Sadomasochistic cowgirls are only a small sample of the women descending on the Carpenter Center for the first "Wild Women Film/Video Festival." The festival, which runs from November 11-23, will include screenings, workshops, and performances by the artists. The diverse collection of films and videos that are showcased share feminist themes and an innovative approach to media art.
Mindy Faber's "Delirium" stood out as the most powerful of the previewed films. When the video opens, Faber's mother, draped in a long black housecoat, is pitching herself against moving cars, attempting suicide. With background music, the scene is almost funny, until the audience slowly understands what they are actually witnessing from Faber's voice-over. The intense opening sets up the video's exploration of female madness in history as both a spectacle and a rebellion. "Delirium" is so visually engaging that images move almost too quickly from the screen. At the same time, Faber doesn't trivialize her subject by imposing a numbing MTV aesthetic. "Delirium" achieves a sensitive balance between her mother's story and Faber's own, showing what it was like to grow up with the "feeling we were faking our way through a game called family."
The highlight of Margaret Startton's "Kiss the Boys And Make Them Die" is a Faulkneresque portrayal of the family garage falling in on her (possibly) abusive father while neighbors look on. Some clips of the ghost that watched the artist throughout her childhood are appealingly Gothic, but I was less interested in the exploration of the artist's homosexuality and childhood abuse that follows. In contrast to "Delirium," there is no overarching theme to rescue this video from a swamp of tedious personal history. Over a clip of unidentifiable squirming insect life, Stratton's voice introduces the video: "This video is about seduction... This video is about you." Excuse me, but this video is not about me. Later Stratton quips, "All my friends went on Prozac and did great work. I went on Prozac and made this vide." Hopping on the Prozac bandwagon, however, does not give "Kiss the Boys" an excuse for its whiny self-indulgence. From behind the camera, Stratton says it herself: "I am talking out loud to no one."
Julie Zando avoids the pitfalls of personal narrative (one hopes) in her retelling of the French pornographic novel "The Story of O." Underneath the Rockpile Diner, a dusty underworld combines sadomasochistic ritual with the flavor of the Old West. Be forewarned: this is not a cowboy movie. However, if sadomasochism is an interest/hobby, this video promises, according to the press release, "a more holistic understanding of sadomasochistic desire and practice" than the traditionally negative feminist perspective.
After seeing the movie, I'm still unclear about how the all-female dynamic transforms the whippings, chains and rituals into a "holistic" experience, but maybe, as your parents and teachers always told you, you just need to read the book first.
Influenced by the writings of Helene Cixous, Doris Lessing, and others, the videos in the "Wild Women Film Festival" offer an easy way for women's studies concentrators to brush on feminist theory.
They shouldn't be the only ones to benefit, however. With equipment as primitive as the camcorder Dad brandished before the senior prom, the Carpenter Center's "Wild Women" have created bizarre worlds well worth your time.