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DVD WATCH | spring 2008

DVD Watch
Feminist films now available for home viewing

Beyond BeliefBeyond Belief
Beth Murphy, director

If your husband had been killed by terrorists trained in Afghanistan, would you care about the welfare of Afghan women? Would you turn your tragedy into something positive? Would you risk your life to change the lives of others? For two years, director Beth Murphy followed Boston suburbanites Susan Retik and Patti Quigley, two 9/11 widows who answered yes, yes and yes. Traveling to Afghanistan, they made real connections with women like themselves: widows who were sole providers for their families. By donating 15 chickens to each of 400 widows so they could earn income and feed their children, the Americans empowered those whose lives had been ravaged by decades of war, poverty and oppression—factors Retik and Quigley consider the true causes of terrorism. Available from www.alivemindmedia.com. —MICHEL CICERO


Iron Ladies of LiberiaIron Ladies of Liberia
Daniel Junge and Siatta Scott Johnson, directors

Do women govern differently? The historic presidency of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia hints at an answer. In 2006, she became the first woman elected to head an African nation; the film documents her first year in office as she keeps the shattered country from returning to civil war while attempting to “exercise leadership without repression.” The directors honor the Harvard-educated Johnson Sirleaf and the “iron ladies” in her Cabinet by not attributing their political success to stereotypical ideas about women’s nurturing and inclusive nature. Instead, they imply it is women’s historic lack of power that allows them to excel as agents of change. As Johnson Sirleaf’s minister of finance, a woman, points out, “[We] have not been, to the same extent as men, party to all of the bad things of the past.” Available from www.ironladiesofliberia.com. —JENNIFER HAHN


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Cristian Mungiu, director

Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days follows a young woman as she helps a school friend obtain an abortion during the final days of communist rule in Romania. The story unfolds in less than 24 hours, as Otilia scrounges for money, finagles a hotel room and negotiates a back-alley abortion on behalf of her pregnant roommate Gabita. Mungiu reveals the lengths to which desperate women will go to end an unwanted pregnancy and the abuses they endure when the procedure is illegal. This stylistically spare film transcends the usual moralistic rhetoric to portray underground abortion in its physical and emotional reality. Widely available after June 17. —ASHLEY F. DZIUK


Tick Tock LullabyTick Tock Lullaby
Lisa Gornick, director

British indie director Lisa Gornick (Do I Love You?) evokes the ambivalence many women feel when considering motherhood, which is compounded when the potential mother is gay. Having eschewed the anonymity of sperm banks, comic-book artist Sasha and her girlfriend, Maya, cruise cafes for a source of sperm (preferably from a gay man; it’s “easier” that way), all the while second-guessing their parental chops. In side plots, a bickering straight couple also considers parenthood, and a free-spirited single photographer picks up unwitting teenage boys in hopes of conceiving. The quest for sperm forces all the characters into dangerous emotional territory, especially Maya and Sasha (acted deftly by Gornick herself), one of whom must sleep with a man. Often hilarious and never propagandistic, the film nonetheless makes a good case for gay parenthood. Widely available. —JESSICA STITES