The Women’s Film Project: an international collective in the career of Helena Solberg
translated by Bethany Parham
In the past decade, studies on women’s cinema/women in cinema have gained new momentum. This phenomenon has been observed in various places around the world and has led to the “discovery” of Helena Solberg in her own country. Prior to the publication of the thesis Helena Solberg: Trajetória de uma documentarista brasileira (Tavares) [Helena Solberg: the career of a Brazilian documentary-maker] and Solberg’s retrospective exhibition at the 2014 festival É Tudo verdade, the director was relatively unknown in Brazil, even amongst cinema enthusiasts and academics. Now comprehensive analyses, both Brazilian and international, have been published on Helena Solberg, including, among other works: “This Woman which is One: Helena Solberg-Ladd’s The Double Day” (Foster); “The Migrant in Helena Solberg’s Carmen Miranda: Bananas is my Business” (Félix); “Cineastas brasileñas que filmaron la revolución: Helena Solberg y Lucia Murat” (Tedesco) [Female Brazilian filmmakers who filmed the revolution: Helena Solberg and Lucia Murat]; and “Interseccionalidade em The emerging woman (1974)” (Holanda) [Intersectionality in The emerging woman].
Here I wish to contribute to the research on Helena Solberg through a further exploration of the Women’s Film Project (WFP), which was later expanded and renamed the International Women’s Film Project (IWFP). It was the only collective to which Solberg belonged throughout her career, and it was unique for several reasons. Based in the United States, the collective distinguished itself from others not only due to its commitment to internationalism, but also because the role of directing was assigned to a woman from the Third World. Moreover, I intend to expand the studies on the pioneering feminist cinemas in/of Latin America, particularly in their collective forms. To accomplish this, I consider several relevant aspects of Helena Solberg’s life prior to moving to the United States. I address the collective’s formation and changes, its principal members and the first three films that Solberg produced under its name (known as the feminist trilogy). My focus then turns to a discussion on collective production as I examine Helena Solberg’s perspective on the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics within the WFP/IWFP. In addition to written sources, I will draw on films, interviews, photographs and notes from the time.
Who was the Helena Solberg that moved to the United States?
Born in 1938, Helena Solberg studied at Sacre Coeur de Jesus College in Rio de Janeiro, which was attended by girls from upper-middle class families. Despite receiving a good education, she was brought up during a time of traditional gender roles, which dictated that a woman’s life should be dedicated to getting married and having children (Tavares). Contrary to her family’s expectations, the future director surprised everyone with her desire to continue her studies at the university level. She attended the Neo-Latin Languages course at Pontificia Universidade Católica (PUC) in Rio de Janeiro, where she met Davi Neves, Arnaldo Jabor, Cacá Diegues, amongst others who would become key members of the Brazilian film movement known as Cinema Novo. However, her own association with Cinema Novo is questionable for various reasons. Primarily, her first short films,produced in Brazil, do not have a strong thematic, aesthetic or stylistic affinity with those associated with the 1960s movement. Moreover, the members of Cinema Novo never acknowledged her as one of their own, as it was known to be a club for “The Fellers” (an exclusive group for men from the cartoon Little Lulu). On several occasions, the filmmaker herself has spoken about the patronizing attitudes that she faced from her male friends—though her contacts were something she took advantage of to facilitate her own projects. Nonetheless, it was within this group that she became a reporter for the newspaper O Metropolitano (a newspaper funded by student organizations), progressed into filmmaking, and assembled the team for her debut work: A entrevista (1966) [The Interview]. Furthermore, it was at this newspaper that she met Affonso Beato, who would shoot The Double Day (Helena Solberg, 1975) some years later.
While she belonged to the same generation as the names mentioned above, Helena Solberg’s career took longer to get off the ground. In an interview with Julianne Burton, the filmmaker stated that after working for O Metropolitano, she married (which was a big event in a woman’s life at that time in Brazil) and subsequently had her first child. At that point, she began to realize that the development of her career would differ to that of her male friends. They also had just had children, yet fatherhood did not prevent them from filming nor travelling as childcare was the responsibility of their wives.
