"Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves": Flicker Alley's "Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology"

By Kyle Westphal

Still from The Erlking, 1929

This year’s San Francisco Silent Film Festival line-up includes two recently restored features directed by women: Lois Weber’s The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) and Dorothy Arzner’s Get Your Man (1927). These revivals, abetted by ever-expanding scholarly interest in the wide variety of creative roles that women played in early Hollywood, coincide with the release of Flicker Alley’s six-disc DVD/Blu-ray box set “Early Women Filmmakers: An International Anthology,” which our correspondent Kyle Westphal reviews on our blog.

While working as a projectionist in college, my least-anticipated assignment was an annual double bill offered in conjunction with Media Aesthetics, an introductory humanities class for undergraduates. A few hundred students would enroll every year, which meant that several sections would shuffle in and out of the Film Studies Center over the course of a day. Each section watched the same two silent films in 16mm prints: D.W. Griffith’s A Drunkard’s Reformation (1909) and Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943). There was no introduction offered before the films, though once I roused myself from the booth and did my damnedest to convince these eighteen-year-old that Meshes would blow their friggin’ minds...

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