Reproductive Systems: Gender, Power and Society

Block Cinema continues its year-long series of programs inspired by One Book One Northwestern’s 2018-2019 selection, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, with a selection of films that engage the theme of reproduction. Biological reproduction is at the center of The Handmaid’s Tale, but Atwood’s novel also reflects how systems of education, labor, media and justice function to reproduce social structures across generations. Programmed with the support of the Northwestern Women’s Center, Reproductive Systems brings together documentaries, narratives and experimental films that interrogate these complex structures of social and biological reproduction and their effects on women’s lives.

Jane: An Abortion Service

Saturday, February 2, 2019 1:00 PM
(Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy, 1995, USA, digital, 58 min.)

In the four years before the Roe v. Wade ruling made abortion legal in the United States, a clandestine organization of Chicago women offered low-cost, safe and confidential services to over 11,000 women—the Jane Collective. This invaluable oral history tells that story through the words of women who founded, operated, and consulted the service. Directors Kate Kirtz and Nell Lundy skillfully entwine archival footage and forthright testimony to situate Jane alongside parallel movements for peace, civil, and women’s rights, emphasizing the extraordinary sense of responsibility and commitment its work demanded. The result is a revelatory and inspiring document.

In person: Judith Arcana, member of the Jane Collective and longtime teacher of literature, writing and women’s studies.

The Stepford Wives

Thursday, February 14, 2019 7:00 PM FREE
(Bryan Forbes, 1975, USA, 35mm, 115 min.)

Joanna Eberhart experiences a major culture clash when she moves from New York City to the all too perfect town of Stepford, Connecticut. The women all keep their houses immaculate and the men all belong to a secretive club. Based on Ira Levin’s (Rosemary’s Baby, The Boys from Brazil) novel, The Stepford Wives’s blend of suspense and social critique paved the way for films and television like Black Mirror and Jordan Peele’s Get Out.

Screening with permission of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

With an introduction by Helen Thompson, Northwestern Professor of English and Faculty Chair of One Book One Northwestern.

Technology Transformations: A Feminist History of the Supercut

Friday, February 22, 2019 7:00 PM FREE

In conjunction with NEW NETWORKED GENRES, a course led by Northwestern professor James Hodge, this screening traces histories of gendered reproductions in media through the form of “Supercut.” A viral video genre, supercuts compile multiple instances of a single theme, utterance, cliché, or image from pop-culture sources, but it has roots in earlier feminist works such as Dara Birnbaum’s Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1979) and Matthias Müller’s Home Stories (1990). Pairing these antecedents with contemporary works such as Natalie Bookchin’s Mass Ornament (2009) and Jennifer Proctor’s Nothing a Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix and Am I Pretty? (2018), this program reveals how the supercut offers a powerful tool for remixing the social reproduction of gender in media from cinema to YouTube. Proctor will join Professor Hodge for conversation after the screening.

In Person: filmmaker Jennifer Proctor

Birthright: A War Story

Friday, March 8, 2019 6:30 PM FREE
(Civia Tamarkin, 2017, USA, digital, 105 min.)

While access to abortion is often front and center in debates around reproductive rights, the matter of choice is just one factor in a broad assault on the privacy and autonomy of women. This searing documentary, described by director Civia Tamarkin as “a real-life Handmaid’s Tale,” provides a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute overview of the “war on women” carried out by right-wing legislators throughout the United States. Anchored in the lived experiences of women whose access to reproductive health has been regulated, restricted, and criminalized, the film builds on these testimonies to paint a shocking picture of the forces shaping women’s health policy in the United States.

In person: director Civia Tamarkin, in conversation with Dr. Sekile Nzinga-Johnson, director of the Northwestern Women’s Center.

Ilo Ilo

Saturday, March 9, 2019 1:00 PM FREE
(Anthony Chen, 2013, Singapore, DCP, 99 min.)

In Hokkien, English, Tagalog, and Mandarin with English subtitles

Winner of the Camera d’Or award for best first feature at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, Anthony Chen’s engrossing and empathetic drama Ilo Ilo tackles the emotional and socioeconomic complexities of care work in the age of globalization. The story centers on Teresa, a Filipina domestic worker hired by a Singaporean family to look after problem child Jiale just before the Asian financial crisis of 1997. Drawing on his own experiences, Chen looks incisively at inequities of class, gender, and national identity, particularly as they manifest and reproduce themselves in family dynamics and in the delegation of domestic labor.

Co-presented with GABRIELA National Alliance of Women.