Homegirls: New Work by Chicago Women and Girls

Three of the nine works on this program are by friends, so I’m glad I like them as much as I do. Sohrab Shahid Saless: Far From Home, Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa’s highly personal tribute and invaluable introduction to the seminal filmmaker who worked in Iran and Germany and died last summer in Chicago, mixes clips, commentary, and interviews to create a poetic, bittersweet statement about loss and exile. Vanalyne Green’s Saddle Sores: A Blue Western, about contracting herpes from a Wyoming cowboy, includes many film clips, photographs, printed titles, country-and-western favorites, conversations with friends, and confessions. It’s every bit as jokey and analytical as Green’s earlier video A Spy in the House That Ruth Built, about her sexual attraction to baseball players; but here the narration is much more self-accusing as it explores how she romanticized cowboys and let herself get herpes, and then had to deal with the shame–which makes the relentlessly bantering tone a lot more unsettling and challenging. Ann Marie Fleming’s Tiresias offers a short, hilarious version of Ovid with animated stick figures. I also liked Paula Froehle’s experimental Fever, which interrelates sound, text, and images in original and arresting ways, and Anne Northrup’s narrative And Everything Nice, a psychologically acute portrayal of a little girl’s alienation from her parents at the time of Watergate, exceptionally well acted by Jessica Carleton. All five works are meatier than 90 percent of the commercial releases I see, and though they’re less than ideally served by potpourri programs of this kind, big business has ruled that we usually can’t see them any other way. I could have done without the muzak score and sound-bite format of Judith McCray’s For My People: The Life and Writing of Margaret Walker, which tend to shortchange the writing for the sake of the life, but some of the power of Walker still comes across. The program is rounded out by three more gear shifts: Digest Before Swimming, an experimental video by Claudia Lozano-Albern; the animated Two Cats and a Girl Named Cindy by Cory Brown with Street Level Youth Media, and 60+, a brief musical documentary by Shawn Batey. This opening-night screening is preceded by a reception at 6, which costs $10, $8 for WIDC members, students, and seniors. HotHouse, Friday, March 19, 7:30, 773-281-4988.

–Jonathan Rosenbaum

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): And Everything Nice film still.