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