If you look at the history of cinema, a tradition that goes back over 100 years at this point, you’ll see a whole lot of white dudes directing movies. It’s taken a very long time for directors who were not white and not male to even become much of a presence in modern Hollywood. However, at the beginning of the medium, nonwhite dudes weren’t quite so rare. Film distributor Kino Lorber has been devoting time and effort to these little-seen filmmakers, first with its Pioneers of African American Cinema initiative last year, and now with their new campaign, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.
I’m a pretty major film buff and I’ve never even heard of most of these filmmakers. That is due in large part to the films falling into disrepair and obscurity in the ensuing century. However, maintaining the legacy of such artists and works is of the utmost importance in terms of showcasing different points of view that contributed to the language of cinema. Before there was a mandated studio system, a lot of these filmmakers were able to get issue-driven, socially conscious movies made and seen by the masses. Or they just made comedies or action movies or whatever! The point is, women made movies and people went to see them, and now you have the chance to see them and help make them look as pristine as possible.
Here’s what the collection will include, according to the project’s Kickstarter campaign:
“The collection will be comprised of new HD restorations of both the most important films of the era, but also the lesser-known (but no less historically important) works: short films, fragments, isolated chapters of incomplete serials. The five-Blu-ray box set will include approximately twenty hours of material—showcasing the work of these under-appreciated filmmakers, while illuminating the gradual changes in how women directors were perceived (and treated) by the Hollywood establishment.”
The full list of films has yet to be determined, but they will include works by the following:
- Ruth Ann Baldwin: 49-’17
- Alice Guy Blaché: Canned Harmony, A House Divided, The Ocean Waif
- Grace Cunard: The Purple Mask serial (misc. episodes)
- Dorothy Davenport Reid: The Red Kimona
- Gene Gauntier: A Girl Spy Before Vicksburg, Further Adventures of the Girl Spy
- Helen Holmes: The Hazards of Helen serial (misc. episodes)
- Cleo Madison: Her Defiance, Eleanor’s Catch
- Frances Marion: Just Around the Corner
- Mabel Normand: Caught in a Cabaret, Mabel’s Blunder
- Ida May Park: Bread
- Nell Shipman: Something New
- Lois Weber: Fine Feathers, From Death to Life, The Rosary, Suspense, Hypocrites, Where Are My Children?
- Elsie Jane Wilson: The Dream Lady
Kino Lorber is one of the leaders of this kind of film restoration and archiving, and they’re asking for $44,000 in order to finish this project. As of this writing, they’re a little over halfway to their goal, but the more money they get, the more films they can include in the set. You can donate to the Kickstarter campaign here. I’ll be doing it, for sure. These are works of art that need to be kept alive, and we’re the ones to do it.
Image: Kino Lorber/Lois Weber Estate