This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Lavender Menace

Women show their power in rousing new documentary

Landmark Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston St. between First & Second Aves.
Opens Friday, December 5

Emboldened by the civil rights movement, antiwar rallies, and student demonstrations, women across America came together and took to the streets in the mid-to-late 1960s, fighting for liberation from long-held societal beliefs and strictures. Mary Dore’s She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry focuses in on the years 1966 to 1971, when women became activists for their own rights, reclaiming their bodies and redefining gender roles, refusing to be treated like second-class citizens anymore. “It was like all this energy had been pent up in these women for all these years and it just exploded,” says Chicago activist Mary Jean Collins at the beginning of the film. Twenty years in the making, the documentary contains new interviews with more than thirty women who describe their experiences in the women’s liberation movement, giving the inside scoop behind specific marches, strikes, protests, and organizations, as Dore cuts between the speakers today, usually interviewed in their home environment, and rare archival footage and photographs of the women in action more than forty years ago. Dore explores the importance of such books as Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective’s Our Bodies, Ourselves and speaks to cofounders and early members of such groups as the National Organization for Women, the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union, Gainesville Women’s Liberation, and JANE, which provided underground abortions. All of them fully understand that the fight is far from over, especially with what is currently going on in Congress. “You’re not allowed to retire from women’s issues,” Dallas Women’s Coalition cofounder Virginia Whitehill explains. “You still have to pay attention, ’cause somebody’s gonna try to yank the rug out from under you, and that’s what’s happening now.”

Among the women who speak openly and honestly about the women’s movement, both the good and the bad, examining such topics as birth control, abortion, rape, career opportunities, education, misogyny, child care, unequal pay, sexual harassment, and more, are early organizer Chude Pamela Allen, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Black Women’s Liberation Committee cofounder Fran Beal, lesbian feminist and writer Rita Mae Brown, journalists Susan Brownmiller, Marilyn Webb, and Marlene Sanders, NOW Women’s Strike Coordinator Jacqui Ceballos, Miss America protestor Carol Giardina, writer and professor Kate Millett, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Redstockings cofounder Ellen Willis. No men are interviewed for the documentary, although some are shown in old footage, mostly putting women down. In fact, the film was written, directed, produced, edited, and photographed by women; the only major role filled by a man is the composer, with a score by Mark degli Antoni. Even the powerful soundtrack consists primarily of female vocalists, including Cat Power, Nico, Bikini Kill, Janis Ian, Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Aretha Franklin, and the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band. “Telling the truth and talking is very revolutionary,” historian and journalist Ruth Rosen says in the film, not only referring to the past but to the future as well.

The film, which is certainly rather talky, opens December 5 at the Landmark Sunshine, with many of the opening-weekend screenings followed by Q&As with Dore, who will be joined on December 5 at 7:15 by producer and editor Nancy Kennedy and film subjects Muriel Fox, Linda Burnham, Marlene Sanders, Nona Willis Aronowitz, Carol Giardina, Alix Kates Shulman, Marilyn Webb, and Ellen Shumsky, on December 6 at 2:30 by Kennedy and Planned Parenthood’s Diane Max and Christine Canedo, on December 6 at 7:15 by DOMA litigant Edie Windsor and Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice director J. Bob Alotta, December 7 at 2:30 by Sanders, former NOW VP Lucy Komisar, the NYCLU’s Katharine Bodde, and NOW’s Sonia Ossorio, and December 7 at 7:15 by Kennedy, executive producers Elizabeth Driehaus and Pamela Tanner Boll, NY Women in Film & TV’s Mirra Bank, Women Make Movies’ Debbie Zimmerman, Women in the Arts & Media Coalition’s Shellen Lubin and Avis Boone, and various other producers. America has seen more than its share of protests in recent weeks alone; can organized rebellion make a difference? She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, which was significantly financed by a grassroots Kickstarter campaign, has the answer.

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