10/13/23: “The Politics of Intimacy” screening + Q&A with filmmaker Julie Gustafson

Join Media Burn and the University of Chicago Film Studies Center for an in-person screening of one of our favorite documentaries, Julie Gustafson’s foundational feminist masterpiece The Politics of Intimacy, followed by a virtual q&a with Julie.


Friday, October 13th
University of Chicago’s Logan Center Screening Room
915 East 60th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Free. More information HERE

In this seminal feminist video, ten women address the camera and seemingly each other in a wide-ranging exploration of such previously taboo subjects as women’s sexuality, power, and fears about intimacy. First-time videomaker Julie Gustafson forgoes shame and focuses on the women’s questions about orgasm, masturbation, and male “ownership” of sexuality, as well as their joy in exploring their bodies and desire for satisfying sexual lives. The only credentialed expert in the tape is Dr. Mary Jane Sherfey, author of Nature and Evolution of Female Sexuality, who provides scientific descriptions of women’s orgasms and context for the historical suppression of female sexuality. According to the curators of the 1992 Whitney Museum’s series “From Object to Subject,” “by selecting women who vary in age, color, sexual experience and orientation and by using extreme close ups and a pace resembling real time, Gustafson creates an ideal consciousness raising group (c-r).” Indeed, The Politics of Intimacy is a valuable document of the synergy between the growing women’s movement and the new video technology and aesthetics of its time. Originally shot in 1/2” black and white video. (Julie Gustafson, USA, 1972, 52 min., digital video). Read more about The Politics of Intimacy here

Julie Gustafson is a pioneering feminist documentarian whose career began with her introduction to video technology by a workshop at video collective Global Village in the early 1970s. Throughout her career, Gustafson has used video cameras to observe her subjects at their most private and candid, focusing on exploring their most nuanced, complex emotions. Her first documentary, The Politics of Intimacy (1972), consisted of interviews with a range of women talking about sex, desire, and pleasure in a frank, straightforward manner. Its significance was quickly acknowledged by other women curators and artists, and played widely at women’s film and video festivals in the 1970s and early 1980s, but its subject matter meant that it was never widely seen in its era. Her subsequent documentaries, directed with Global Village co-founder John Reilly or on her own, include Giving Birth: Four Portraits (1976), Home: A Documentary About Four Families (1979), and Casting the First Stone (1991), which was broadcast to great acclaim on PBS’s POV series. Gustafson also served as co-director of Global Village and of the Global Village Documentary Festival, a key showcase for documentary film and video throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In the late 1990s, Gustafson began a longterm project in New Orleans in which she collaborated with teenage girls, observing them with her camera but also working with them to tell their own stories. The resulting film, Desire (2005), incorporates both her documentary footage and short videos made by her teenage subjects. Today, Gustafson lives outside of Boston with her husband. Her full filmography can be viewed at Media Burn’s website.



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