Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Motherland: Tales of Wonder

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Motherland: Tales of Wonder

Article excerpt

Motherland: Tales of Wonder (video) Helene Klodawsky, Director/Writer, Sidonie Kerr, Associate Director/Editor, Signe Johnsson, Producer Montreal: Studio D, National Film Board of Canada, 1994; 89 mins., 50 secs.

Reviewed by Pam Patterson Department of Curriculum Ontario Institute for Studies in Education Toronto, Ontario

The National Film Board Studio D team of Helene Klodawsky, Sidonie Kerr and Signe Johansson (producer) sets out in the feature - length documentary "Motherland: Tales of Wonder" to "shatter the myths of motherhood." From viewing the video, I'm not convinced that they fully accomplish this. What they do accomplish, however, is to reveal the problematic nature of the institution of motherhood through the juxtaposition of past prescriptions for good mothering with present - day mothers' stories. They also reveal the confusion many mothers feel as encapsulated in the experiences of the narrator, Klodawsky. It is a deconstructive agenda favoured by many feminists, and has proven to be a useful starting point for research and social change.

What," asks Klodawsky, "does it mean to be a good mother?" This becomes the key question that motivated, and still seems to motivate, Klodawsky's search, and that frames the video. In fact, the video seems structured by her search. She displays hilarious and certainly disturbing archival propaganda footage she has discovered revealing the 1950s ideals for mothering. She contacts vocal and outspoken mothers at a "Mothers are Women" meeting. She collects and records the striking revelations of different mothers. But she also looks to her own expert, Helen Levine, a former professor, feminist counsellor and writer, to facilitate an alternative perspective.

The documentary opens with what we come to understand is a scene in Klodawsky's home: a screaming baby, his face smeared with food, the older toddler sister and the mother. Her attempt at being the good mother and her calmness and patience are evident. But so is her confusion. I sense in her, and later in the many women she interviews, echoes of my own experiences of mothering: the marginalization, the understanding that the task of caring for children is very important, and the moments of feeling inadequate at the job. …

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