Updated: Feb. 17, 2015 at 3:25 p.m.
The so-called first film of its kind to play in theaters, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry,” is sometimes a glorified history lesson and other times an insightful peek into a events often lost in textbooks.
The picture, which opened at E Street Cinema on Friday, begins in Berkeley, Calif., where the first feminist newspaper was published, and follows the women’s liberation movement.
The 92-minute piece is occasionally over-saturated with information from news reports, photographs, video clips of protests and firsthand accounts from some of the women who played active roles in grassroots movements in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston and D.C. during the 1960s and 1970s.
The production of the film is an underdog story in itself: It was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, which raised $81,000 in November 2012. Director Mary Dore said fundraising was so challenging that it reinforced her opinion that people do not believe the women’s liberation movement mattered.
“Over the past decade that I have been working on this, it just seems that the women’s movement seems to have been held in low repute,” she said.
More than 30 women were interviewed for the project, and the weaving-in of anecdotes adds a human depth to what would otherwise be a long-winded history lesson.
One woman featured in the film, Karla Jay, organized “The First National Ogle-In” after she heard about another woman being harassed on her way to work. Men used to wait for the woman outside of the Wall Street subway station to whistle, grab and pinch her.
Jay and her group marched through the streets commenting on men’s appearances, and the horrified reactions from men were all recorded on camera.
“You can tell from the Ogle-in or Miss America [protest footage] what a blast it was to be there,” Dore said. “They were very clever. That’s why it’s incredibly annoying that the women of this movement have been completely distorted as these humorless, bitter, ugly [people who] hate everyone.”
The focus on smaller, local movements like “The Ogle-In” keep the information fresh even for viewers who know about the women’s liberation movement, but the footage taken 50 years ago is unavoidably grainy and gives the film its old-fashioned aesthetic.
During the production, Dore said she was concerned about a lack of footage overall.
“I was really afraid we would be short on visuals. But it’s really worked out and most of this footage hasn’t been seen for 40 or 50 years,” Dore said.
From the founders of the National Organization for Women to street performers called the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, better known as WITCH, “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” paints the women’s liberation movement as a spirited coalition of women frustrated by injustice.
“It’s a rousing film and I want people to realize that ordinary people can make great social change,” Dore said. “It is sort of a view of how people can organize when you don’t have anything on your side.”
This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Karla Jay organized “The First National Ogle-In” after she faced street harassment. She actually organized it after hearing about another woman’s experience. We regret this error.