contemporary Emergency and the Quantum Leap (1979)
Beginning Friday February 2, Metrograph will present "Tell Me: Women Filmmakers, Women's Stories," a 15 program series, which celebrates female filmmakers who took the simple, radical step of allowing women space and time to talk about their lives. Working in idioms from cinema verite to essay film to agitprop, the assembled films all share a startling intimacy between camera and subject. Whether through the bonds of shared experience, or merely genuine interest, these portraits capture women talking about trauma and sexual identity; summoning new language to describe the long simmering injustices and frustrations we still face today; making jokes; admitting insecurities; and organizing for the future. This series features works by Chantal Akerman, Vivienne Dick, Camille Billops, Chick Strand, Yvonne Rainer, Joyce Chopra, Kate Millett, Su Friedrich, Peggy Ahwesh, Delphine Seyrig, Stanya Kahn, Agnes Varda, and Michelle Citron. Programmed by Nellie Killian.
Special thanks to Elena Rossi-Snook, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New Day Films, Women Make Movies, The Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Institut français, Academy Film Archive, and Third World Newsreel, Celebrating 50 Years of Progressive Media.
Soft Fiction (Chick Strand/1979/54 mins/16mm) From Romance to Ritual (Peggy Ahwesh/1985/20 mins/16mm) “Ethnographic films can and should be works of art, symphonies about the fabric of a people, celebrations of the tenacity and uniqueness of the human spirit.” Chick Strand, Wide Angle (1978). Made in collaboration with her subjects, Chick Strand’s masterpiece Soft Fiction gives five women the space to, in her words, perform “an exorcism of [an] experience.” Strand captures the slippery, vivid memories of erotic fantasy, confusing sexual encounters, addiction, incest and historical trauma, laying bare narratives dual function of expressing and containing experience. Screening with Peggy Ahwesh’s From Romance to Ritual.
Kathy (Stanya Kahn/2009/31 mins/DCP Sandra (Stanya Kahn/2009/40 mins/DCP) Unusual entries in Stanya Kahn’s filmography, in Kathy and Sandra the artist presents deceptively simple portraits of two of the most important women in her life: her best friend of 20 years and her mother. Shot in domestic spaces and with the intimacy that only comes with decades of shared history, Kahn talks with Kathy about her recent, complicated c-section and with Sandra on her end of life wishes. Kahn’s love and respect for her subjects, and their ease in front of her camera, bring the viewer into their well-worn dynamic, where a conversation about pain management segues seamlessly into hysterics over a family member’s narcissism and back again.
Daughter Rite (Michelle Citron/1978/53 mins/16mm) Suzanne, Suzanne (Camille Billops and James Hatch/1982/30 mins/16mm) Two works excavating the filmmakers' personal family traumas. Daughter Rite uses a hybrid approach, mixing a montage of her family’s home movies with voiceover, interviews and scripted scenes shot to look like a documentary of two sisters attempting to resolve long standing resentments while figuring out how to care for their hospitalized mother. One of several films Billops made with James Hatch about her family, Suzanne, Suzanne presents a devastating portrait of the artist’s niece, haunted by the abuse she suffered as a child and the passivity of the family members who allowed it to continue.
Dis-moi (Tell Me) (Chantal Akerman/1980/45 mins/DCP) The Ties That Bind (Su Friedrich/1985/52 mins/DCP) In these personal documentaries, both Chantal Akerman and Su Friedrich investigate their familial connection to the legacy of World War II. Made for a French television series about grandmothers, Akerman interviews elderly women who survived the Shoah, including her own mother, whose experience in the Holocaust reverberated through the artist’s life and work. In The Ties That Bind, Friedrich creates a dialogue between past and present, presenting her mother’s recollections of growing up in Nazi Germany with images of contemporary Germany, the artist’s life current life in Chicago, and commentary on her complicated relationship to her mother’s experience.
Privilege (Yvonne Rainer/1990/103 mins/16mm) One of Yvonne Rainer’s most narratively complex films, Privilege shifts from a documentary about women going through the process of menopause to an autobiographical meta-film exploring the power dynamics underpinning experience, memory, and the manner in which women’s stories are told.
Sois belle et tais-toi (Be Pretty and Shut Up) (Delphine Seyrig/1981/115 mins/DCP) Réponse de femmes: Notre corps, notre sexe (Women Reply) (Agnés Varda/1975/8 mins/35mm) One of the most iconic actresses of the 20th century and an ardent feminist who worked almost exclusively with female directors late in her career, Delphine Seyrig’s turns behind the camera have largely been ignored. In Be Pretty and Shut Up, Seyrig interviews some of the most famous actresses in the world, including Juliet Berto, Ellen Burstyn, Jane Fonda, Shirley MacLaine, Louise Fletcher, Maria Schneider, Barbara Steele, Viva, Anne Wiazemsky and more about their experiences in the movie industry, the dearth of roles, and the struggle for respect. Screening with Réponse de femmes: Notre corps, notre sexe, a short documentary letting women answer the the question “What Does It Mean to Be A Woman?”
The Salt Mines (Carlos Aparicio, Susana Aikin/1990/47 mins/DCP) Transformation (Carlos Aparicio, Susana Aikin/1995/58 mins/DCP) Released the same year as Paris is Burning, Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio’s The Salt Mines focused on three homeless Lantinx trans women living in a parking lot for old garbage trucks on Manhattan’s West Side, documenting the daily life and hardship of those living on the margins of society. With The Transformation, Aiken and Aparicio find one of the most engaging subjects of The Salt Mines living as a man in Texas, forced to transition back by an evangelical missionary that offered her much needed shelter and safety in exchange.
