Big Sky Doc 2017
RiverRun, California Women’s, New Haven Docs,
A look at feminism’s past and present.
In 1977, Cynthia MacAdams published Emergence, a book of portraits of self-identified feminists, ranging from influential activists and celebrities to artists and everyday women. On the occasion of a photographic exhibition of those images, Feminist Portraits: 1974-1977, filmmaker Johanna Demetrakas, herself one of the book’s subjects, revisits various women pictured within. As she meets with the likes of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Laurie Anderson, Meredith Monk, Judy Chicago, and Kate Millett, the filmmaker engages with an expansive set of concerns, both historical and all too topical. Interviewees recall dawning consciousness of sexism, early fear of identifying as “feminists,” and ways they rebelled; the emergence of the second wave of feminism and the fractures within it, felt especially by women of color; political organizing around reproductive freedom and around the ERA; and personal stories that run the gamut of women’s experiences of the 1970s. At the same time, the film introduces younger, modern-day voices, like filmmaker Wendy JN Lee, who recalls being treated as an afterthought during an award ceremony for her own project, the statuette handed to her male actor instead – underscoring the inequality that still remains. While taking on a bit too much, with an at times cursory, episodic feel as a result, Demetrakas’ project is a worthwhile and engaging one as it reminds viewers of the gains made when passionate women worked together to demand change.