3/2/23: Virtual Talks with Video Activists: Lori Felker + Nancy Cain: Women’s Video Histories

A screening/discussion of Nancy Cain's foundational feminist classic Harriet (1973) and Lori Felker's acclaimed Spontaneous (2020) with artist Felker and media scholar Melissa Dollman. 

Watch a full replay of the March 2 event.

Join us for a screening and discussion of the long, rich history of women’s video art, with one of our favorite current artists, Lori Felker. The event will pair Felker’s incredibly moving first-person documentary Spontaneous (2021) with one of the medium’s foundational feminist classics, Nancy Cain’s Harriet (1973). Both explore fantasies of escape from the hidden – or ignored – wounds and oppressions of women’s lives: trapped in your home, trapped in your body, and unable to talk about what’s going on. Harriet blends documentary and fiction to explore an overworked, underappreciated housewife’s fantasies of freedom and escape, a delightful, utterly exuberant portrait of the mundane, everyday hardships of daily life for its titular subject. Spontaneous chronicles, in wry, moving detail, Felker’s hidden anguish as she experiences a miscarriage in public. Frequently funny, deeply personal, and very powerful, both videos testify to the importance of centering women’s voices in video. Join us for a discussion of these videos and of the remarkable, overlooked heritage of women’s videos with Felker and with scholar and archivist Melissa Dollman. 

Harriet: “An avant-garde portrait of a housewife’s escape fantasy. The video’s titular star was a friend and neighbor of the Videofreex. She was working-class, like nearly everyone in Lanesville, and lived in a trailer with her husband and five children. She stayed at home, tending to the children and trailer while her husband was at work. Although Cain shot Harriet as a verité-style documentary, she edited it into a shifting plane of flashforwards and flashbacks, imbricating shots of Harriet doing her chores at home with her driving out of town, leaving her cares behind… a classic of early feminist video art.” – William Kaizen

Spontaneous: You never know when someone may be miscarrying; it could be happening right next to you. In this this fearlessly frank essay film, director Lori Felker relives the tangle of emotions she felt while attempting to hide a miscarriage in plain sight. Spontaneous played at more than 40 festivals around the world, winning widespread acclaim and numerous awards, including Best of Fest at Onion City, Best Documentary Film at Sydney World Film Festival, and Audience Favorite Award at Uppsala. 


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About Nancy Cain

 Nancy began playing with video as a member of Videofreex, the radical video collective in New York that shot footage of the Woodstock Festival. She worked on the first video pilot for network television with the Videofreex at CBS in 1969, and ran an offbeat weekly video show at the Videofreex loft in Soho. She cofounded Lanesville TV: “Probably America’s Smallest TV Station.”  Along with TVTV, she defined the video documentary movement of the 70s, known as “guerrilla television.” Cain was a co-creator and producer of The 90s, a weekly hour-long alternative show for PBS, which the New York Post called “refreshingly irreverent, opinionated and outlandish.” She was the co-founder and producer (alongside Judith Binder) of CamNet The Camcorder Network, America’s first all camcorder channel. Browse Media Burn’s Nancy Cain collection HERE.

About Lori Felker

Lori Felker is a filmmaker, teacher, programmer, and performer. Her films celebrate the ineloquent, oppositional, frustrating, chaotic qualities of human interaction. She has made work in a variety of forms including, experimental film, video installation, music video, documentary, and fiction.

Her short films and one feature documentary have screened internationally at festivals including Rotterdam, Slamdance, Ann Arbor Film Festival, BAMcinemaFest, EXiS in Korea, Festival du nouveau cinema in Montreal and Kinodot in Russia. She loves every facet of filmmaking and has worked as a cinematographer, editor, and/or actor for various artists and directors and has programmed for the likes of the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Slamdance, and Roots & Culture Gallery in Chicago. She is a recipient of an Illinois Arts Council Grant, a Wexner Center Residency, a Brico Forward Fund and a Fulbright (Berlin, 2000). She loves to collaborate and is an Assistant Professor at DePaul University in Chicago. Read more about her work at FELKERCOMMALORI.COM.

About Melissa Dollman

Melissa Dollman is a scholar, archivist, and video maker. She received her PhD in American Studies from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with her digital dissertation project, “Changing Lanes: A Reanimation Of Shell Oil’s Carol Lane,” earning acclaim for innovating new forms of multimedia scholarship. She has held positions as an audiovisual archivist, consultant, fellow, volunteer, adjunct faculty, exhibit developer, and researcher for a variety of commercial and public institutions such as the Pacific Film Archive, Women In Film Foundation, UCLA, Academy Film Archive, Discovery Communications, Schlesinger Library at Harvard University, UNC, the Southern Oral History Program, State Archives of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, and the Tribesourcing Southwest Film project. She is currently directing the non-profit Deserted Film archive with Devin Orgeron. Read more about her work at MelissaDollman.com.

Note: Live captioning will be available. Please email  with additional accessibility requests.

This event is free to attend. Media Burn is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, and we depend on donations to continue our work. Please consider making a donation along with your ticket signup, or at https://mediaburn.org/donate, or by texting MEDIABURN to 44321.


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