Woman in Film & Video continues its multi-year initiative to have more women-made films included in the National Film Registry housed at the Library of Congress. Although women have been involved with movies since the movie camera was invented, their work is severely necessary underrepresented in this national collection.
The Library of Congress maintains the National Film Registry to honor “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant films” that are at least 10 years old at the time of their inclusion in the Registry. The selected films are “works of enduring significance to American Culture.” More information about the National Film Registry can be found here.
WIFV is nominating the following films for consideration by the National Film Registry in 2015.
1. The Big House (1930). Written by Frances Marion, edited by Blanche Sewell;
2. Fast Food Women (1992). Written/directed by Anne Lewis;
3. He’s Only Missing (1978). Written/directed by Robin Smith;
4. Paris is Burning (1990). Written/directed by Jennie Livingston;
5. Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Directed by Nora Ephron, screenplay by Jeff Arch, David S. Ward, and Nora Ephron.
The Big House, directed by George W. Hill and starring Wallace Berry, Robert Montgomery and Chester Morris, gave audiences their first experience of hearing prison doors slam shut, tin cups clanking on mess-hall tables and prisoners’ feet shuffling down corridors. Writer Frances Marion became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for this film. It was edited by Blanche Sewell (Wizard of Oz, Queen Christina). Widely recognized as the “parent of the prison film genre”, The Big House presents a realistic view of imprisonment, heightened by filming at San Quentin, also served as a call for prison reform. The film also won an Oscar for Sound Recording.
Fast Food Women documents the lives of women working in four fast-food restaurants in Eastern Kentucky, with low wages and no benefits. Management is concerned with speedy production and good service and subjects the workers to a fast-paced and inconsistent scheduling that makes it hard to earn a living, much less support a family after their husbands lose their jobs in the coal mines. This documentary manages to capture the good-natured humor of these women through their long hours and financial concerns. Even with today’s advances through computerizing and standardizations, Fast Food Women reminds us that nothing much has changed in the fast food industry.
He’s Only Missing documents a daughter’s feelings of uncertainty as a family waits to learn if the man of the house is dead or “just missing” during the Vietnam War. Robin Smith was 18 years old when her father, Marine Lt. Col. Robert Smith, was shot down and declared missing in action in 1969. Throughout the film, we get to see Smith, her mother Jane, and others reveal their insecurities and find their voices to get the answers they need about their men while raising the country’s awareness of the missing. This film is a very personal look at a national tragedy that is under-represented in the Registry.
Paris Is Burning, a documentary by Jennie Livingston, explores New York’s gay and transgender community in the mid to late 1980s. Prominent members of the drag scene, including Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Anji Xtravaganza and Willi Ninja, are interviewed. Even as they hide behind wigs, fake eyelashes, glitter and make up most of them are searching for community and a sense of family in their lives to counter discrimination and rejection from their birth families. Livingston gave her subjects the honor of allowing them to lead their daily lives and shows their struggles to survive. Paris Is Burning won numerous awards including the GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film and the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival.
Sleepless in Seattle marks the directorial breakthrough for Nora Ephron. The film reveals the struggles of Sam Baldwin and his son Jonah who attempt to reestablish their lives after wife/mom Maggie dies. Jonah’s call to a nation-wide radio talk show and his father’s Christmas Eve confession spark a national following of women eager to meet them. Among the many women listening to the show is Annie Reed, a Baltimore newspaper reporter, who starts writing a story and then changes her organized life to take a chance on love. This romantic odyssey was nominated for two Oscars, including best screenplay. Sleepless in Seattle served as a launching board for Ms. Ephron’s subsequent successes and recognition as a leading director/writer of romantic comedies. We were rather shocked to learn that none of Ms. Ephron’s films are in the National Film Registry and think that oversight should be remedied.
These films exemplify the range and quality of work by women filmmakers and deserve recognition by The Library of Congress.
2012 Selections of the National Film Registry
WIFV is honored to announce that A League of Their Own (1992) directed by Penny Marshall has been included in the 2012 selection by the Library of Congress. Among other chosen films with women involvement we included Dirty Harry (1971) written by Rita M. Fink, The Matrix (1999) written/directed by Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski, One Survivor Remembers (1995) directed by KaryAntholis and written by Gerda Weissmann Klein,Samsara: Death and Rebirth in Cambodia (1990) directed by Ellen Bruno, and The Times of Harvey Milk (1984) written by Judith Coburn. Click here for a full list of films added to the registry in 2012.
2011 Selections of the National Film Registry
WIFV is delighted that Growing Up Female co-written and directed by Julia Reichert and Jim Klein has been included in the 2011 selections by the Library of Congress. Other women-centric films added to the National Film Registry are Fake Fruit Factory (1986) by Chick Strand, Hester Street (1975) written and directed by Joan Micklin Silver and Norma Rae (1979). Click here for a full list of films added to the Registry in 2011.