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Review by Dandan Zou
Mid-1970s was a time when men dominated the film industry, and women served as the foil to the success of men. Tired of listening to radio about political leaders, watching TV about wars and reading newspaper about images of women all done by men, unsatisfied women started to look into private lives that were missing in media and public discourse through cameras.
Young woman filmmakers such as Julia Reichert, Amalie Rothschild and Jill Godmilow took the cameras into their own hands and created documentaries that examined the existing system and challenged it with creativity and courage. This enables us to sit down at Ragtag Cinema and have the privilege to acknowledge those women who might otherwise submerge from a history written by men.
Union Maids (1976)
As indicated in the beginning of the film — a black and white portrait of a woman — this is less about the labor movement itself in 1930s, but more about the strength and courage of women in this historical event through the oral recounting of three women living in that movement. It’s not a feminist movement, but women’s liberation movement, Reichert said before she showed the documentary.
Three protagonists in the film, Stella, Sylvia and Kate labeled themselves as radicals, people who don’t agree with the traditional paths set for women. It started when Kate’s grandma refused to get up early in the morning to cook for the entire family the first day of her marriage, which was a ritual for all newly married women.
Nana, Mom, and Me (1974)
Doubting one’s own identity among women is a long-time struggle that never ends. We have come a long way and still have a long way to go. As director Amalie R. Rothschild’s mom said in the documentary Nana, Mom, and Me, she followed the pattern rigorously set up by her own mother and never considered another way to live her own life until she turned 30.
Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman (1995)
It was heart breaking for everyone sitting in the dark of a theater to see how a talented conductor Antonia Brico being restricted from conducting concerts because of her gender in Antonia: A Portrait of the Woman (1995) by Jill Godmilow. Brico organized an all-woman symphony orchestra, and when a newspaper headline that read, “Are Women Musician People” showed up on the screen, the audience broke into laughter. The director also innovatively used animation to represent how Brico challenged another male conductor, which didn’t seem appropriate in certain filmmakers’ eyes — but that’s what makes a women-directed film unique: to do things differently and challenge the status quo.
VOX rating: VVVV
THE RATING SYSTEM
VVVVV = AWESOME! SEE IT TWICE
VVVV = DEFINITELY GO SEE IT
VVV = HMM… IT’S OKAY
VV = EH… DVD MAYBE?
V = DON’T BOTHER
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