Category Archives: Uncategorized

Performing the Border

Running Time: 42 min

color, video
Distributor: Women Make Movies


Performing the Border explores a world along the Mexico/US border by presenting an inside look at pervasive maquiladoras, US-implemented factories, in Juarez, Mexico, “the city that produces.” One activist in the documentary describes the border as the result of an unequal power relationship between two nations. Ursula Biemann gives a public voice to the women who live and work in the area through interviews with factory workers, prostitutes, activists, and journalists. She uses experimental documentary methods that include sound image disjunction, scripted voiceover, found footage, scrolling text, and split screens.

The film brings a personal view to industrial work that and forces awareness to the labor that goes into ordinary products, bought in the US, like lingerie and microchips. Biemann’s focus, however, remains on a deeper issue instigated by the use of women along the border. She points out that the gendered use of women as merely part of the machinery forces the fragmentation of the female body into a simple unit of production. This dissociates the women from their bodies, resulting in a gendered dehumanization and transforms a person into a “marketable good.” The younger women are most degraded by the maquiladoras, poverty, and devaluation of female voice. Ultimately, Biemann documents, dehumanizing the women results in their victimization in violent serial murders. The women in the documentary are clearly the backbones of their society, as the hope, sustainers of commerce and mothers of the future generation. In Performing the Border, Biemann encourages them to speak their truths and through their eloquence, reveals the gender disparities corrupt industrialization creates.

Other works by Ursula Biemann:
Remote Sensing (2006)
Writing Desire (2001)

Ch. 7: Videographies of Navigating Geobodies, Transnational feminism in film and media
by Katarzyna Marciniak, Anikó Imre, and Áine O’Healy

Journey Shared: Ursula Biemann’s Been There and Back Back to Nowhere in Transnational Spaces
by Berelowitz, Jo-Anne


Written by Madrianne Wong
November, 2008

Hide and Seek (Dir: Su Friedrich, 1996)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 64 min

Produced by Eva Kolodner and Katie Roumel
Black and White, 16mm
Distributed by Women Make Movies

Hide and Seek is a film that includes both documentary and narrative in telling the story of young and adolescent lesbians as they are first discovering their sexual orientation. The documentary sections are all reflective: older women remembering their youth and their feelings surrounding sexuality. They often speak about gender expression, specifically whether they were “tomboys,” refusing to wear dresses, playing rough and dirty games, and almost exclusively hanging around with the boys. Though this is an entirely legitimate reminiscence of lesbians, it potentially conflates gender and sexuality, making lesbians somehow less female than heterosexual women. In addition to reflections on gender expression, the women reflect on their early desires for other women ranging from friends to teachers and their experimentation, especially with friends. These documentary sections are interspersed with an acted out narrative of a young girl, Lou, displaying many of the characteristics described by the women. Lou, a young tomboy, refuses to wear dresses, plays with the boys, and by all indications, has a crush on her best friend. As the film progresses and Lou and her friends grow older, Lou’s female friends begin talking about boys, making her feel even more excluded from their heteronormative female world. Meanwhile, she also gets her period, excluding her from the boys and making her “a woman,” as her mother insists to her daughter’s great chagrin. The film ends still in the girl’s early adolescence. She does not come out as a lesbian, and the women in the documentary do not speak about their experiences coming out to family and friends, only to themselves, and only partially. Mostly it addresses youthful experiences surrounding gender and sexuality experienced by lesbians rather than a coming to terms with a lesbian identity within oneself and within the context of a heteronormative world. Indeed, Lou’s 1960’s world seems to be a wonderful place of nice friends and family and no racial or class tensions. This rose-tinted world is reflected in the documentary reflections of the older women. They recall little in the way of tension especially in terms of race and class, as if these issues do not intersect with or affect youth and sexuality.

