She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry/Before and After Films

Mansplaining: it’s something us guys do, sometimes completely unawares – heck, though I’m still not entirely clear on what it is, I’m probably doing it right now. So at the risk of mansplaining something to female readers that they already understand, I do declare that She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, February 6th) is a pretty decent documentary about the history of the modern feminist movement.

Directed by Mary Dore, She’s Beautiful begins with the publication of Betty Friedan’s revolutionary ‘The Feminine Mystique’ in 1963. Friedan’s book sparked the rebirth of a women’s movement that had, by and large, been dormant since the days of the suffragettes, and its impact on modern feminism can’t be overstated.

Framed by the ongoing struggle for abortion rights, the film examines the birth of the National Organization for Women, the relationships between the women’s movement and other social justice causes (including the anti-war, civil rights, and gay liberation movements), and the dyed in the wool male chauvinist pigs who dominated the New Left of the late 1960s and early ‘70s. For the most part, the film avoids the schisms that would later divide the movement, concentrating on a broad, positive portrayal of twentieth century feminism.

Dore scored interviews with such luminaries as Virginia Whitehill (one of the legal team that argued for the plaintiff in Roe v. Wade), Rita Mae Brown, Jacqui Ceballos, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Susan Brownmiller, amongst many others. There’s a distinct coastal bias in the film, but that’s all to the good for Berkeleyside readers: you’ll see all your favorite campus landmarks here, as well as screenshots of local publications such as ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’.

Despite the serious issues confronting women (rape, abortion, spousal abuse, and more), She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry makes it clear that puckish humor was one of the movement’s most valuable weapons. It’s hard not to appreciate an organization called the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH), who cast hexes while costumed as, well, witches, and Ogle Day, when women cat-called male passers-by on the streets of New York.

And yes, there’s even some bra-burning here, as well as some surprising musical selections on the soundtrack, including The Velvet Underground’s ethereal ‘I’ll Be Your Mirror’ and Bikini Kill’s awesome punk classic, ‘Rebel Girl’. All in all, it’s an entertaining and enlightening ninety minutes.

Before-and-After film series in Berkeley

Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 The Passion of Joan of Arc

If you’re a denizen of Holy Hill, you should know about ‘Before-and-After Films’, a six film series scheduled throughout the spring at Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology at 2301 Vine Street. Comprising six films that transformed the art of filmmaking and pushed its spiritual frontier, the series kicks off at 7:00 PM on Saturday, February 7th with a screening of Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc. Hosted by Hollywood producer Ron Austin (who will lead post-screening discussions), this promises to be a special and intimate experience for film fans of a spiritual bent. Please RSVP if you wish to attend.

Berkeleyside’s film writer John Seal writes a weekly movie recommendation column at Box Office Prophets, as well as a column in The Phantom of the Movies’ Videoscope, an old-fashioned paper magazine, published quarterly. Read more from Big Screen Berkeley on Berkeleyside.

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