After directing A entrevista (1966) and Meio-dia (1970) [Midday], Solberg moved to the United States in 1971 for the second time, accompanying her husband and two children (since her husband was from the United States, the couple had already stayed there for a period of time a few years before). In conventional terms, as societal norms demanded, by becoming a wife and a mother, she had fulfilled her gender role. However, the director wanted more—something that had been made clear in her short film A entrevista. In the same interview with Burton, Solberg said,
“That personal crisis [the frustration of being just a wife and a mother, as well as realizing that your career would be different because you are a woman] provoked my first film, a documentary called A entrevista [...]. I interviewed between seventy and eighty women who had the same upper-middle-class background as I did. [...] I went around to different houses with a questionnaire. I asked about their aspirations during adolescence and about their attitudes toward two critical decisions: whether to go to the university, and whether to get married. [...] Despite their comfortable economic and social situation, these women were very, very unhappy. Though they were quite bright, they weren’t able to envision much of a future for themselves. Their lack of options left them with a sense of hopelessness and futility” (82-83).
It was in the United States that the director first encountered a structured feminist movement. According to Ceiça Ferreira, the feminist movement was at its height in the United States, which included everything from awareness-raising groups to Women’s Studies in the universities (11). Solberg was fascinated by such ebullience; she wanted to understand everything that she was seeing and what had led to this historic moment. Thus, given that cinema was her form of expression, she chose to make a documentary to investigate the new reality in which she found herself. Ferreira also noted that producing a film (which was called The Emerging Woman) on the history of feminism in the United States within a female collective was, for Solberg, a very rich experience, since her previous films were made following traditional modes of production, where the hierarchy is greater and the division of labor fixed (11). Nevertheless, it is crucial to remember that Helena Solberg joined this movement with a background of her own. In addition to her analyses on the condition of women from her social class (presented through her talks and in A entrevista), she had interviewed Simone de Beauvoir for O Metropolitano and read Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963). These are authors that she keeps in her library to this day.
Women’s Film Project—International Women’s Film Project
Originally named the Women’s Film Project, the collective was initially composed of Helena Solberg, Lorraine Gray, Melanie Maholick and Roberta Haber. Maholick and Haber were academics studying the history of feminism in the United States at George Washington University. Solberg met the pair through an advertisement in the university’s department of Women’s Studies. She met Gray, who was at the time a still photographer with some experience in film, during May Day protests.
The WFP’s first production is The Emerging Woman (1974), in which Helena Solberg is credited as director, Roberta Haber and Melanie Maholick for research and script, Lorraine Gray for photography and Jane Stubbs (who already had experience in the making of films) as editor. However, in the first slide following the opening title, the film is credited to Solberg, Haber, Maholick and Gray; it is not until the end that the division of the aforementioned roles becomes explicit. I will address below how this was a collective work with defined and credited roles and the way in which this was presented to the public through image and sound.
The 40-minute documentary was put together in chronological order and had an informative purpose. In the film there are hundreds of images, including photographs, engravings, drawings and moving pictures. The sound is non-diegetic. Different voices bring context to the women’s struggles. It also features iconic speeches from various women who helped construct the feminist movement. More details of the process are seen in one of the promotional materials for The Emerging Woman that circulated at the time.
This promotional material emphasizes that the medium-length film was a collective effort by the WFP, that had required one year of archival research by its members, in addition to the six months of filming, editing and recording of the voices and soundtrack. The same promotion material states that the premiere took place on May 1, 1974, and from then on, the documentary’s successful circulation began. In addition to exhibitions and festivals, the production made the selection for the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and sold around 400 copies in 16mm format to schools, universities and libraries. Moreover, the team was invited to visit the White House (Tavares 52). In an interview with Mariana Tavares, Helena Solberg stated that The Emerging Woman was, for her, a watershed moment because up to that point, there had not been anything that established her position as a filmmaker in the United States. In fact, upon demonstrating her ability to narrate a piece of the United States’ history, which the people of the United States themselves had never encountered, doors began to open (52).
According to Solberg’s interview with Burton, it was inevitable that during the process of The Emerging Woman she would draw parallels with the situation of Latin American women—or, in her words, the other side of the coin. Her issues as a Latin American woman, albeit a white upper-class Latin American woman that lived in one of the country’s largest cities, were somewhat distinct. As a result, it was proposed that the collective’s next film would relate to Latin American women. And so the ideas for The Double Day (1975) were born.
