Women Make Movies: Progressively Multicultural Films by and about Women

By Gorski, Paul; Habib, Caitlin et al. | Multicultural Education, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

Women Make Movies: Progressively Multicultural Films by and about Women


Gorski, Paul, Habib, Caitlin, Hackman, Heather W., Subbaraman, Sivagami, Multicultural Education


Women Make Movies: Progressively Multicultural Films by and about Women

Even among its many progressive, multicultural, non-profit, independent film production and distribution peers, Women Make Movies (WMM) stands out. Sexism remains a considerable hurdle in the filmmaking trade as in most other trades. Still, for more than thirty years, WMM has produced, promoted, distributed, and exhibited a countless string of both fictional and documentary films by and for women.

Unfortunately, despite (or perhaps because of) its progressive, feminist edge, WMM remains overshadowed in the field of multicultural education by California Newsreel and some of the other more mainstream film arts organizations. After viewing and reviewing dozens of WMM films over the past five years, it is difficult to believe that this overshadowing is not, in and of itself, a symptom of institutional sexism - of lingering stereotypes about the abilities of women filmmakers to produce cutting edge films, both in form and content.

In fact, WMM and its films are just that - cutting edge. They are both domestic to the United States and international. They tackle subjects ranging from the historic to the contemporary including abortion rights, aging, AIDS, body image, cinema studies, death and dying, disabilities, diversity, economic development, education, global feminism, Holocaust studies, human rights, immigration, medical ethics, mental health, peace studies, population studies, racism, religion, reproductive rights, and work. They explore identities and their intersections including Aboriginal, African American, Asian American, Caribbean, Chicana, Jewish, Latina, Lesbian, Native American, Pacific Islander, and Queer.

In addition, a majority of WMM's titles were produced by women with marginalized identities beyond gender. These include women of color, lesbians, older women, and women with disabilities.

The following reviews highlight four of WMM's recent releases. This is the first in a series of columns of film reviews that highlight the most important non-profit film production and distribution organizations for multicultural educators. I choose to begin the series by highlighting WMM both because of its progressive, under-appreciated films and its progressive, walking-thetalk mission to overturn the under- and misrepresentation of women's voices, images, and work in the film media industry.

You can order these and hundreds of other WMM films, read more about the organization, or learn how to submit your own work to WMM at http://www.wmm.com.

Jordan, Stefanie. Some Real Heat, 2001. New York: Women Make Movies. 54 minutes, color. $275.

I loved this documentary! Some Real Heat is a series of interviews with female firefighters from the San Francisco Fire Department. As stated by a handful of the women in the film, there is not an abundance of role models for women in "nontraditional" jobs in this society. As a result, the stories of these women become not only an interesting depiction of the intense challenges of firefighting, but also a benchmark for youngwomen across the country regarding their professional and personal goals.

The women in Some Real Heat are strong, confident, clear in their choices and totally unapologetic for the personal, physical, and emotional power they possess. Jordan has chosen to interweave clips from her various interviews and thus while there is an ongoing multiplicity of voices, the viewer can also see the commonalities among the women and their experiences and perspectives. This film is useful for any secondary or post-secondary educator addressing gender roles and gender issues throughout U.S. society, as it complexly explores the personal, political, and societal implications of these women's presence in the SFFD.

I find Jordan's approach so powerful because she completely grounds the film in the voices of the women themselves. At no time does she go interview "the men" to see what they think or to validate the women's stories. …

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