At the Half Century Mark: Celebrate Early Productions from Women Make Movies

  • Women Make Movies


Screening Room - Michigan Theater Sat, Mar 26, 2022 7:00 PM



Ruth Bardenstein and Jim Roll


Curated by Ariel Dougherty


The world’s largest distributor of women’s films, Women Make Movies, Inc. turns 50 in 2022. This program celebrates its first decade, when WMM was also a producing outlet. In its first decade, from 1970 to 1980, production of feminist media, both narrative and documentary, was the heart of its work. During this decade, 39 productions emerged, exploring women’s hopes and dreams on celluloid and half-inch videotape. Initially, as an offshoot of the Women’s Liberation Movement, WMM was the umbrella under which filmmaker-teachers Sheila Paige and Ariel Dougherty produced four films, influenced by the youth that they taught and the works of Andy Warhol. 


Their incorporation as an organization in 1972 established a community-based teaching and production center for women of all ages in the ethnically and economically mixed Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Simultaneously, they created a distribution service to dispel the educational film marketers’ myth that “women were not an audience.” More essentially, distribution provided a necessary long-term revenue stream. Little is known today about the early community production roots of the organization. Few of these early works have been in active distribution for decades. Enjoy and engage and see how relevant these films are for today.  

Domestic Tranquility

Harriet Kriegel

1973 | 7 | digital from 16mm

The film revolves around the conflict of a mother of three who enjoys motherhood but feels thwarted by having given up her career as an artist. Art is now an item she dusts.



In the two following works the by WMM co-founders, non-actors collaborate in unscripted, loosely structured storylines “to play” imagined selves. Costumes, even make-up, are self-designed, reflecting different personal styles and idiosyncrasies. The films capture the flare of early feminism in funny, and surprising, ways.


Sweet Bananas

Ariel Dougherty

NYC, Putnam County, and East Hampton, NY | 1972 | 30 | digital from 16mm

Vignettes of a go-go dancer, an industry weaver, and puppet maker meld as the women converge in an unsuspecting woman’s country home for an undetermined spell. Feminist film critic Ann Kaplan wrote, “... the contrasting lives of some working-class and upper-class women, who end up all getting along.”


Women’s Happy Time Commune

Sheila Page

Northern Virginia and New York City | 1972 | 47 | digital from 16mm

In this first feminist Western, set in a fictional 1850, a motley crew form to consider their future—as a farming commune or dancers in a dance hall.  “A Warholesque frolic,” wrote Daphne Davis in Women’s Wear Daily.