In an interview I conducted in April 2021, Helena Solberg explained that, whilst there had not been a conscious decision to have a female team during the production of The Emerging Woman, the opposite was true in the production of The Double Day. She believed that the topic and the characters to be interviewed called for this approach, and she understood the impact that a film made with a female camera operator and sound technician would have. Speaking about the impact, she admitted that when all the women came onto the shooting location carrying the equipment, it caused a commotion; no one had ever seen a team composed almost exclusively by women. In an interview in 1976 with the iconic feminist publication Off Our Backs, Solberg judged that she had been right. Many people had commented that it was surprising to see Latin American women speaking so much and, in her opinion, having a production team of women was fundamental for this. If the barriers such as class, race, amongst others were already obstructing communication between the women themselves, having an extensive male presence on set would have inhibited this even more.
The small team that would travel around Latin America for approximately three months was, of course, made up of women from the IWFP. The collective adopted this new name as it had expanded beyond the four original members and was joined by members of other nationalities, even though this was just for short periods at a time. Lisa Jackson, who had studied cinema in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was responsible for sound; Dolores Neuman, already a photographer and activist whose photographs had been used in The Emerging Woman, was one of the still photographers; and Jane Stubbs, who had been an editor in The Emerging Woman, is credited as a producer, but also took on the role of camera assistant at certain points.
A problem arose with the cinematography, which is still one of the areas of filmmaking that suffers the greatest under-representation of women. This was Solberg’s first filming trip; it was a long and demanding journey on which she had to shoot on film without the conditions for developing and viewing the material. Faced with this issue, the filmmaker chose to call on the only man that become involved in the team: Affonso Beato. As I have already mentioned, Beato had worked as a photographer for O Metropolitano. A good friend of Solberg, he had been living in New York and had filmed, amongst other productions, the iconic O Dragão da Maldade Contra o Santo Guerreiro (Glauber Rocha, 1969) [The Evil Dragon against the Holy Warrior].
Technically, Solberg was in safe hands with Beato, but as she indicated in an interview, she was not satisfied as she had been unable to fulfil her initial idea for a team made entirely of women. Consequently, the pair began to search for a woman that could at least take on the role of camera assistant and, via a recommendation, they found Christine Burrill. Although they did not know her, they had watched some of her work and were aware that she had lived in Brazil and so ultimately they chose her. However, they only became acquainted properly in Mexico during the first stages of filming for The Double Day. The director remembers how Beato was apprehensive to have an assistant that he did not know, especially in the conditions of this shoot, but she affirmed that the two became great friends and that occasionally Burrill even operated the camera. Burrill, who came to be a permanent part of Helena Solberg’s life, is credited as the second camera operator and one of the editors of the documentary (the other was Suzanne Fenn, who had already worked as an assistant editor since around 1970). It is also worth highlighting, that Melanie Maholick, who also worked in The Emerging Woman, is credited as assistant editor.
Many other women contributed to The Double Day at various stages, but I deal with this later in the article. For now, I shall turn the attention to its synopsis and circulation. The Double Day is a 53-minute production which compiles interviews with women from four different countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico and Venezuela). The women in the documentary come from diverse backgrounds, from rural areas, cities, and different classes. This panorama gives insight into the double oppression of working women, as well as the enormous inequalities between the Latin American women themselves (although this aspect is not addressed directly in the narration).
The documentary was well received at festivals, including the International Film Festival Mannheim-Heidelberg, the American Film Festival and the International Film Festival of India. It enjoyed successful distribution in the United States, albeit less so than The Emerging Woman. Moreover, it was widely shown in Latin American militant feminist circles, especially in countries where the team had filmed. In a debate Helena Solberg described:
“I went to film another film in Bolivia, and I was filming an interview with a chola […] and she suddenly spoke to me, she said “la doble jornada” [the double day, in English]. And I said: “where did you hear about that?” And she said, “don’t you know the film?” [Laughs] It was my film, she didn’t know, but she knew the film really well. She said that the film was a film that they used in the union.”
