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With: Lynn Hershman-Leeson, Judy Chicago, Miranda July, B. Ruby Rich, Yvonne Rainer, The Guerilla Girls
Written by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson
Directed by: Lynn Hershman-Leeson
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 83
Date: 01/01/2010
IMDB

!Women Art Revolution (2011)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Making Art and WAR

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bay Area-based artist and filmmaker Lynn Hershman-Leeson delivers her fourth feature-length film, though this one was begun long before Conceiving Ada (1997), Teknolust (2002), or Strange Culture (2007). All the way back in 1966, when Hershman first entered the art world, she picked up a camera and began interviewing all the women artists she knew. Her footage -- some 125 hours of it -- became perhaps the only known record of an entire movement of art that was otherwise unseen and undocumented.

Thus, !Women Art Revolution is historically important, for art history in general and for women in particular. In it, Hershman interviews such key figures as Judy Chicago, whose groundbreaking 1979 work "The Dinner Party" became the subject of a Congressional debate in 1993. We also learn the heartbreaking story of innovative artist Ana Mendieta, whose untimely death in 1985 may not have been an accident. Much of the artwork here seems to have come about as a direct result of sexual repression, which, in turn, inspires the hatred and anger of the male establishment.

This might have been just another documentary if Hershman had not decided to add her own work, including "Roberta," a fictitious person that existed only through photographs, credit cards, a driver's license, and a bank account. In her narration, Hershman admits that it took her a while to make the decision, and in telling us about the decision, she has made her documentary into a personal memoir rather than a complete history; this is all the more fascinating, although I wish she had made a way to make it even more so.

Hershman's three previous films all found inventive ways to comment upon, or subvert the medium of movies (and of watching movies) in telling their stories. This one is sadly a bit more straightforward. Yet she can be forgiven. I expect that large amount of footage would have been daunting to anyone trying to find a shape for a finished film. And the riches that can be found within are still more than worth the trouble. (Happily, Hershman has donated the bulk of her footage to Stanford University, which has made all of it available online at: http://lib.stanford.edu/women-art-revolution. The story continues.)