Added by Professor White: New York-based Su Friedrich has been making experimental personal films since the 1970s and is known for her rigorously structured, precisely edited work, which brings together queer and feminist filmmaking and the avant-garde. Gently Down the Stream, Sink or Swim and Damned if You Don’t are in the Tri-College collection.

Useful sources:
Griffith, C.A. and H.L.T. Quan. “Feminisms and Youth Cultures” Rev. of The F Word, Hide and Seek, and Daughters of Dykes. Signs. Vol. 23, No. 3, Spring 1998. Pp. 862-867.

Holmlund, Chris: “When Autobiography Meets Ethnography and Girl Meets Girl: The ‘Dyke Docs’ of Sadie Benning and Su Friedrich”
In (pp. 127-43) Holmlund, Chris (ed. and introd.); Fuchs, Cynthia (ed. and introd.); McAfee, Lynda (filmography and videography) , Between the Sheets, in the Streets: Queer, Lesbian, Gay Documentary. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 1997. x, 274 pp.. ( Minneapolis, MN: Visible Evidence 1 ). (1997)

Subject Headings:
Lesbian Teenagers
Teenage Girls
Gender Identity
Coming Out (Sexual orientation)

Alexandra (Sasha) Raskin 2007

Mai’s America (Dir: Marlo Poras, 2002)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 72 min

Film, color
Distributed by Women Make Movies

Mai’s America is the journey of a Vietnamese teenager who leaves a well-to-do lifestyle in Vietnam for America her senior year of high school with high hopes to discover the secret of American success. Instead she finds herself stranded in rural Mississippi. Mai struggles to fit in with her “redneck” hosts, and blames herself for their depression. She bonds with Chris, a cross dressing Mississippi native because they both feel like they don’t belong. Transferred to another host family, Mai still battles the loneliness of an exile, trying to create an identity for herself within an American framework that doesn’t deliver what it promises. She is accepted to Tulane but within a year has to drop out because her father cannot pay the large tuition. Following his advice, Mai goes to Detroit to work in a nail salon, joining the ranks of other Vietnamese immigrants struggling to support themselves and their families. The camera interjects Mai’s commentary on the people and situations in her life, allowing the audience to see America from an outside perspective.
Marlo Poras had originally been making a film about AIDS when she met a group of students in Hanoi preparing to go to America on exchange. Although Poras started out with four students, she narrowed the film down to focus just on Mai. Poras followed Mai for two years, recording all of Mai’s experiences to create Mai’s unique perspective on the clash of two cultures and the building and destruction of dreams. Mai’s America won several documentary awards including the South by Southwest Film Festival, Audience Award for Best Documentary and the San Francisco International Film Festival Golden Gate Award.

Subject headings: Vietnam, International, Immigration and Exile, Documentary, Young Women, Asian American, Racism, Queer Studies, Education, Sociology


Poras, Marlo. “Mai’s America: a Documentary by Marlo Poras.” 30 Oct. 2004.

Tran, Tini. “From Hanoi to Mississippi: a crash course for an exchange student in `Mai’s
America.’” 1 Aug. 2002. 30 Oct. 2004. .

“Women Make Movies: Mai’s America.” 30 Oct. 2004.

Willa Kramer, 2004

DiAna’s Hair Ego (Dir: Ellen Spiro, 1990)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 29 min

DiAna’s Hair Ego: AIDS Info Up Front
8 mm video, color
distributed by Women Make Movies and Video Data Bank