It is also important to highlight that The Double Day premiered in Mexico at the opening of the United Nations’ First World Conference on Women in 1975. The tight deadline for editing and finishing the vast amount of material resulted in the production of the final film in Solberg’s feminist trilogy: Simplemente Jenny (1977) [Simply Jenny]. According to Solberg’s interview with Burton, she had intended that The Double Day and Simplemente Jenny would comprise a single production. This documentary would have addressed the issues of Latin American women from different approaches; the first more theoretical and grounded in feminist Marxism (what ultimately came to be The Double Day), and the second more poetic.
In Simplemente Jenny we are introduced to the stories of three teenage girls (Jenny, Patricia and Marli) who have been victims of sexual violence and exploitation and are in a Bolivian reformatory. Their journeys stand in stark contrast to the romantic ideals and widespread gender roles of society, and despite not being presented with those fantasied opportunities, these are still ideas that fill their dreams. The film presents a critique of the portrayal of women in religion and the cultural industry. Whereas the issue of religion features more heavily in A Entrevista, in Simplemente Jenny there is greater emphasis on the influence of advertising, media representations, and unreachable beauty standards set for the overwhelming majority of Bolivian women. In one of the promotional materials for Simplemente Jenny, Christine Burrill appears as the sole editor. However, in the credits of the film itself several women appear having been involved in the editing process: Burrill is credited as editor, Grady Watts for the final editing, Melanie Maholick as editing assistant, and the Brazilian Rose Lacreta for additional editing. This is important to note, because it attests to the collective dimension of this crucial aspect of film production. The participation of Lacreta and other Brazilians will be discussed in the next section of the article. The documentary, which is around 30 minutes in length, was premiered in the American Film Festival, in 1978, and was selected for festivals in Jamaica, Leipzig, and in the George Pompidou Centre in Paris in 1979 as well as being shown on television in the United States and on alterative circuits.
Considering the overview of the three productions presented, several points become clear. First, there is evidence that certain roles are repeatedly performed by some professionals and secondly, it is obvious that the WFP/IWFP plays an important role in the productions’ viability at all levels (whether that be for training, or for funding). [open endnotes in new window] Therefore, I shall provide a deeper discussion into the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics of the WFP/IWFP.
The creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics of the IWFP
After a short prologue of no more than a minute, a woman’s hand is seen taking a portrait of a woman from a box containing several other pictures. Zoom in, the image freezes. The film’s title The Emerging Woman appears over this photograph. Next, we see a photograph of four women sitting around a table talking. On the table there are other photographs, a reel of film and a typewriter. The audience can deduce who these women are from the titleswhich read: a film by Roberta Haber, Melanie Maholick, Lorraine Gray, Helena Solberg-Ladd. The soundtrack accompanying the sequence starts to mix with the voices of the women producing the documentary. Meanwhile, the audience observes the women watching materials on the Moviola, typing, preparing films for viewing, shooting scenes, and selecting images. Then, from the portrait held in the woman’s hand, the narrative returns to the struggles of women. It is not until the end of the documentary that more credits appear, accompanied by the soundtrack; we see quick shots of Gray, Haber, Maholick, Solberg and of the editor Jane Stubbs. Then, the rest of the credits appear on black background.
I chose to open this section with a quick description of the credits in The Emerging Woman because it gives important clues about the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics within the WFP. This is a collective production in its authorship and the decision to highlight this aspect at the beginning of the documentary emphasizes its importance in deciding the division of roles. This also occurs in The Double Day, which shares interviews with women discussing their difficulties in accessing work in factories, barriers to education and how working as a maid is their only option. Following this, The Double Day’s narration begins providing information on Latin America, while on screen there are scenes from the making of: the team travelling and a woman on the camera giving instructions. The image freezes, the narration stops, and the titles read: “Proyecto Internacional de Cine Feminino S.A” [International Project of Women’s Cinema S.A]. The following names are displayed: Joy Galane, who was already working as filmmaker at the time; Odile Hellier, a French feminist; Melanie Maholick; Mercedes Naveiro, an Argentinean artist who was living in the United States at the time; Dolores Neuman; Anna Maria Sant’Anna, a Brazilian friend of Solberg also living in the United States; Helena Solberg Ladd e Jane Stubbs.
