Plays Oct. 9, 10, 15, 17, 21 and 22 at Cinematheque
When reviewing documentaries, I have a practice of taking a note any time the film teaches me something I didn’t know before. I learned more while watching She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Mary Dore’s doc about the early days of the women’s liberation movement, than I have from any other movie.
Perhaps that’s less of a commendation of Dore’s film than it is an indictment of the broad cultural dismissal of this period in feminism. I never read the names of these women or activist groups in high school history class, but their impact is undeniable.
I never knew, for example, that New York newspapers would print the work schedules of specifically targeted women working on Wall Street so men could follow and catcall the ones they found attractive. I consider myself fairly hip to social injustice, but that shocked me, as did many other examples of sexism the film examines.
What I appreciate most about Dore and her subjects are the nuance they bring to the picture. It would be easy to make the film entirely celebratory. Instead, the movie shows a wider cultural context for the movement, examining the other activist movements with which it intersected, the sexism that pervaded those movements, and the unique struggles of lesbians and women of colour within the mostly straight, white movement.
That level of nuance is too often absent from these types of conversations. These subjects can admit to making mistakes, still acknowledge the progress they made and the struggles they face, and do it all with a sense of humour. For that, I applaud them and this film.
Published in Volume 70, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2015)