Maestra

In 1961, over 250,000 Cubans joined their country’s National Literacy Campaign and taught more than 707,000 other Cubans to read and write. Almost half of these volunteer teachers were under 18. More than half were women. Narrated by Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, MAESTRA (Spanish for teacher) explores the experiences of nine of the women who, as young girls, helped eradicate Cuban illiteracy within one year. Interweaving recent interviews, archival footage, and campaign photos, this lively documentary includes one of the first Cubans of her generation to call herself a feminist and one of the first openly proud members of Cuba’s LGBTQI community. With wit and spirit, all recall negotiating for autonomy and independence in a culture still bound by patriarchal structures. Eight years in the making, MAESTRA highlights the will and courage that made the monumental endeavor possible and the pivotal role of women’s and youth empowerment in building a new society.
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Antonia Pantoja

Antonia Pantoja (1922-2002), visionary Puerto Rican educator, activist, and early proponent of bilingual education, inspired multiple generations of young people and fought for many of the rights that people take for granted today. Unbowed by obstacles she encountered as a black, Puerto Rican woman, she founded ASPIRA to empower Puerto Rican youth, and created other enduring leadership and advocacy organizations in New York and California, across the United States, and in Puerto Rico. Recognized for her achievements in 1996, Dr. Pantoja was awarded the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor bestowed upon civilians in the US. In this important documentary, Pantoja’s compelling story is told through never-before-seen home movies, archival footage, and personal passionate testimony from Pantoja herself and some of her countless protégés, as well as her life partner. Highlighting major landmarks in Pantoja’s biography and long, productive career, the film shows her profound commitment to transforming society, her pivotal role in the Puerto Rican community’s fight to combat racism and discrimination, and her pioneering work in securing a bilingual voice in the US. An eloquent tribute to a remarkable woman, the film sheds new light on the Puerto Rican community’s far-reaching triumphs.
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Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night

In this insightful documentary, filmmaker Sonali Gulati explores complex issues of globalization, capitalism and identity through a witty and personal account of her journey into India’s call centers. Gulati, herself an Indian immigrant living in the US, explores the fascinating ramifications of outsourcing telephone service jobs to India—including how native telemarketers take on Western names and accents to take calls from the US, UK and Australia. A fresh juxtaposition of animation, archival footage, live action shots and narrative work highlight the filmmaker’s presence and reveal the performative aspects of her subjects. With fascinating observations on how call centers affect the Indian culture and economy, NALINI BY DAY, NANCY BY NIGHT raises important questions about the complicated consequences of globalization.
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All Water Has a Perfect Memory

ALL WATER HAS A PERFECT MEMORY is a poignant experimental documentary that explores the effects of tragedy and remembrance on a bi-cultural family. At seven months old, filmmaker Natalia Almada lost her two-year-old sister, Ana Lynn, in a drowning accident at her childhood home in Mexico. Inspired by an essay written by Toni Morrison, in which she speaks of the Mississippi River’s ability to conjure memories, this moving piece serves as a meditation on the cultural and gender differences between the filmmaker’s North American mother and Mexican father in the face of their daughter’s death. Through personal recollections narrated by each family member, including her brother, Almada incorporates Super-8 home movies, photographs and fabricated images to weave together a touching and moving visual memory of Ana Lynn.
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Between the Lines: Asian American Women's Poetry

BETWEEN THE LINES offers rare interviews with over 15 major Asian-Pacific American women poets. Organized in interwoven sections such as Immigration, Language, Family, Memory, and Spirituality, it is a sophisticated merging of Asian-American history and identity with the questions of performance, voice, and image. This engaging documentary serves as poetry reading, virtual anthology, and, perhaps most importantly, moving testimony about gender, ethnicity, aesthetics, and creative choice. The carefully edited interviews and poems read reflect the filmmaker's desire to show both individual voice and diversity within the Asian-American women’s community. Theoretically as rich as the images and poems provided, there is also an implicit conversation in the film about the possibility and usefulness of an Asian-American women’s aesthetic/poetic. Using carefully selected archival images, historical footage, and brilliant photography as the scrim through which we hear the poets, BETWEEN THE LINES provides important and lively viewing for literature, history, ethnic and women’s studies classes.” - Joseph Boles, Visiting Scholar, Center for Visual Culture, Bryn Mawr
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Nu Shu: A Hidden Language of Women in China

In feudal China, women, usually with bound feet, were denied educational opportunities and condemned to social isolation. But in Jian-yong county in Hunan province, peasant women miraculously developed a separate written language, called Nu Shu, meaning "female writing." Believing women to be inferior, men disregarded this new script, and it remained unknown for centuries. It wasn't until the 1960s that Nu Shu caught the attention of Chinese authorities, who suspected that this peculiar writing was a secret code for international espionage. Today, interest in this secret script continues to grow, as evidenced by the wide critical acclaim of Lisa See’s recent novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, about Nu Shu. NU SHU: A HIDDEN LANGUAGE OF WOMEN IN CHINA is a thoroughly engrossing documentary that revolves around the filmmaker's discovery of eighty-six-year-old Huan-yi Yang, the only living resident of the Nu Shu area still able to read and write Nu Shu. Exploring Nu Shu customs and their role in women's lives, the film uncovers a women's subculture born of resistance to male dominance, finds a parallel struggle in the resistance of Yao minorities to Confucian Han Chinese culture, and traces Nu Shu's origins to some distinctly Yao customs that fostered women's creativity.
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Peggy and Fred in Kansas

A few years older now, our boy and girl heroes mumble and chant their way through mid- America's wasteland. Thornton's interest in the line between language and thought becomes disturbingly apparent.
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Ten Cents a Dance (Parallax)

Onodera's three-part reflection on contemporary sexuality and communication uses a split screen device with a new twist. In the first segment, two women awkwardly discuss their mutual attraction; the second depicts anonymous bathroom sex between two men; the third is an ironic episode of heterosexual phone sex.
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A Word in Edgewise

"A truly articulate, unaffected statement about a basic human activity, this excellent film explains the role of language in shaping behavior. It is a good synthesis of all that has been explored by linguists about sex bias in everyday speech and writing. Scholarly, yet simple and believable, it is informative without being preachy, and cites illustrations of abuses as well as suggestions for improvement. This is a truly feminist film made by women. This film should be required viewing for all educators and can be used at all levels to improve awareness of our use and abuse of language in perpetuating sex bias in culture."-Choice
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Unfinished Diary

In this moving docudrama, Chilean emigre Mallet struggles to make a film about her experience of profound isolation. Her English speaking husband, a prominent filmmaker, criticizes her subjective approach to filmmaking; their young son, raised in Quebec, speaks only French. Interviews with Isabel Allende and other Chilean exiles reveal a deep bond in this powerful, resonant film about language and gender, exile and immigration.
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