This hour-long video documentary made by Evanston-based Salome Chasnoff offers a participant’s view of the Nongovernmental Organizations Forum on Women, which convened last summer outside Beijing at the same time as the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women. Interviewing a cross section of attendees on the state of women around the world, Chasnoff elicits observations that are for the most part candid and at times heated–understandable, given that the forum, in contrast to the U.N. conference taking place inside the city, was meant to air alternative views. Chasnoff shows the giddy excitement of the activists as they meet colleagues from other lands–their sense of solidarity heightened by the Chinese government’s efforts to isolate them (the conference was held in the small town of Huairou). In testimonial after testimonial–including those from members of the the Chicago contingent such as Sheila Griffin and Joyce Love–these women stress the need for reform and empowerment. The familiar feminist rhetoric is repeated like a mantra, to be sure–Chasnoff could’ve been more judicious in her editing–but the sincerity of the speakers underscores the urgency of their message. One remark toward the end rather neatly sums up the purpose of the historic gathering of almost 50,000: we can debate the issues forever, says a Mexican participant, but it’s time for action, for designing and implementing policy. Chasnoff’s documentary–despite a fairly stolid presentation style that basically strings together a bunch of engaging snapshots–serves as an inspiration for a grave cause. Proceeds from this world premiere will benefit Women in the Director’s Chair, the grassroots media organization now headed by Chasnoff and her editor Beth Berolzheimer. Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State, Thursday, September 19, 7:00, 281-4988 or 747-4050.

–Ted Shen

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