AGORA
: Dragged from her chariot by a mob of fanatical vigilante Christian monks, the revered astronomer was stripped naked, skinned to her bones with sharp oyster shells, stoned and burned alive as possibly the first executed witch in history. A kind of purge that was apparently big business back then.


CRITICAL WOMEN HEADLINES

1/30/14

Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth - A Conversation With Gloria Steinem


 Currently journeying across India to continue her life mission and passion to promote the rights of women, children, and the impoverished and persecuted wherever she can, Steinem took time out to talk about a very different project close to her heart. The upcoming premiere on PBS television in this country of a documentary about Alice Walker, her lifelong friend, colleague and comrade in arms fighting the good fight for women and the oppressed everywhere. The documentary directed by outspoken Nairobi born British-Indian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, is American Masters' Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth.

Steinem has long championed issues connected to human trafficking, pornography and prostitution these many decades, since the time as a young woman when she went undercover as a Playboy Bunny to expose exploitative working conditions there. A civil, human, reproductive rights and anti-war activist, Steinen was also co-founder of Ms. Magazine, where Walker worked under her.

Steinem communicated in writing with Arts Express for this interview, as her excursion across rural India rendered phone communication problematic. She talks about the documentary, her inspirational close friendship with Alice Walker, her participation in this film, what Steinem feels has been accomplished in her global struggle against injustice, and what remains to be done. And most significantly, the greater life journey that binds these two exceptional women together, in the words of Alice Walker, 'Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.' Here's Gloria Steinem...

You appear in a new documentary premiering in February, American Masters - Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth, directed by Pratibha Parmar. What do you feel this latest cinematic look into the life and work of Alice Walker brings that is new and different to the table?

GLORIA STEINEM: Readers know Alice's creations and many know something about her life, but this is the first time both have been seen together. There is a physical and spiritual force to Alice's thoughts coming from her physical self -- that offers an all-five-senses truth. I think we know instinctively when a writer's words and her or his life are at odds, but this documentary proves they are one.

How do you feel Walker and her writings have inspired you in your own life, and what qualities of hers do you most identify with?

GS: I feel she is ahead of me on the path -- one in which we behave as if everything we do matters. The truth is that we don't know in the moment which thing will matter, but we can try to be authentic in each one, no matter how small. I've learned from watching Alice that activists destroy themselves when they pretend that the end justifies the means. The means you choose dictate the ends you get.

What was your relationship like when you worked together at Ms., and what do you feel 
Walker brought to the magazine that further illuminated and transformed its scope and content?

GS: First, I admired Alice's writing, and then we got to know each other in a more personal way. At Ms., she contributed uniquely not only by her own work, but by bringing in the writing of Bessie Head and many other African writers. She didn't come to many editorial meetings - she's a more solitary person - and yet the magazine would not have been the same without her.

What do you feel is Walker's lasting influence and legacy pertaining to both art and social issues, and how she changed the national cultural and political conversation in significant ways?

GS: Alice is a truth-teller, including painful truths about racial or class biases within the women's movement, and within the civil rights movement toward women. As I heard a young African American man say at one of her readings, "I've become a much better person under the care and feeding of Alice Walker's writing." I think millions feel that - and also beyond this country.

For instance, she used the language of country people in The Color Purple and other writings - without apostrophes to show misspellings etc. -- without condescension - and it is true and poetic. I accidentally met her translators in both Japan and China. Each told me that to be true to Alice, they had used the language of their own country people, and it was the first time this had been done in "high" literature in their knowledge, too. If you do one true thing, it makes change wherever it goes.

We see in this film Walker's strained relationship with her daughter, which is a fairly universal problem to varying degrees, visited upon women who choose to be more than mothers in their lives, and in the absence of social safety nets to help them do so. What do you feel can be done about this predicament mothers face?

GS: I think a single standard would help. Either we talk about the children of well-known fathers and mothers equally, or we leave that in a private sphere. The very big unfairness is that mothers are treated very differently from fathers. Her daughter writes a lot about her mother, but that's part of the judgment of her writing, not Alice's.

What book or poem of hers do you most relate to, and why?
GS: I can't choose. I give "New Face" to every couple in love, and I re-read her poetry often because it's like grass on the page; you can't imagine anything more natural. I love "My Father's Country Is the Poor" because it embodies the feelings of all of us who travel far from our origins. "The Color Purple is the only great novel about poor people that is read and loved by poor people. All the rest seem likely to other-ize their subjects. I could go on and on.

There is a Walker quote in the film, 'Activism is the rent I pay for living on the planet.' How do you feel that concept has touched your own life, both positively and negatively, and what do you think you've accomplished well in that regard, and haven't done as well as you wish you would have?

GS: I feel she is giving me permission to do what I love - which is organize. I feel I haven't lived up to Alice or myself when I waste time. After all, time is all there is...

How do you feel your views and strategies for social transformation have changed over the years, and is there anything you would have done differently?

GS: I wouldn't have repeated what I already know how to do, I would have wasted less time, and I would have been better at conflict.

You're in India now, where gang rape has emerged as a horrific issue. How far do you feel the women's movement has come, and what do you think remains to be done?