Mimi (Claire Simon/2003/105 mins/35mm) Set on a series of long walks through the streets of Nice and the mountain village of Saorge, Mimi charts the psychogeography of the filmmaker’s long time friend Mimi Chiola. Simon allows her subject to guide the conversation, pulling the viewer into Mimi’s discursive, enveloping stories of love, sex, work, life and friendship.
Inside Women Inside (Christine Choy and Cynthia Maurizio/1978/28 mins/DCP) To Love Honor & Obey (Christine Choy and Darlene Dann/1980/55 mins/DCP) Two incendiary newsreels: To Love Honor & Obey takes hard look at domestic abuse, interviewing survivors, social workers, police officers, and male abusers, laying bare the prejudices and attitudes that allow the problem of domestic violence to persist. Inside Women Inside offers a rare look at the degradation faced by women incarcerated in a criminal justice system that disregards their basic humanity, from inedible food to neglected medical needs.
Janie’s Janie (Geri Ashur/1971/25 mins/16mm) Three Lives (Kate Millett and Susan Kleckner/1971/70 mins/16mm) One of the most moving documentaries of the era, Newsreel’s Janie’s Janie breaks with their usual format for a more personal approach, following one woman’s journey to self-determination, or as Janie says, “First I was my father’s Janie, then I was my Charlie’s Janie, now I’m Janie’s Janie.” Screening with Three Lives, a triptych of portraits of different women made by an all female crew, including feminist icon Kate Millett, with the express purpose of initiating a new kind of cinema by women and for women. Melissa Anderson writes in ArtForum, “Born of the then thriving personal-is-political impulse, Three Lives records a specific moment in another era yet still remains vital and absorbing today.”
Audience (Barbara Hammer/1981/32 mins/16mm) Conversations with Intellectuals about Selena (Lourdes Portillo/1999/58 mins/DCP) Two freewheeling films about art, audience and reception: an incredible document of the LGBT film scene in the early 1980s (as well as Barbara Hammer’s off the charts charisma), Audience finds the artist working in a more straightforward documentary mode, interviewing the largely lesbian audiences at various festivals and retrospectives before and after screenings of her work. From the anticipation on line before the show to the in-depth discussions after the film, Hammer shines a light on women seeing themselves represented on screen for the first time. In Conversations with Intellectuals about Selena, Lourdes Portillo brings a group of Chicana Intellectuals together to talk about the life and legacy of crossover Tejana music icon Selena Quintanilla.
Always Love Your Man (Cara Devito/1975/21 mins/DCP) Clotheslines (Roberta Cantow/1982/32 mins/16mm) Chris and Bernie (Bonnie Friedman and Deborah Shaffer/1975/25 mins/16mm) Joyce at 34 (Joyce Chopra and Claudia Weill/1972/28 mins/16mm) Four films about domestic life: Always Love Your Man, Cara Devito’s intimate portrait of her grandmother, recounting the abuse she suffered at her husband’s hands; Clotheslines, a film that takes laundry seriously as a form of folkart, a fraught social signifier and lens for women to reflect on the joys, pains and ambivalences of household chores; Chris and Bernie, the story of two young single mothers who join forces to make a new kind of family unit for themselves and their children; and Joyce at 34, Joyce Chopra and Claudia Weill’s ground-breaking documentary about the difficulty of balancing family and career.
Yudie (Mirra Bank/1974/20 mins/16mm) Fannie’s Film (Fronza Woods/1979/15 mins/DCP) Keltie's Beard (Barbara Halpern Martineau/1983/9 min/16mm) Baby Doll (Tessa Hughes-Freeland/1982/3 mins/16mm) Betty Tells Her Story (Liane Brandon/1972/20 mins/16mm) Guérillère Talks (Vivienne Dick/1978/28min/DCP) Portraits of women living ordinary and eccentric lives including Yudie, focusing on an elderly Lower East Side lifer, looking back at a life lived on her own terms; Fannie’s Film, Fronza Woods' beautiful portrait of an older cleaning woman going through her day’s work while revealing her thoughts and aspirations in voiceover;Keltie’s Beard, in which a woman rhapsodizes about the pride she takes in her beard; Baby Doll, a film of two topless dancers preparing for work while talking about their job and their patrons; in Betty Tells Her Story, a woman tells the story of finding and losing the perfect dress twice, first as a humorous anecdote, then as a fulcrum of her anxieties and insecurities; and Guérillère Talks, Vivienne Dick’s single-reel portraits of No Wave icons including Pat Place and Lydia Lunch.
It Happens To Us (Amalie R Rothschild/1973/23 mins/16mm) The Women’s Film (Women's Caucus--San Francisco Newsreel/1971/40 mins/16mm) An incredible document of the ferment of the women’s movement, The Women’s Film was largely shot in consciousness raising groups, where women from different walks of life came together to discuss their daily lives and develop solidarity around their growing understanding of the oppression they all face. Screening with It Happens To Us, a plea for a women’s right to choose released a year before Roe v Wade. Rothchild lays out the dire realities of illegal abortion, while interviewing women from a variety of backgrounds who made the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
Veronica (Pat Powell/1970/28 mins/16mm) Growing Up Female (Julia Reichert and Jim Klein/1971/53 mins/16mm) Hailed by Susan Sontag (“One of those painful experiences that’s good for you”), Gloria Steinem (“A true and piercing look at American womanhood”), and Elizabeth Hardwick (“In its unadorned truthfulness there is a sad and simple poetry, and a lesson about the lives of all of us”), Julia Reichert and Jim Klein’sGrowing Up Female was a touchstone of 1970s feminism, illuminating the forces that shaped the lives and self-images of six girls and women. Screening with Veronica, a short documentary about a black high school leader from 1970.