A woman walks alone down an empty city street...
Two men comb their thick mustaches and adjust their denim vests before approaching her. The conversation begins innocuous – perhaps they are asking for directions – but suspense swells as they get closer and touchier. Suddenly, the men coordinate a concerted assault, wrestling the woman to the dirty, wet ground. She cries out to no avail; she is alone. Then, we hear the faint sound of a whistle. The whistles multiply and become more intense. A fleet of women on bicycles swarm the scene, scaring off the men. They bring the lone woman to her feet and embrace her. Still crying, she grips them tight, embracing their solidarity and her safety.
Set to female post-punk rock music, Liz Borden’s Born in Flames is more than a fictional documentary film about intersectional feminism; it is a portrait of activism in 1980s New York. The grainy homemade film follows Isabel and Honey, the leaders of two outspoken feminist groups, who operate illicit radio shows to organize riots. The groups focus on community-based action, like the bicycle ambush, and face backlash from the media.
Women Retaliate in OVID.tv’s Born in Flames
A series of shots demonstrates womens’ participation in manual labor: Hands scrub dishes. Hands fill out office paperwork. Hands feed a baby. Hands bag groceries, hands cut hair, hands wrap chicken at a packaging plant. A woman working in construction is handed a pink slip indicating that she has been fired. She asks her employer why none of the men lost their jobs, and he has no reply.
“We have a right to violence. All oppressed people have the right to violence.”
The labor riots that ensue are uplifting and radical. We feel like we are protesting with the group as women march and chant, passing in front of and behind the camera, wearing pins and hardhats, holding megaphones and homemade signs. The scene blisters with palpable rage. These violent sequences are intercut with intimate moments of reflection between small circles of women, including Honey and Isabel, who sit, talk, smoke, organize, argue, and yell. The women question how to unify when people have different approaches working toward a similar cause.
“One lion or five hundred mice?”
In this writer’s opinion, the film makes up for what it lacks in technical aspects and structure with a refreshingly nuanced view of intersectional feminism.
Born in Flames is recommended to those who enjoy independent, experimental filmmaking and radical politics.
Directed by Lizzie Borden
To watch the film, visit the OVID.tv page for Born in Flames.
Images courtesy of OVID.tv
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About the Author: Holly Fontanetta
Holly Fontanetta is inspired by narratives that capture the idiosyncrasies of human experience. She has driven absurd distances on a whim in search of character, including two road trips from New York to California. Holly spends her free time hanging out with cats (her own or strays - either is fine) and swimming in the ocean (Atlantic or Pacific - either is fine). Her favorite stories to read and write feature women overcoming extraordinary circumstances. Currently, Holly is learning to paint and filling her walls with strange art.