GS: We're barely half way into this wave. What we call the First Wave won a legal identity for females as humans, not chattel, in most countries. Now we're trying for legal and social equality, yet in the US we don't even yet have equal pay or reproductive freedom as a basic human right - and female status in the world is all about controlling female bodies as the means of reproduction.

There will probably be other waves after this one. For instance, you might say we've convinced most people that women can do what men can do, but we haven't even convinced ourselves that men can do what women do.

What advice do you have for younger women today?

GS: To listen to themselves and trust their own voices.
Sorry, now I have to go to a meeting here in Kolkatta!

Gloria

Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth on PBS American Masters is a biography of the Pulitzer Prize winning writer, activist, and author of The Color Purple. The documentary features interviews with Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, Danny Glover, Quincy Jones, Gloria Steinem, Sapphire, and the late Howard Zinn in one of his final interviews. Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth begins airing nationwide on Friday, February 7th, and in honor of Walker's 70th birthday on February 9th. And Black History Month. Check local listings.

Prairie Miller
 

1/29/14

Material Puns: WFCC Member Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi Honored With UK and NYC Art Exhibits


NYC based Italian journalist and artist Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi has been honored with an exhibit of her work in the UK. The distinguished, multi-talented Renaissance woman and member of the Women Film Critics Circle, was a guest on WBAI Radio's Arts Express. Gabardi discusses her many projects, including her UK exhibit, Material Puns. And exactly what that means, and what it has to do with Gabardi's pursuit of the self-ironic in society.

LISTEN TO THE PROGRAM HERE

AND....

CHIARA'S PAINTINGS AT IFAC-ARTS NYC

It is my utmost pleasure to announce that some of my paintings will be part of the group show Family Affairs: An incestuous avant-garde survey of art at the International Fine Arts Consortium (The Yard) in New York. Located at 85 Delancey Street, NYC, and open from 6pm to 8pm daily. The show will last until April 30th.

The show is curated by Gregory de la Haba and Lee Wells.

Lee Wells  has exhibited internationally for over 15 years, including the Biennale Di Venezia, National Center for Contemporary Art Moscow, Kimpo/Seoul International Airport, PS1/MoMA, and The State Hermitage Museum, in addition to numerous art fairs, festivals and galleries; and has been written about by publications such as The New York Times, The Art Newspaper, The Washington Post and Art Net.

The show will feature paintings by various contemporary artists , as well as works by Keith Haring, Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Banksy, Andy Warhol and many more!

Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi writes for King’s Road Magazine, British Foreign Press Association, Filmagazine (Italy), Shockya, PMc Magazine. Chiara is a member of the Women Film Critics Circle.


1/18/14

The Anti-Oscars 2013: The James Agee Cinema Circle Honors Director Laura Poitras


With Oscar wins based - no less than US multi-million dollar election victories - on who can afford to buy elections with the biggest bucks, The James Agee Cinema Circle has announced their Anti-Oscars, in recognition of artistic merit and humanistic values alone. In other words, unlike the Academy, which primarily focuses on entertainment or sensationalism while disregarding debasement targeting race, gender and class, the James Agee Cinema Circle bestows awards on all entries equally each year. And the only losers are relegated to their JACC Hall Of Shame.

With their citing of late iconic film critic Pauline Kael that 'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising,' the Critics Chapter of JACC is described as 'an association of national and international critics, historians and film scholars who are involved in print, radio, online and TV broadcast media and analysis.'

'We have come together to form the first progressive critics organization, in the belief that idealistic perspectives, voices and diverse ideological visions in film criticism that speak with social conviction and consciousness, are sorely lacking as a public platform. We will be recognizing films embodying those humanistic ideals with our annual awards.

There are so many reasons for liking or hating a movie. One big mental roadblock is being knocked out by the performances, dramatic style or cinematography, but evaluating the story as a stinker. And the typical entertainment journalist and those for sale to the commercial media corporations, will argue that if a movie is well made, it doesn't matter if the content is reactionary, degrades, or dehumanizes, or even if it is disseminating untruths about real political and historical events.

But as JACC has so succinctly pointed out, why go to such lengths to lie, when you can just simply tell the truth. And that 'why' will be one of our many probing hot topics on the table.

So in order to best cover all bases, progressive film critics tend to consider three categories of assessment, rather than two: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The first two are self-explanatory. And the third category is reserved for movies that may have been impressively put together, but there's just something offensively anti-humanistic about them.'

The Anti-Oscars 2013: The James Agee Cinema Circle Challenges The Academy Awards.....

1/1/14

Human Rights Lawyer/US Political Prisoner Lynne Stewart Freed


 Human rights lawyer and US political prisoner Lynne Stewart, freed from Texas prison on New Year's Eve, following mass campaign to US government to release her. In this interview while planning her return home to NYC, even as she battles terminal cancer, Lynne vows to help the incarcerated women there that she is leaving behind, for the rest of her remaining life.

LISTEN TO HER BREAKING NEWS INTERVIEW HERE

Lynne Stewart appears in the documentary about her legal comrade in arms, the late iconic William Kunstler, in William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe. She is also the subject of the Flavia Fontes documentary, Who's Afraid of Lynne Stewart. About which Fontes states:
'...This is the story of the first lawyer in the United States accused of supporting international terrorism after September 11th. Can Lynne Stewart prove her innocence..'