By Kirsten Larvick
History is perfectly capable of repeating itself. Issues from the past that seem dated have a way of rearing their ugly heads once more to become present-day concerns. In an age when our collective memory can be short, and in the era of “disposable media,” the NYWIFT Women’s Film Preservation Fund (WFPF) and UnionDocs (UNDO) present FROM THE VAULT: WOMEN’S ADVOCACY ON FILM, a series of nine programs of preserved documentary films, screened monthly. The series considers the relationship of these films to contemporary nonfiction storytelling and makes a strong case for their preservation and continued study.
Part I of the series, RESIST, REFORM, REPEAT will open with LAS MADRES: THE MOTHERS OF PLAZA DEL MAYO (1985) and WOMEN’S VOICES: THE GENDER GAP MOVIE (1984) on Sunday, September 24th, 7:30 PM at UnionDocs in Brooklyn.
In the mid-1970s, a cohort of Argentine mothers banded together and demanded answers from their government about what had happened to their children and thousands of others who “disappeared” during Argentina’s “Dirty War,” 1976 to 1983. The mothers began marching on the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, directly in front of Casa Rosada, the presidential palace and became known as Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.) For their film of the same name, Lourdes Portillo and Susana Blaustein Munoz interviewed in 1985 female members of this women-led resistance who by use of symbols, slogans and regular silent and peaceful protests, captured the world’s attention, brought awareness to human rights atrocities, and were a catalyst in toppling the country’s dictatorship.
At almost the same moment in time, the US was facing a heated presidential election – the 1984 contest between incumbent President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale – where women also played an important role. In the prelude to the election, “the gender gap,” a voting pattern of women distinct from that of men became evident for the first time.
WOMEN’S VOICES: THE GENDER GAP MOVIE, a 16-minute piece made by Kartemquin Films, produced by Nancy Meyer and Gordon Quinn, and directed by Jenny Rohrer, focused on specific issues that women cared about: peace-building, compensation equality, environmental preservation, childcare and healthcare. Screened in both large-scale venues, such as the Democratic National Convention, and small community groups, it sparked discussion by putting real faces on these women and using the humorous commentary of Nicole Hollander’s cartoons to contextualize the political climate. Women’s votes did boost Democratic gains of additional Senate seats. Whether or not the outcome of the presidential election would have been different had Mondale focused more seriously on women’s concerns, politicians now see that women’s votes have to be considered and women have learned that they can be a unified force.
The films in this program and series are early examples of activism, investigation, and, at times, expressions of dissidence through art and by other means. They represent a history of how the moving image captures, educates, inspires and puts into perspective our lives of yesterday and today. Without access to this heritage of filmmaking, we can’t fully understand what is happening in the world today. The Women’s Film Preservation Fund works to keep women-made films alive for the long run for filmmakers and media consumers alike, so we can build upon our history as artists, documentarians and activists and create new important work.
Please join us on Sunday, September 24th, 2017, 7:30 PM at UnionDocs for the opening night of Part I, RESIST REFORM REPEAT, followed by a lively post-screening discussion with New York Women in Film & Television’s Executive Director Terry Lawler. All films featured in FROM THE VAULT: WOMAN’S ADVOCACY ON FILM were preserved by the Women’s Film Preservation Fund.
Full Series Line Up: https://uniondocs.org/fromthevault/
Buy Tickets for Sunday, September 24th at 7:30 PM: https://uniondocs.org/event/2017-09-24-resist-reform-repeat-women-activism/
Venue: UnionDocs @ 322 Union Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211
LAS MADRES is distributed by Women Make Movies and GENDER GAP is distributed by Kartemquin Film
Kirsten Larvick is Co-Chair of the Women’s Film Preservation Fund, is an archivist and documentarian. To find out more, please visit www.kirstenstudio.com