By Kirsten Larvick
In their seventh program in the series From the Vault: Women’s Advocacy on Film, the Women’s Film Preservation Fund and UnionDocs present three significant films of the 1970s which consider ideas around gender.
While each work shares this commonality, they are distinctive among themselves in both form and what they examine within the context of gender.
Betty Tells Her Story (dir. Liane Brandon, 1972)
In filmmaker Liane Brandon’s Betty Tells Her Story (1972), Brandon invites her interview subject, Betty, to recount a memory of purchasing a dress, not once but twice. In the second telling, Betty expresses deeper feelings, stemming from a variety of forces including societal influences. As Betty’s story unfolds, she gradually begins to look at the underlying meaning of the day’s events. Her raw honesty acts as an invitation for looking within. Gene Siskel wrote for the Chicago Tribune, “… this is a film about human beings – how they talk and feel, hide and reveal and hurt.” Together filmmaker and interviewee create a vivid study of the intersection between gender and identity, and how individuals form their sense of self and what internal and outside pressures take part.
All Women Are Equal (dir. Marguerite Paris, 1972)
In an era of little awareness around transgender persons and before the definition of gender was reconsidered, filmmaker/artist Marguerite Paris objectively followed Paula as she engaged in daily routines, while speaking frankly about life as a transgender person. Through Paris’ sharp eye and use of her handheld camera, an intimate and almost nonexistent glimpse of 1970s trans life was captured without commentary or critical angle in All Women Are Equal (1972). Paula candidly represented herself, speaking of life’s benefits and challenges around choices she made in order to live authentically. The 15-minute film became unprecedented within the framework of documented personal outlooks from trans communities outside of drag performance or exploitative approaches. Jim Hubbard, a filmmaker, programmer and LGBT activist wrote of Paris’ seminal work, [it is] “one of the first, if not the first, interview with a trans person.”
The Woman’s Film (dir. Louise Alaimo, Judith Smith, Ellen Sorrin, 1970)
In 1967 activist filmmaker collective, Third World Newsreel (originally New York Newsreel) was formed and by the 1970s the group was broadening their reach and using consciousness raising groups to document and strengthen the modern women’s movement in addition to other social issues. The Woman’s Film (1970) made by the San Francisco Newsreel collective (directors Louise Alaimo, Judith Smith, Ellen Sorrin) was a collaborative effort between filmmakers and subjects focusing on concerns among women of various ethnicities, education and socio-economic levels. Illustrated through contrasting advertising images against the reality of women’s lives, and supported by discussion gatherings, and interviews, issues directly affecting women due to gender are unearthed. As Ruth McCormick wrote for Cineaste, “Finally, a film by, about and for women, a film that is really about women’s liberation in the truest and most far-reaching sense of the word…” Inspiring solidarity between women and their cohorts, The Woman’s Film became a tool for further discussion and a window into everyday lives of women who were realizing a different path for themselves and the generations to follow.
Don’t miss the screening of these three historic works and post discussion with guests Liane Brandon, Jim Hubbard, Louise Alaimo and Judith Smith, moderated by Writer and Art Historian Siona Wilson, on Sunday, April 22nd at 7:30 PM.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at https://uniondocs.org/event/2018-04-22-reexamine-reclaim-redefine-the-womans-film/