Women in the Director’s Chair International Film & Video Festival

The 17th annual Women in the Director’s Chair International Film & Video Festival, featuring narrative, documentary, animated, and experimental works by women, concludes this weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 28 through 30. Screenings are at the Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson; DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.; HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo; and Calles y Sue–os, 1900 S. Carpenter. Tickets are $7, $5 for students, seniors with a valid ID, and members of Women in the Director’s Chair; festival passes are also available. For more information call 773-281-4988.


You Can’t Beat a Woman

Gail Singer’s full-length film–shot in Canada, Russia, Israel, South Africa, Chile, and Japan–concerns women who’ve survived domestic violence. On the same program, Dinner for Two (1996), a short animated squabble between two rain-forest creatures by Janet Perlman. Both films are being presented as a tribute to the National Film Board of Canada. (Film Center, 6:00)

Rape: A Crime of War

A one-hour video by Shelley Saywell about four women who were raped and tortured in Bosnia and worked to bring the perpetrators before the international war crimes tribunal. On the same program, Gerry Rogers’s 50-minute Kathleen Shannon: On Film, Feminism, and Other Dreams (1997), about the founder of the National Film Board of Canada’s Studio D and its 22-year legacy of feminist filmmaking. Both films are being presented as a tribute to the film board; Sestra International’s Robbie Bogard will appear as guest speaker. (Film Center, 8:00)

Erase . . . / Once Upon a Time . . .

Spanish-language videos by women from Bolivia, Mexico, Chile, and Spain. (Calles y Sue–os, 8:00)


Home Fires

Nine short works on home and family. The strongest, Mary Ann Naas’s Circles of Confusion, uses its powerful sound track to depict an institutionalized girl. As exaggerated percussive sounds–nails falling, a superimposed roar–engulf her unpredictably, she seems adrift in a world beyond comprehension. Pernille Fischer Christensen’s Girl Named Sister sensitively portrays a girl’s silent and eventually macabre wanderings, but its lush imagery becomes self-consciously mannered. Dulcie Clarkson’s How the Miracle of Masturbation Saved Me From Becoming a Teenage Space Alien is–unfortunately–described quite literally by its title, though its treatment of a girl growing up on a hippie commune, drawn from Clarkson’s own childhood, is incisive. In the delightful Fung Tsao Theories Wen Hwa Ts’ao fancifully explains her Chinese mother’s philosophy, and Deb Diehl’s Dream House effectively depicts the weird power that home-magazine imagery can exercise over our lives. But Amy Happ’s Resilience, about alcoholism among Native Americans, and Devorah Heitner’s Guidelines for Accepting Reality, about depression, are both told in numbingly flat monotones. On the same program, Kathleen O’Shea’s My Park, with 70s footage of Chicago’s Marquette Park, and Dima El-Horr’s The Street, set in Beirut. (FC) (HotHouse, 2:00)

Still Revolutionaries

Sienna McLean’s potent, persuasive short documentary begins by indirectly establishing an intriguing subtext. Two women who were members of the Black Panther Party (Katherine Campbell and Madalynn Carol Rucker) describe the aims of the group and their commitment to its ideals in a strikingly gender-neutral manner, while their voice-overs and interviews are interspersed with archival footage of events involving mostly men. As if aware of the creeping sense of incongruity, the interviewees begin to address their difficulties as females in the group’s male-dominated hierarchy, suggesting sobering parallels between their experiences and the experiences that motivated party members to organize in the first place. (LA) To be screened as part of a panel discussion, along with Jamika Ajalon’s Memory Tracks (see “Rebel Grrrls and Riot Grrrandmas: New Lesbian Work, Part 2”) and excerpts from other works. (DuSable Museum, 3:00)

My Animal, My Self

In the nine-minute Amy writer-director Susan Rivo’s deadpan use of documentary conventions avoids self-indulgence as she tells the story of her lifelong attachment to a stuffed dog. Interviews with relatives clue us in to the disapproval that plagued her as she grew up with the increasingly dilapidated Amy among her possessions. Docudramatic visual aids, including a map showing how the course of a family trip was affected when Amy got left behind, help build to a sequence that combines fantasy and re-creation techniques beautifully, maximizing humor without sacrificing a wistful, even serious tone. Rivo will attend the screening. On the same program, short films by Lorna Ann Johnson, Shari Rothfarb, Debra Granik, Ana Luzardo-Flores, Enid Tihanyi Zentelis, and Allyson Mitchell, and a short video by Gina Hopp with Community Television Network. (LA) (HotHouse, 4:00)

Girl Meets Boy

Short videos by Jaquelise Etienne with Street-Level Youth Media, Kathleen O’Shea, Carol Jacobsen, and Meredith E. Holch, and short films by Lisa Robinson, Kim Roberts, Joan Nidzyn, Ilya Chaiken, and Kristy Hasen. (HotHouse, 6:00)

What is Asiaphilia?

