Hester Street (1975)

Four Voices: Independent Women Filmmakers

4 Mondays, June 5 to June 26, 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Instructor: Maurizio Giammarco, Ph.D., Intellectual Heritage Program, Temple University
Location: Multimedia Room
Cost: $100 for members, $125 for non-members. To register for this course, please call (610) 527-4008 x108.

From Mabel Normand, one of the first female American directors (as well as an actress, writer, and producer) who worked on Charlie Chaplin's early short films, to Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win an Academy Award for directing The Hurt Locker, women filmmakers have contributed a distinctive artistic voice to the development of American cinema. Yet, their accomplishments have been achieved within a Hollywood environment that has often been unfriendly to their participation and to their explorations of important and, at times, provocative subjects. But despite the obstacles they have encountered in the past—and, in certain respects, endure even now—women directors continue to work within the Hollywood system, and outside it, to create films in a wide array of genres and styles, about topics that both challenge and engage. Four such gifted directors and their films will be examined in this course: Joan Micklin Silver, Nancy Savoca, Kimberly Peirce, and Nicole Holofcener.

In Hester Street (1975), Joan Micklin Silver dramatizes the story of a Jewish couple who come to the Lower East Side of Manhattan from Europe in 1896. The film is notable for its detailed reconstruction of Jewish immigrant life in New York at the turn of the century, including a considerable amount of Yiddish dialogue. Hester Street was part of a wave of films released in the 1960s and 1970s that began to address the complexities of American Jewish identity. This film, with its anecdotes, incongruities, and mixture of comedy and pathos, follows in the tradition of such immigrant stories as Elia Kazan's America America and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, Pt. II.

In True Love (1989), Nancy Savoca examines an Italian-American couple and their respective families as they participate in all of the usual pre-wedding anxieties and party-planning that constitute such an event. While the film features all the conventions of one of the most overworked genres in movie history, the ethnic wedding comedy, Savoca avoids the clichés and sentimentalities normally found in such a film. For example, both the would-be groom and bride-to-be are by turn likable and annoying, revealing their flaws in real, human ways. True Love is never condescending, for it demonstrates genuine affection for and understanding of the characters, as well as for the specifically ethnic, neighborhood touches that are the sources of its exuberant and occasionally raucous humor.

Boys Don't Cry (1999), by Kimberly Peirce, is a dramatization of the real-life story of Brandon Teena, an American trans man who attempts to find himself and love in Nebraska, but falls victim to a brutal crime perpetrated by two acquaintances. The film captures the mystique, eerie loneliness, and desolation of Midwestern America, which have the potential to propel some people to despair and violence. The film's dark, understated aesthetic complements this vision, reflecting the influence of neorealism and the films of John Cassavetes and Martin Scorsese. Boys Don't Cry explores the nature of romantic and platonic relationships, violence against LGBT people, and the intersection of social class and gender.

Enough Said (2013), by Nicole Holofcener, is a romantic comedy that focuses on Eva, a masseuse and the divorced mother of a teenage girl, who begins a relationship with Albert, only to discover that he is the ex-husband of her client and friend. Referred to at times as the female Woody Allen, Holofcener writes all the films she directs, which are often partly inspired by events in her own life, do not always follow a typical plot structure, and usually deal with middle-class characters and issues. Yet, while some of Allen's films have female protagonists, Holofcener always focuses on female characters—crafted by a woman—thereby creating a rather different cinematic experience that is all too rare. Join us as we watch, discuss, and celebrate the richness and diversity of films written and directed by four highly talented women.
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  • Monday, June 26
    6:30pm 2017-06-26 18:30:00 2017-06-26 21:30:00 America/New_York Four Voices: Independent Women Filmmakers Bryn Mawr Film Institute, Bryn Mawr, PA