Feminist movements, then and now, have been largely ignored by the movies. Unlike, say, the civil-rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s, which receives respectful remembrance in high-profile projects like last year’s Lee Daniels’ The Butler and this year’s Selma by director Ava DuVernay, women’s liberation is barely remembered by mainstream cinema, except perhaps as a joke. Think of the suffragette mother in Mary Poppins, whose negligence of the children necessitates a nanny. Even in a more progressive movie like the crowd-pleasing Pride, a based-on-real-life retelling that bridges the gap between the gay and labor movements — women’s concerns are the butt of several jokes.
Hence the necessity of rare films like Sufragette, a narrative feature that will explore the UK women’s movement of the 1920s, and She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a feature-length documentary by Mary Dore about the “women’s lib” movement of the 1966-1971.
According to a press release, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry “resurrects the buried history of the outrageous, often brilliant women who founded the modern women’s movement.” Here’s their description:
“She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry takes us from the founding of NOW, when ladies wore hats and gloves, to the emergence of more radical factions of women’s liberation; from intellectuals like Kate Millett to the street theatrics of WITCH (Women’s International Conspiracy from Hell!). Remarkably, there has never been a theatrical documentary about the early days of women’s liberation. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry aims not to romanticize the early movement, but to dramatize it in its exhilarating, quarrelsome, sometimes heart-wrenching glory. The film does not shy away from the controversies over race, sexual identity, and leadership that arose in the women’s movement. She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry captures the spirit of the time — thrilling, scandalous, and often hilarious.”
There’s no getting around the fact that American feminism’s second wave was problematic in many ways (as the origins of almost all political movements are), but the historical footage in the trailer — and the way it traces a line to the present — is inspiring as hell.
She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry will open in NYC on December 5 and in LA on December 12, with a national release to follow.