Julie Gustafson


Julie Gustafson is an independent documentary maker whose work explores the intersection of public policy and individual lives. A graduate in 1971 of Brandeis University’s Theater Arts program, Gustafson was frustrated by the lack of theatrical works by and about women. After seeing Peter Davis’s THE SELLING OF THE PENTAGON, Gustafson envisioned the power of documentary as a genre to feature women’s lives and social justice issues.

In 1972 Gustafson moved to New York City and took a class at Global Village, an avant garde screening and production center located in lower Manhattan. There, Gustafson fell in love with video, embracing its low cost, ease of use, and its role in an emerging guerilla video movement. The fact that video, unlike film, was a new, low cost and easy to use medium more accessible to women made it especially appealing. Gustafson studied with and later married the director John Reilly, co-founder of Global Village. Over the next 18 years, the two became video making partners and strong advocates for independent producers.

Gustafson’s first video, THE POLITICS OF INTIMACY (1973), featured ten women talking about such taboo subjects as women’s sexuality, power, and fears of intimacy. Later works, GIVING BIRTH (1976) and HOME (1979), co-produced with John Reilly, explored rarely seen milestones faced by American women and families. Gustafson and Reilly’s creative partnership and marriage ended in 1989.

CASTING THE FIRST STONE (1991), a solo work by Gustafson, focused on a women’s health center where activists on both sides of the abortion wars faced off against each other. In 2005, Gustafson completed DESIRE, an unprecedented five-year collaboration with a diverse group of teenage girls from New Orleans. Weaving together the girls’ video work with profiles of their changing lives, DESIRE underscored the family, social and economic contexts in which their desires, opportunities and choices were shaped.

A recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, many of Gustafson’s works aired nationally on PBS and were exhibited in festivals, museums, and schools in the U.S. and abroad. Between 1975 and 1989, Gustafson was Co-Director with John Reilly of Global Village. She also co-directed The Global Village Annual Documentary Festival, hosted in its later years by Joseph Papp’s Public Theater. An educator as well as an artist, Gustafson taught for many years at The New School for Social Research. She was a member of the graduate and undergraduate faculties of The Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.

Our complete collection of Julie Gustafson’s work can be found here.

Subjects: Video Pioneer, Women and Sexuality, Feminism, Video Verité, American Families, Birth in America, Pursuit of Happiness, Abortion, Anti-Nuclear Activism, Plowshares Movement, Prison Life, Teenage Girls and Sexuality, Documentary Production, Video Educator, Global Village.

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