After Alice, Beyond Lois

Mining the Archive with the Women Film Pioneers Project

Oct 25–Nov 10, 2023


A’Santanotte (The Holy Night). 1922. Italy. Directed by Elvira Notari. Courtesy of Cineteca Nazionale
  • MoMA, Floor T2/T1 The Debra and Leon Black Family Film Center

To commemorate the 10th anniversary of Columbia University Libraries’ Women Film Pioneers Project (WFPP), a digital publication and film archival resource, MoMA presents a selection of films written, produced, directed, edited, photographed, colored, and titled by women during the silent era. Launched as an online-only platform in October 2013—with two celebratory film programs at MoMA dedicated to US serial queens—WFPP was begun 20 years prior by feminist film scholar Jane M. Gaines, who first envisioned the project as a multivolume book series. Since then, and thanks to the tireless work of its contributors, editors, library colleagues, and many graduate student research assistants (as well as international archivists and curators), WFPP has published articles on the careers of over 300 women—and counting—who worked behind the scenes during cinema’s first few decades.

Including shorts, features, and fragments from many different international film archives, this series mirrors WFPP’s global scope and interest in the diversity of women’s creative output during the silent era. Through cross-national thematic connections and juxtapositions, it brings together animation, experimental and independent cinema, documentary, and commercial fiction film from Japan, China, Tunisia, Argentina, Sweden, Finland, Poland, Italy, France, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germany, the USSR (today, Russia and Georgia), England, Scotland, and the United States. Because the films of Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Dorothy Arzner, Germaine Dulac, and Asta Nielsen, among others, have become more widely available to the public in recent years, this 15-program series aims to expand visibility around other women artists—some familiar names, many lesser-known—and to spotlight new archival discoveries and recent restorations, less familiar titles, and rarely screened films. Drawing primarily from the published essays on WFPP, this series puts just a small sampling of the richness of women’s contributions to early cinema on view. Highlights include one sound film, Brides of the Frontier (1943), the only surviving film directed by Japanese filmmaker Tazuko Sakane; Las Naciones de América (1927), presumed lost until 2021, made by Argentinian documentary filmmaker Renée Oro; and Adam a Eva (1922), a cross-dressing comedy scripted by Czech actress Suzanne Marwille.

Organized by guest curator Kate Saccone, Project Manager, Women Film Pioneers Project, and Dave Kehr, Curator, with Olivia Priedite, Film Program Coordinator, and Alexandra Coburn, 12-Month Intern, Department of Film, MoMA.



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