A woman [Helena Solberg] is seen in the back corner of the screen, while another woman looks at the camera display [Christine Burrill]. The title reads“second camera operator Christine Burrill.” The camera follows a woman [Lisa Jackson] as she walks with sound equipment. The camera reaches the face of Brazilian filmmaker Ana Carolina, from the trilogy Mar de Rosas (1977) [Sea of Roses], Das Tripas Coração (1982) [Heart and Guts] and Sonho de Valsa (1987) [Dream Waltz]. The titles read:“Production manager, sound editor Jane Stubbs. Assistant editor Joy Galane." In the same shot, the camera returns to the woman with the sound equipment and another woman [Jane Stubbs] appears from within a car. A woman [Solberg] gives instruction to another [Burrill], both close to the camera. The title reads“Director Helena Solberg Ladd.” A woman [Ana Carolina] takes still photographs with a photography camera covering her face. The title reads“Photographer Dolores Neuman.” The same woman [Jackson] that is seen with sound equipment records the voice of a possible interviewee. The title reads“Sound Lisa Jackson.” A man [Affonso Beato] holds a light meter with a woman [Solberg] in the background. The title reads“Cinematographer Affonso Beato.” In this shot the credits appear and in the subsequent scene, the audience is shown scenery as the soundtrack begins and the title of the film appears
Although in this case they had chosen to credit those that were on the team, the first information that the audience receives is that the film was produced by the IWFP and who its members were at that moment. Even some not-so-important roles in the conventional filmmaking hierarchy were also credited at the beginning, performed by women who were part of the filming trip. It is very significant to show the team (which, as I have already remarked, were mostly comprised of women) and the members of the IWFP in the first shots of different productions. First, it demonstrates a commitment to the strength of the collective; it emphasized that the division of roles and the fact that there was a director did not mean that one was in charge and the others obeyed. It should be noted that the director’s name does not appear first in the group— and not even first in the individual credits, with the exception of Simplemente Jenny.
In this documentary, all of the production information is presented at the end. After one of the teenagers affirms that they wanted to be simply Jenny, a track played by an Andean flute begins and the scene portrays the faces of Bolivian girls. The image freezes on the girl with the darkest skin, who has braids, wears a hat and looks challengingly into the camera, and the text “Produced by International Women’s Film Project” appears over the image. Subsequently, “Director Helena Solberg Ladd” appears on the screen; I will discuss the director’s increased visibility in this production below. The following names are also highlighted in the following order: “Editor Christine Burrill,” “Final Editing Grady Watts,” “Assistant Editor Melanie Maholick,” and “Photography Affonso Beato.” The rest of roles appear together, over a red screen.
When I spoke with Helena Solberg in October 2021, the director expressed that the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics of the WFP/ IWFP were different in each of the feminist trilogy films. The Emerging Woman was, without a doubt, the most collective of the three, according to her account. Although there were individual roles, they all read texts that were then debated in meetings, discussed the photographs that would be used, and talked about the structure of the piece, etc.
The Double Day was a project that really mobilized Solberg, the Latin American member of the group, who also had a better understanding of the subject-matter than the others. Clearly, in The Emerging Woman the opposite was true as Haber and Maholick were studying the history of feminism in the United States. With that said, Helena Solberg was helped by the fact that she was already living in the United States at the time and the others knew enough to teach each other.
Yet, despite being a Latin American woman, Solberg felt that she needed to formally study before the filming of The Double Day began. Therefore, in 1974 she decided to participate in a seminar about feminist perspectives to analyze Latin America. Held in Cuernavaca, Mexico, it featured people such as Helen Safa and June C. Nash. Safa, from the United States and Heleieth Saffioti, from Brazil are both feminist academics whom Solberg has always cited as major references for understanding the situation of women from the subcontinent, a preoccupation or an interest that she ended up bringing to the screen.
I believe there were several reasons as to why Helena Solberg reported in its first stages that The Double Day was not as collective as her previous film. Primarily, the rest of the team lacked training in filmmaking and had little experience with Latin America. Besides, they had to manage a huge schedule taking approximately three months in which they needed to film images and record sounds without actually being able to see the material. Nevertheless, in an interview for Off Our Backs with some of the members of the IWFP, Solberg described how the collective reconciled collective authorship with the division of roles in post-production:
“Editing is harder to do collectively, even if you agree in principle and try to make it possible to have 8 or 10 people sitting around the stinback [sic] making decisions. So there were three of us doing the actual editing: Christine Burrill, Suzanne Fenn, and myself. But the room was never closed to other people and I think it was pretty well understood that at any time anyone could come in to give their opinions. Also, we had talked so much before making the film and we know each other so well that there wasn't any big issue as to where the film was going. It was mainly a question of doing the best possible on something we had all agreed upon before” (17).
