The Women’s Film Preservation Fund 2016 Grants are awarded to five groundbreaking works from the 1920s and 1970s

By Ann Deborah Levy

The NYWIFT Women’s Film Preservation Fund’s (WFPF’s) 2016 grants have now been awarded. The films include three shorts from the 1920’s by pioneering filmmaker Angela Murray Gibson and two important films from the 1970’s, SISTERS! by Barbara Hammer and Women’s Happy Time Commune by Sheila Paige. The preserved film elements of the films, all shot on 16mm, will be stored under optimal climatic conditions in archives and digital scans will also be made to provide more projection options for public screenings. When preservation is completed, we will announce preservation premiere screenings.

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Angela Murray Gibson behind the camera

Angela Murray Gibson was one of the early “camerawomen” during the silent era. She provided film for Kinograms, and then launched her own Gibson Studios in Casselton, North Dakota. Her studio produced educational, industrial and entertainment films in which she was featured as an actress, in addition to serving as writer, director, producer and camerawoman. Her films were mostly shot in the North Dakota area, and she recruited local townspeople to act in her films. The three Gibson films awarded a WFPF 2016 grant are:

That Ice Ticket: To entice potential suitors, a woman posts a sign offering “Free Ice.” Her young brother, in order to weed out unsuitable potential suitors, replaces it with a “SMALLPOX” sign. (1923) b/w,16mm, silent, running time: 10 minutes.

The Adams’s Boys: The film is based on the poem of the same name by local North Dakota Poet James Foley, which describes the joyful escapades of the young Adams brothers. (1923) b/w,16mm, silent, running time: 12 minutes.

Arrested For Life: Nora Johnson arrives in town to look for work and approaches a local policeman who directs her to prospective employers. She has trouble at work and loses her job. In a case of mistaken identity, a marriage proposal is given to the wrong person, a small chase ensues, and finally all is straightened out. Nora ends up in the employ of the policeman. (1923) b/w,16mm, silent, running time: 21 minutes.

The three films are in the permanent collection of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, the grantee.

The WFPF acknowledges Kino Lorber as a preservation partner in bringing awareness to filmmaker Angela Murray Gibson, some of whose films will be included in their forthcoming First Women Filmmakers DVD collection, funded through their successful Kickstarter campaign last fall.

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A still from SISTERS!

Barbara Hammer, Producer, Director, Editor, is considered a pioneer of queer cinema. A visual artist working primarily in film, she has made over 80 moving image works in a career that spans 40 years, many of which have won awards and screened in prestigious film festivals and film venues internationally. She has been honored in retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Tate Modern in London, the Jeu de Paume in Paris, and the Toronto International Film Festival. A recipient of a number grants, she has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Marie Walsh Sharpe artist studio grant. She writes on film and authored the book, Hammer! Making Movies Out of Sex and Life published by The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2010.

SISTERS! This experimental documentary is a celebration and film collage of lesbians, which features footage of the Women’s International Day march in San Francisco and joyous dancing from the last night of the second Lesbian Conference where Family of Woman played as well as images of women doing all types of traditional “men’s” work. The film begins with the following narration: “I had a dream of women where men used to be: building, working, growing strong, building their bodies into strength for self-defense.” (1973) 16mm, b/w and color, sound. Running time: 8 minutes. The film will be archived at the Academy Film Archive, Los Angeles. Barbara Hammer is the grant recipient.

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Frames from Women’s Happy Time Commune

Sheila Paige, Director. In partnership with Ariel Dougherty, she was co-founder of Women Make Movies, Inc., and co-director from 1972-1975. In addition to Women’s Happy Time Commune, she has produced and directed films and videos and also interactive online theater productions for the Upstage Festivals 2008 and 2009. As a script supervisor, she has worked in the film industry on many major motion pictures, including the notable features King of Comedy and Good Fellas, and on TV movies and series such as Orange is the New Black and Gossip Girl. Currently, she is pursuing a new video project and writing and illustrating children’s books.

Women’s Happy Time Commune: is an improvised comedy/western, in which the Old West becomes the stomping ground for a motley crew of young and middle-aged women who are considering banding together to form a commune. During the course of the film, women discuss a number of subjects, their fantasies, and the idea of a future “happy time” without men. Women’s Happy Time Commune offers a lively immersion into the feminist ferment of the early 1970’s. (1972) 16mm, color, with sound. Running time: 42 minutes. The film will be archived at Anthology Film Archives, New York City. Sheila Paige is the grantee.

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A promo for Women’s Happy Time Commune

The WFPF regrets that there were not enough funds available to award grants to all of the important films we would have liked to preserve. Costs of preservation continue to climb and the resources for funding do not keep pace with the increasing and vast number of films needing to be saved.

This is an especially important time for women’s voices to be heard and to create greater awareness of their legacy in film by giving these films even greater visibility. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to support our work so that we can preserve more of these unique and significant films and get them out in the world once again.

To make a contribution online or by check, please click here.

See more information on the WFPF. Email us at wfpf@nywift.org, and follow us on Facebook.

Ann Deborah Levy is Co-Chair of the Women’s Film Preservation Fund Steering Committee and makes experimental films. For more information on her films and videos, please visit: www.resonantimages.com

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