It’s no coincidence to me that three years later Lizzie Borden would direct ‘Born in Flames,’ a film that depicts a collection of different feminist voices all aligned in a common goal of resisting what bell hooks terms the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.
In a radically empathic way, we feel the emotional pain both women face when Evelyn’s desire to be dominated is greater than Cynthia’s will to dominate. This deftly expressed when we see identical scenes enacted from each woman’s perspective. Take the golden shower scene: the door closes, we hear water running, and then the sound of Evelyn choking. Since we’ve just been introduced to them, its Evelyn who wins our sympathies and Cynthia that seems aggressive in punishment.
There’s an unapologetic sweetness to this film, in part because it is directed by Macaulee and Kascha’s sister, Saffron and their mother, Brenda Rusnak. However, to my great relief, it does well to avoid too much sentiment. After all, the same Internet that has given us Skyping with grandma has also given us an endless pit of ugliness.
What is the role of difference in feminism? When in doubt, ask Audre Lorde. In 1980, she delivered a lecture entitled “Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” (later published in ‘Sister Outsider’) in which she states, “There is a pretense to homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.” It’s no coincidence to me that three years later Lizzie Borden would direct ‘Born in Flames,’ a film that depicts a collection of different feminist voices all aligned in a common goal of resisting what bell hooks terms the white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.
This post is inspired by Alison Nastasi’s “50 Essential Feminist Films,” an excellent survey of films that is a kind of resource guide for those of us interested in exploring feminist film history. Though not exhaustive, Nastasi’s list is an exciting place to extend the conversation about the ways that feminist questions and concerns have been depicted in films in and outside of Hollywood in the past several decades. What’s more, this list is also a site for discovering films I didn’t even know to look for.
Like many film lovers, I have found my life much enhanced by the many video streaming opportunities that have emerged in the last two decades. There’s a lot to relish in the convenience of being a touch screen away from almost anything I’d want to watch. But here’s one thing I do miss: context. While Netflix categorizes movies according to a variety of genres that have led me to plenty of interesting films based on my tastes, what I don’t get from this browsing experience is a sense of how the films I watch are situated in relation to other films.
Directed by Shola Lynch, the 2004 documentary ‘Chisholm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed’ tells the story of Chisholm’s campaign for her party’s nomination, and without even trying to, the film offers a necessary antidote to popular culture representation of the dominant white male supremacist lens of history-making that is reified when it goes unchallenged.
The first season was released in February 2014, and features the animated banter of Linda Dianne, Delly P, Nicole Ryan, and Kelly Lyn. These women are earnest, joyful, and excited to talk with each and share their experiences about topics that include (but are not limited to): period shits, gender representation in the media, and their feminist roles models in real life and television.
‘Broad City,’ which first appeared as a web series in 2009, shows us two women who lack ambition in a way that is almost radical—if only because we rarely see women acting irresponsibly without being punished for it.
Wendy has fantasies of setting up Lenny in bucolic quarters in the mountains of Vermont where he can live with independence and comfort. But given the level of Lenny’s dementia and their lack of resources, Wendy has to let go of those dreams and settle for the facility Jon selects, which is far more modest, in Buffalo, with costs covered by Medicare. Another director might have tried to seize the dramatic content of such a conflict, as there’s no downplaying the seriousness of what it means to provide comfort and care to the beloved elderly one’s family. Jenkins, however, brings the funny rather than the dour. When Wendy and Jon take Lenny to a high-end facility for an interview to see if his mental acuity meets their criteria for admission, Wendy attempts to coach her father into giving the correct answers to such questions as “What city are you in right now?” That Lenny doesn’t know is sad, but Wendy’s earnestness to help him cheat is, somehow, delightfully absurd. Jon gets annoyed at his sister, but recognizes the difficulty she’s having with the situation and gently lets her be.
I’m not quick to apply the word “intimate” followed by “portrait” to anything outside of the Lifetime series by the same name, but this description accurately characterizes Rodrigo H. Vila’s documentary ‘Mercedes Sosa: The Voice of Latin America.’ The film is a retrospective of the Argentinian alto whose career spanned 60 years and encompassed the tumult of 20th century political and cultural shifts in Latin America.
So if I knew all that, why did I even bother? Shame on me, right? Well, I try to keep an open mind when it comes to Scorsese. He’s a brilliant director capable of surprising his audience and expanding our sense of what a cinematic experience can be. He’s so good that I can even forgive him for making films that consistently fail the Bechdel test. The Wolf of Wall Street, though, is not Scorsese at his best. It might even be at his worst. And that’s because we all know how great he can be.