Simplemente Jenny, as would be expected, had different creative and collaborative processes and different dynamics. The material had already been recorded and Helena Solberg knew what she wanted to do, since she had identified the missing dimension of The Double Day. As I mentioned before, it was a compilation film which, according to Solberg, was produced in California by just the director, Christina Burrill and Melanie Maholick. It is possible that Grady Watts and Rose Lacreta made some contribution before or after their stay on the east coast, considering that they appear in the credits.
It is clear that, despite the differences between the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics found in the comparison of The Emerging Woman, The Double Day and Simplemente Jenny, there is an indisputable importance to producing films within a collective. This explains why in the three works analysed here, the collective’s name is always featured as the first slide of credits following the title, at the start or end of the production.
I would like to briefly return to a matter that was previously alluded to here: the dimension of learning in these collective experiences. In the interview with Burton, Helena Solberg stated that the exchange of knowledge in The Emerging Woman was intense. She was teaching the others about film, learning about the history of feminism in the United States and, as a team, they were fostering the knowledge that each woman brought to the table.
Another example worth highlighting, is that of Lorraine Gray. A few years after starting to build the WFP/IWFP with her experience in still photography, Lorraine Gray launched With Babies and Banners (1978). This 45-minute production tells the story of the Women’s Emergency Brigade during a strike held at General Motors Michigan between December 1937 and February 1938. The film holds a prominent role within feminist cinema of the United States. With Babies and Banners was produced under The Women’s Labor History Film Project, and not the WFP/IWFP. But without a doubt, the experience gained in the collective was crucial both for Gray to become a director and for Melanie Maholick (assistant editor of The Emerging Woman and The Double Day, with no prior experience in film) to become one of the editors. It is also felt that all contributions were relevant, as Melanie Maholick pointed out in an interview to the magazine Off Our Backs, 1976:
“One way I feel we are [a collective], is that within the IWFP we all get paid the same salary for a day’s work, whether it’s for direction, assistant editing, or research. When we hire someone to do some typing or translation work we also pay them that same rate. We’re trying to take into consideration that often different class backgrounds afford different educational opportunities for gaining certain skills. But we feel everyone’s work is equally necessary to the project” (17).
In order to fully understand the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics within the collective it is important to look beyond the longest-standing members of the IWFP, and also consider the temporary partnerships. As an open group that was comprised of women from different countries, the IWFP had occasional contributions from those who were passing through or staying for a period in the United States. This was the case of filmmaker Tetê Moraes, a Brazilian exile living in Chile who was forced to flee in 1973 and travelled to Washington. Moraes contributed to the research for The Double Day.
In an interview, Helena Solberg spoke about the eclecticism of the IWFP with regard to the nationality of its members, considering both the permanent and temporary members. Her wish had been that more Brazilian women had taken part, though this was not easy, because she had already been away from her country for years. That said, as mentioned earlier, Rose Lacreta was responsible for the additional editing in Simplemente Jenny and collaborated with the filming in Latin America. Additionally, the director Ana Carolina, whom I briefly mentioned above, was also present on this trip at one point.
The WFP/IWFP was an initiative very much in tune with its historical moment and geographical space. On one hand, it aligned with the characteristics and structures of feminism in the United States. On the other hand, it also aligned with political and militant film collectives from Latin America, such as the groups Cine Liberación, Cine de la Base, Cine Urgente, Ukamau, etc. At the same time, there are important features to be highlighted. Famous New Latin American Cinema groups, such as the Grupo Cine Liberación and the Grupo Ukamau, were primarily national. This also applied to the feminist collectives of the second half of the 1970s, such as Cine Mujer in Colombia. The IWFP already had women’s internationalism in its concept, in its origins, and in its very name. In addition, it brought about a major reversal in the geopolitics of audio-visual production, because there was a woman from the Third World (albeit from the higher classes of Brazil) directing in the United States.