Models of female participation are actively investigated in Ellen Spiro’s low-budget documentary chronicling the growth and development of the South Carolina AIDS Education Network (SCAEN), a citizen-run initiative in the fight against AIDS founded by Columbia, South Carolina cosmetologist DiAna DiAna. Exclusively shot with consumer video equipment, Spiro’s documentary allows the viewer to hear the camerawoman and see the physical apparatus in the hands of Spiro herself, DiAna DiAna, and SCAEN Vice-President Dr. Bambi Sumpter, and includes footage shot by the organizers of SCAEN in their own efforts to produce an honest and compelling video on AIDS education. Exposing the construction of documentary at a grass-roots level, Spiro’s camera acts in parallel with DiAna’s grass-roots effort at community education – interviews with DiAna, Sumpter, other SCAEN personnel, and the customers of the DiAna’s Hair Ego salon describe the process by which educational pamphlets, news clippings, and neatly gift-wrapped giveaway condoms began appearing in DiAna’s salon as the threat of AIDS became real to Columbia’s Black community. Despite state health agencies’ refusal to fund the organization, SCAEN survives thanks to private donations and tips from salon customers, continuing to distribute condoms and literature, to organize “safe sex parties” in DiAna’s home office, and to develop new videos and teaching tools produced by and aimed at Black youth within the local community. Through the motility of a hand-held camera, Spiro moves easily into the intimate settings in which DiAna plays out her life’s work, and the result for the viewer is a close look at grass-roots organizing, individual tales of ignorance and prejudice, and, thanks to DiAna, slowly changing attitudes toward AIDS within the Black community of Columbia, South Carolina.

Subject Headings
AIDS (Disease) – Prevention; Public Health – Citizen Participation; AIDS (Disease) – and the Arts; AIDS (Disease) – Education – United States; Safe Sex in AIDS Prevention; AIDS (Disease) in Mass Media

Juhasz, Alexandra. AIDS TV: Identity, Community, and Alternative Video. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.
Juhasz, Alexandra. “Make a Video for Me: Alternative AIDS Video by Women.” Gendered Epidemic: Representations of Women in the Age of AIDS. Eds. Nancy L. Roth and Katie Hogan. New York: Routledge, 1998. 205-220.
Spiro, Ellen. “DiAna DiAna: Only Your Hairdresser Knows.” Mother Jones 16.1 (1991): 43-45.

Lee Paczulla, Fall 2004

Veiled Hope, The (Dir: Norma Marcos, 1994)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 55 min

Color, VHS

Distributed by Women Make Movies
The Veiled Hope is a documentary that carves its way into the hearts and minds of five Palestinian women who live in Gaza and the West Bank. These women include a teacher, a social activist for Palestinian rights, a physiotherapist, a doctor, and Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, the most famous of the five. Each woman discusses the ways in which she helps reconstruct the cultural identity of the Palestinian people in her life. In addition, the viewer has the rare opportunity to hear women’s voices on the issues of Israeli occupation, the rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements, and the wearing of the veil, which to many individuals symbolizes the oppression of women in the Middle East. Many of these women’s experiences address the social conservatism of the nation. One woman describes how love is forbidden to be discussed in Palestinian society and that a romantic relationship between a man and a woman is considered to involve too much intimacy. Another woman spoke of how she must ask for permission from her father in order to leave the house, even if she is just going to visit their neighbor. This same woman told of how she wanted to stop wearing her veil because no one at the university was wearing one. Her father was not in favor of this idea, claiming that her veil signified that she was a decent, modest woman. The doctor that was interviewed discussed how the most prominent complaint amongst women was of severe backache. She argued that this was most likely psychosomatic—women were expressing their anxieties in the form of physical ailments.
Using interviews and old photographs, Marcos tells the story of the women’s movement for education and political autonomy from the 1920’s to the present. However, one interviewee argues that a western feminist movement is not effective in Arab countries. What is more important than women learning to read and write in their culture is for women to learn how to breastfeed their children or to learn how to recognize cancer symptoms before it is too late. One doctor claims that it is necessary for women to understand the genetic consequences of intermarriage in order to stop the rampant genetic disorders that persist within their culture. These individuals aver that a western feminist movement is incompatible with their culture and thus, are proponents for a new movement that will work within the system of the Arab society. On a more universal level, this film serves to uncover the intersection between national and gender movements.


