Documentaries Harbor Documents

July 14, 2009

Attended Outfest’s Legacy Project’s screening/fundraiser for the newly restored print of Choosing Children (Debra Chasnoff and Kim Klausner, 1984). I chose children in 1998 (and later made a documentary about this) in a similar but completely different world with much thanks to the earlier efforts of activist women bent on living their lives as they saw fit.

Their documentary, a simple and profound lesbian/feminist political film project of information-sharing and voice-giving (one we AIDS activist videomakers took up only a few years later), artfully holds documents of what lesbian mothers thought, said, wore, fought for, and desired in 1984. To watch it then was to receive untold and little recorded legal, organizational, and emotional details about imagining motherhood outside of heterosexual marriage. The film engages an aesthetics of personal/political functionality: at the screening the directors explained that many women did go on to choose children after its authorizing viewing.

To see Choosing Children today is to be given the rare privilege of access to lesbian’s past actions, experiences, and opinions, too little recorded, hardly archived, easily overlooked (a shared concern of The Watermelon Woman and Women of Vision, also Legacy Projects). While the aesthetics of functionality of the film deserve attention in its own right, it is this documentary’s contemporary political project of history salvage that proved most relevant to me on this viewing. Bob Rosen said something to this effect when introducing the film: how we need to save artists’ work, especially those documenting on the margins, because it marks the depth and complexity of what we knew, did, and desired for the future. As the blogisphere now explodes with just such documents, we all might take a breath and consider how we will contribute to such an archive for the future.

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