For my analysis, I have drawn on the credits in the three selected documentaries, offered an overview of WFP/IWFP’s main members (looking at their careers within the collective and beyond), and analysed the creative and collaborative processes and the dynamics within the collective. This discussion has allowed me to present an idea, albeit partial, of what the WFP/IWFP was, through the perspective of Helena Solberg. In addition, I find this is an important and singular moment in the history of women’s film and cinema in the United States and Latin America. I contemplate some of the collective features, namely, how both ephemeral and enduring relationships were built within the group, the challenges of creating collectively and performing individually or in pairs/trios, as well as the translation and explanation of these rich processes onto the screen. Helena Solberg’s perspective has been centred, but I also hope to add here to the research on the pioneering feminist cinemas in/from Latin American, especially in their collective forms. When the current situation changes, (which in Brazil has already claimed thousands of lives, not only in the pandemic but in the negative, genocidal ways that the governing authorities have dealt with it) I intend to continue such investigations by incorporating more points of view; surely there is still much to be written about the WFP/IWFP.
Last, I would like to close the article with an iconic image which depicts both the collective and the endless possible answers in research. It is a photograph without a date or authorship that we could identify. A photograph that has a part compromised by a light that “leaks” at the moment of shooting, and which, in addition, bears the marks of the passage of time. Moreover, it gathers all the women behind the making of the The Double Day, wearing the same clothes. On a very cold night in Bolivia, the production crew got more suitable (and similar) pyjamas; but pyjamas and blankets were not enough, the warmth of the group was also necessary. As long as the struggle of women exists, the warmth of the group will always be (as it always has been) necessary.
1. According to Tavares, the sources of funding for the feminist trilogy are: WFP (The Emerging Woman); Calvin Cafritz, Inter-American Foundation, Danish International Development Agency, Norwegian Agency for International Development, Swedish International Development Authority and the United Nations Development Programme (The Double Day); Danish International Development Agency, Inter-American Foundation, Women’s Fund – Joint Foundation Support, National Endowment for the Arts, Norwegian Agency for International Development and Swedish International Development Authority (Simplemente Jenny).
2. In all three films of the feminist trilogy, Helena Solberg was still married with her first husband, and took his surname, in accordance with the tradition in Brazil. However, sometimes she is credited as Helena Solberg-Ladd (the standard in the United States) and sometimes as Helena Solberg Ladd (the standard in Brazil).
Beato, Affonso. Interview. Conducted by Marina Cavalcanti Tedesco, 1 August 2021.
Burton, Julianne. Cinema and Social Change in Latin America: Conversations with Filmmakers. University of Texas Press, 1986.
Félix. Regina R. “The Migrant in Helena Solberg’s Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business.” Migration in Lusophone Cinema, edited by Cacilda Rêgo and Marcus Brasileiro, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, pp. 203-2019.
Ferreira, Ceiça. “Cinema e engajamento político: Entrevista com Helena Solberg”. ALCEU - Revista de Comunicação, Cultura e Política, vol. 21, no. 39, jul-dec/2019, pp. 4-17.
Foster, David William. “This Woman Which is One: Helena Solberg-Ladd's The Double Day”. Journal of Iberian and Latin American Research, vol. 18, no. 1, 2012, pp. 55-64.
Gray, Lorraine. With Babies and Banners. The Women’s Labor History Film Project, 1978.
Holanda, Karla. “Interseccionalidade em The emerging woman (1974)”. DOC ON-LINE - Revista Digital de Cinema Documentário, no. 28, set. 2020, pp. 168-181.
Off Our Backs. “Film interview”. Off Our Backs, vol. 5, no. 11, jan-feb 1976, pp. 16.
Solberg, Helena. Interview. Conducted by Marina Cavalcanti Tedesco 17 October 2021.
Solberg, Helena. Interview. Conducted by Marina Cavalcanti Tedesco 23 April 2021.
Solberg, Helena. “Debate com a cineasta Helena Solberg.” CineClube ADUFF, 29 March 2020. YouTube, https://youtu.be/81ZzZaihQCI.
Solberg, Helena. Simplemente Jenny. International Women’s Film Project, 1977.
Solberg, Helena. The Double Day. International Women’s Film Project, 1975.
Solberg, Helena. The Emerging Woman. International Women’s Film Project, 1974.
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