Julie Monaghan, Fall 2004

Love and Diane (Dir: Jennifer Dworkin, 2002)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 55 min

distributed by Women Make Movies


In Love & Diane, Jennifer Dworkin and her crew enter the world of a family trying to unite after years of separation, yet at the same time fighting to express their individuality and assert themselves. This emotional documentary places the audience in the middle of an environment filled with substance abuse, teen pregnancy, child neglect, poverty, HIV, depression, suicide attempts, and a bureaucracy that fails to support the people who need its assistance the most. The story focuses on the Hazzard family, specifically Diane and her daughter Love. When Love was eight-years-old she told her teacher that her mother was on drugs, causing CPS to remove Love and her siblings from her mother’s care. All of the siblings have recently been reunited with their mother and Love is now 19 and HIV positive. Diane is out of work. Love has recently given birth to a son, Donyeah, who appears to be HIV positive, although the tests are not conclusive as he still has some of his mother’s immune system mixed in with his own. After a family fight, Diane mentions to her therapist that Love has is a neglectful parent to Donyeah, and that afternoon the police arrive to take Donyeah away from Love and place him in foster care. Love suddenly finds herself in the same situation that her mother was in ten years ago. To Love, Donyeah is all that matters in the world and she must try and learn the system in order to get him back. The loss of Donyeah to foster care effects the whole family emotionally and economically as his illness granted them an extra housing credit and other benefits that they must do without if they do not regain custody. Between fighting and blaming one another, the family must learn to come together and support each other if they want to get Donyeah back, overcome their past, and move on to a brighter future.

Subject Headings:

AIDS, Foster Care, Parenting, Urban Poverty, Welfare, Documentary Studies, Family Relations, Feature Films (Documentary), Motherhood, Sociology


Hazzard, Diane. Ask Diane: Diane Answers Questions from Viewers. P.O.V. ( accessed November 4, 2004.

Miller, Laura. Love & Diane. (
review/2003/04/18/love_diane/index_np.html) accessed November 4, 2004.

Smiley, Tavis Interview: Diane Hazzard and Jennifer Dworken Discuss the Documentary “Love and Diane.” N.P.R. originally broadcast April 20, 2004. (
interviewdianehazzardandjenniferdworkindiscussthed/) accessed November 4, 2004.

Emily Nolte 11/4/04

Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night (Dir: Sonali Gulati, 2005)


Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night
A film by Sonali Gulati
2005, United States/India, 27 minutes, Distributed by Women Make Movies

Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night, a documentary about outsourcing telemarketing jobs to Indian call centers, begins with a short animated sequence as the filmmaker introduces herself to us. Sonali Gulati, in calm voice-over, tells us that “this story began with a phone call,” and that in the ten years she has lived in the United States she has learned how to deal with telemarketers. One day, though, she receives a call from “Nancy Smith,” a voice with an Indian accent and the unique ability amongst telemarketers to pronounce Gulati’s name. Soon after, live footage has replaced animation and Gulati is on a plane to New Delhi, her former home, to find Nancy Smith and those like her – Indian people working for Americans and with Americanized names and accents. Nalini by Day, Nancy by Night is a concise but poignant film about the workers whose jobs are the most coveted amongst the urban middle class, but who earn a fraction of the wages of their American counterparts. It examines the way America has infiltrated all parts of the globe, driving workers to compete madly for U.S-provided jobs and to strive for assimilation into American culture. Gulati uses animation, archival footage and taped interviews to put her story together, taking the viewer along as she gradually discovers what story it is and ponders the question of her own identity as an Indian woman living in America. Nalini won the Director’s Choice Award at the Black Maria Film Festival, was the Official Selection at the Margaret Mead Film Festival, and won awards at various other international festivals.

Subject Headings: globalization, identity, documentary, India.

Helpful article: New Subjectivities: Documentary and Self-Representation in the Post-Verité Age by Michael Renov, from Feminism and Documentary, ed. by Diane Waldman and Janet Walker

by Sophie Hagen