In Strawberry Fields (1996), Irene (Suzy Nakamura) is a pyromaniac teenager in the 70s who’s frustrated by her mother’s refusal to acknowledge the part of the family’s past spent in the internment camps in California. Her sister’s discovery of a photograph from that time spurs Irene to uncover this hidden aspect of her Japanese-American heritage, an endeavor she thinks is complicated by her boyfriend, who’s so supportive it makes her angry. The activist agenda of another couple they know puts a political spin on Irene’s quest that seems contrived. There isn’t really enough material here for a feature. Irene’s repetitious hallucinatory and spiritual experiences are delineated with an undiscriminating use of slow motion and flashback. Nakamura is saddled with the stage business of compulsively lighting matches, the kind of behavior that may simulate the acting out of a troubled adolescent who can’t get any perspective on herself. But since Kerri Sakamoto’s script, based on a story by director Rea Tajiri, doesn’t seem to have much perspective on the character either, viewers are left in the dark. (LA) On the same program, Valerie Soe’s short video, Beyond Asiaphilia. (HotHouse, 8:00)

Rebel Grrrls and Riot Grrrandmas: New Lesbian Work, Part 2

The centerpiece of this program is Lucy Thane’s 50-minute She’s Real, Worse Than Queer (1996), a documentary on punk-rock dykes and dyke bands. Full of energy, it shows the women performing, getting tattooed, making out, and debating whether they should continue to perform bare breasted when men are in the audience (they don’t). The music sounds strong, but unfortunately it’s heard mostly in snippets. Allyson Mitchell’s Don’t Bug Me (1997) is a cute animated one-liner on how to end a relationship. Jamika Ajalon’s Memory Tracks (1996) is an evocative but somewhat obscure meditation on a London police raid that killed a Jamaican immigrant. Riot Grrrandmas!!!: A Videozine (1997) compiles short videos by Mary Patten, Yvonne Welbon, Nancy Forest Brown, Cynde Schauper, Stephanie Coleman, Jeanine Oleson, Danielle Sawicki, Margaret O’Flanagan, and Judith Kinsella. It’s a wonderfully lively group of shorts on older lesbians, who possess as much in-your-face energy as their younger counterparts–in Welbon’s Living With Pride: Ruth C. Ellis at 100 the “oldest known living African-American lesbian” offers advice on meeting a girl: “Go to church.” Ajalon will attend the screening. (FC) (HotHouse, 10:00)



“Once upon a time there were three kids and a grown-up dancing,” says a child’s voice-over in Ines Sommer’s short Red Shoe. Two kids dressed in sackcloth share a darkened stage with a pile of high-heeled shoes, a baby, and a woman in a lame bikini top and miniskirt, who executes dance moves with a combination of abandon and gymnastic precision. At one point she gracefully swings a coarse broom at a disco ball, then later sweeps the floor between her legs in a gesture that’s sexual, sad, and innocent. Dislocated sounds and entrancing images make this nine-minute movie a sort of atonal nursery rhyme that’s both cynical and wistful. (LA) Curtain of Eyes (1997), a striking black-and-white dance film composed for the camera by Daniele Wilmouth, is the product of a six-month collaboration with four Japanese dancers from Kyoto’s Saltimbanques Butoh troupe. The dancers move in an abstract space, mainly in close-ups and medium shots, and Wilmouth’s textured imagery is every bit as detailed as the dancing. (JR) On the same program, a short video by Meredith E. Holch, and short films by Carmen Pollard, Balvinder Dhenjan, Jodi Kaplan, and Lynne Sachs. (HotHouse, 2:00)

Media Girls

A panel discussion featuring screenings of four short videos. Last Summer Fight, a 1997 film by Shuntaye Moore with Street-Level Youth Media, succinctly recounts and illustrates a racial incident among kids. On the same program, work by Gina Hopp with Community Television Network, Rosemary Gonzalez with Street Films, and Jaquelise Etienne with Street-Level Youth Media. (JR) (HotHouse, 4:00)

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Girl Named Sister.