Rachael Johnson

Johanna Hamilton’s ‘1971’: A Thrilling Portrait of Activism


Bonnie offers a very different take, one that speaks volumes about her resoluteness, level of engagement and selflessness: “We felt that just because we were parents didn’t mean that we could remove ourselves from responsibility, that that would have been kind of a cop-out. We decided that we weren’t going to be content when we continued to see things that really disturbed us.”

‘The True Cost’: An Ethical Look at an Exploitative Industry


The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Savar, Bangladesh on the April 24, 2013 is one of the tragedies of our time. More than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives and many more were injured. The majority of them were young women. It was, in fact, nothing less than industrial murder.

‘I Am Ali’ : An Intimate Look At an American Icon

Poster of I Am Ali

Ali was not, it seems, an uneasy, distant patriarchal figure. His masculinity was characterized by deep emotional expressiveness. Lewins’s employment of beautiful family photos, home movies and those engaging recordings serve to reinforce the impression.

Bigelow’s Boys: Martial Masculinity in ‘The Hurt Locker’

Poster for The Hurt Locker

The movie also, however, offers ideological and anthropological readings of masculinity which are, arguably, a little more complicated.

Bigelow appears to have a deep interest in, and respect for, martial masculinity.

Scavenging for Food and Art: Agnès Varda’s ‘The Gleaners and I’

Varga and her digital camera

The tools Varda employs are modest and made for the road. The handheld digital video camera she uses allows for both freedom and intimacy. She puts herself in front of the camera, filming, for example, her aged hands and thinning hair in candid close-up. Can you imagine a Hollywood director doing so? Varda rejects vanity and embraces vulnerability.

Hollywood Racism: Five Reminders from History and the Recent Past

Poster of Birth of a Nation

It likes to think of itself as a progressive, meritocratic industry, but I don’t think any thoughtful person would dispute the fact that Hollywood remains a racist cultural institution. It continues to produce racist films, and it continues to shut out talented people of color. In fact, even those of us who have not bought the myth that Hollywood’s a liberal place full of cool, open-minded individuals have not fully recognized how deeply ingrained its racism really is. Here are just a few sobering reminders from history and the recent past.

Barbara Loden’s ‘Wanda’: A Persuasive Portrait of Female Aimlessness and Alienation


It does not rejoice in the freedom of the open road. There are no cool, seductive lovers or beautiful cars. Wanda is not a charismatic counter-culture heroine or anti-heroine. She’s not a heroic working-class figure either. Loden’s portrait, however, aims to shed light on the psychological condition of young, working-class women disconnected from societal demands and expectations.

One to Watch Out For: HBO’s ‘Bessie’

A portrait of Bessie Smith by Carl van Vechten

There is, nevertheless, something magical about Bessie’s life and career. How did an impoverished, orphaned Black girl who spent her childhood singing on the streets not only survive but succeed in a land that still lynched its Black citizens? There is something profoundly modern and heroic about the woman herself. An independent woman with attitude and talent, she has to be one of the most charismatic feminist icons of the 20th century.

‘Peace Pilgrim’: A Tribute to an American Heroine of Non-Violence

On her journey

We need more documentaries and movies about the lives of pilgrims and activists of non-violence. We also need to be reminded of their power and diversity.

A Gutsy Tribute to the Heroes and Heroines of American Labor: Barbara Kopple’s ‘Harlan County, USA’

Barbara Kopple

Politically active, working-class American women are a clear threat to Yarborough’s natural order and must, therefore, be branded unfeminine and un-American. Women also play a celebrated cultural role in the community. They are a vital part of the musical and political history of the place.

Love and Freedom in The Eisenhower Years: ‘All That Heaven Allows’

Poster for All That Heaven Allows

But ‘All That Heaven Allows’ is not just a good-looking, affecting melodrama. It can be enjoyed on many different levels. In both indirect and observable ways, Sirk’s weepie targets oppressive aspects of post-war America. For some time now, both film critics and scholars have, understandably, foregrounded the socio-political uses of Sirk’s powerful, immoderate film-making style, as well as the subversive elements in his melodramas. They, in fact, invite socially and gender-aware readings.

‘Inequality for All’: The Real American Horror Story


The film’s primary aim is to raise awareness. “Of all developed nations today, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth–by far–and we’re surging towards an even greater inequality,” warns Reich. The figures are astonishing: 400 Americans are richer than half the population of the United States. Reich is not a socialist. He does not want to jettison American capitalism but reform it.